What makes a life worth living?
Such a question can only elicit specific and individual answers. To some, it is important to establish a solid, successful career. Others wish for a close and loving family. For some of us, it is the decision to follow a dream, risking the stability of a home, a partnership, a steady paycheque for whichever passion drives us.
And yet, we often overlook the importance of the small and forgotten moments, the brief encounters and images that remind us just how fortunate we are—a memory of a ride at an amusement park, the smell of fresh fruit at a farmers' market, the sticky sweetness of a cinnamon bun.
The stories in this issue invite us to consider death, life and what makes it all worth our time, pain and effort.
In Michelle Mulder's short story "Aggie Steps Out," Aggie, an older, recently widowed woman, is rediscovering the joys of life, including self-love and the delight of splurging on a hot cinnamon bun. Jayanti Tamm's story "An Important Event... or Something Like That" shows us a woman whose swelling and flourishing pumpkin patch makes bearable her move to the countryside.
Sometimes it is not the fleeting moment or the life achievement that makes life worth living, but the strength of our convictions and beliefs that help us through abuse, rape, abortion. In "States of Grace," Shannon Cowan writes of her mother's belief that faith and prayer ended her father's abusive behaviour. As Cowan contemplates how much she and her mother differ in their religious convictions, she comes to realize just how similar they really are. In c. valdes' short story "A Seduction," a woman defends her actions as retribution for all women who have experienced the violence of sexual assault.
Although at times it can be difficult for us to think about death or illness without feeling despair, allowing ourselves to grieve is healthy, especially when we also remember to count our blessings. In Shannon Kernaghan's story "Two Good Children," a mother takes comfort in her husband and daughters in her dying moments. Sometimes it is necessary to revisit a past love in order to move on. Lucy Bashford writes of spending time with her dying ex-lover, and how confusing it can be to belong to both her past and her present. And in Jalina Myana's poem dedicated to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Japan, a young girl collects cherry blossoms to honour the memory of her mother, as well as the others who died August 6th, 1945.
Other stories and poems in this issue beautifully describe those people and moments we cherish. Both Carol Ogden and Sherry MacDonald write about grandmothers. Wendy Morton evokes the smells and tastes of Thailand, and writes "Anywhere you can buy a bird, / hold it in your hand / long enough to learn its wingbeat / then watch it fly". Like holding one of these birds in our hand, by learning to recognize the heartbeat of those instances where we feel the most content, the most fortunate, we can treasure fleeting beauty.
All the stories in this issue of Room of One's Own address themes of life and death, illness and love. More important, they talk about the significance of choices. Whether it's deciding how to live, or how to die, or what to have for lunch, it is never too late to take a chance—only we can determine what makes our lives worth living.
Genevieve Pfeiffer retired from her full time teaching career in 1999, and since then has found herself pursuing her interest and passion for art on an equally full time basis. She has participated in workshops at the Sunshine Coast Summer School of the arts, has taken private lessons and is currently a member of a life drawing group.
Shannon Kernaghan is the author of Like Minds (short fiction) and How to Sell Your Home Privately (self help). Her work has aired on CBC Radio's Alberta Anthology and has appeared in Outskirts: Women Writing from Small Places (Sumach Press), Other Voices, Filling Station and more. She lives in Red Deer, Alberta, and writes a weekly column for the Red Deer Advocate.
Sherry MacDonald is working on her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. She is a playwright and a filmmaker and the mother of three boys. Sherry lives in Vancouver.
Jalina Mhyana lives with her wonderful husband and daughters in a small town in northern Japan where she owns and directs A Touch of Calm, the first American massage therapy college in Japan.
Born in Kelowna, British Columbia and now living in Vancouver, Carol Ogden completed an MA (Rhetoric and Composition) in English in April 2002 at the University of British Columbia, where she also studied Creative Writing. As a certified teacher, Carol returned to UBC in 1998 to study English after teaching children with dyslexia for eleven years at an independent school in Vancouver. Carol has always loved poetry and language, and now belongs to a local poetry group, Poets Anonymous Collective. She is currently compiling a collection of her poetry.