When I was 20 I spent one month in a Sri Lankan monastery, deep in concentration. The air was hot. Biting insects, which I was forbidden to kill, swarmed around me. Yet somehow, as I meditated against the clay walls, wandered the grounds and swept leaves from the pathways, all this became part of my own inner mystery. My mantra was each moment.
Last spring I attended evensong at the Westminster Abbey in London. The first hymn began with a quiet seep of notes until the full force of organ and choir became a flood, spiralling up into the intricately carved dome above us. It was glorious, uplifting.
When I think of spirit, those are the experiences that spring first to my mind.
But spirit finds its way into other meaningful moments in my life: the cherished sense of belonging that fills me up when my mother, sister and I erupt into simultaneous laughter, our voices indistinguishable; the feeling of triumph upon first glimpse of a turquoise glacier lake after heaving myself up a steep mountain trail; and the precious recognition of inner calm, recaptured after a reflective moment spent in solitude by the ocean.
It is every sense of spirit that is explored and celebrated in this issue of Room of One’s Own.
Spirituality flows quietly through the tapestry woven by Margaret Gunning’s female God in loom; permeates the senses in Anita Geiselmayr’s freshly plucked fruit in Picking Currants; and surrounds the celebration of women and the new moon in Lyn Lifshin’s poetry. Cathleen With’s story Jainfish explores the influence of religion on the possible lives of one child, while Lea Littlewolfe’s poem Leaf celebrates faith of a different kind, with sprites, fairies and four-leaf clovers abound.
The spiritual connection between the death of a loved one and those left behind is examined by several authors and poets. Margot Button’s poetry reunites a mourning parent with her son through spirit catchers and spirit houses, while the main character in Jan Donley’s story A Fable About Seashells that Used to Be Hands is brought face-to-face with her dead lover’s spirit. Linda Lee Crosfield’s poem The Quilt paints a poignant picture of the enduring spirit of those who have died from AIDS, and in Kathie Austin’s poem Red Willow, a red silk dress helps one woman find connections between her own body and spirit.
It’s the spirit of survival that prevails in Elisa Mejia’s story The Mosquito Net, as the protagonist—dangling near death from a balcony—is revitalized by the memory of the strong women in his life. Kelly Dvork’s story Dreaming the Bear also tells a tale of survival, as a girl moves deftly through a difficult childhood by drawing strength from her spiritual connection to nature. And a strong sense of spirit pulses between the lines of Lisa Pasold’s Fish River 1900, a poem inspired by the life of Mattie Gunterman, an American photographer who moved to British Columbia at the turn of the century.
Nature serves as muse for Madeline Bassnett, her poems artfully comparing mysteries of the universe to the spirit within each of us. Angelica Snowe intertwines nature and spirit in her poetry, while Margot Louis’ poems revere the wonders of nature, its vastness holy and largely unknown.
And in our beautiful cover and inside art by Sophia Rosenburg, spirit flows softly through the lines, colours and shapes, evoking feelings of connection, love and mystery.
Spirit means different things to different people, a diver sity that’s reflected throughout the pages of this issue of Room of One's Own.
So savour what you find here, and let your own spirit soar.