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Pay special attention to your sisters

Lois Hole Speaks by Lois Hole

Recently I received a forwarded email from a friend. It was one of those motivational emails some folks enjoy spamming their family and loved ones with. I rarely open those kinds of messages; however, for some reason I peeked at this one. It was about a mother giving unasked-for advice to her recently married daughter and—as my daughter is about to be married—it spoke to me. The essence of the advice was, pay special attention to your sisters, with “sisters” defined as girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family.

When I read the message I thought of all the women in my life who have played significant and/or supporting roles and I was reminded of one woman in particular, the late Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole, who continues to play an important role in women’s lives through the legacy of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, which is scheduled to open later this year.

However, Mrs. Hole’s good will and good works was not limited to the female of the species and the Lois Hole Library Legacy Program is a reflection of her unstinting advocacy of education and literacy. This special program will help perpetuate Mrs. Hole’s exemplary support of libraries across Alberta by encouraging like-minded individuals to approach a participating library of their choice and tailor a donation to best benefit the community.

The University of Alberta Press team holds a special place in their hearts for Lois Hole and we were, therefore, delighted earlier this year to publish Lois Hole Speaks: Words that Matter. The book has been on the Edmonton Journal’s best seller list for weeks and we want to say a great big thank-you to everyone who made the publication possible: The Hole family, Sandra Kereliuk and Bruce Keith provided key insights and details into Mrs. Hole’s speeches and stories; and, Mark Lisac provided an enlightening and thoughtful introduction setting Mrs. Hole’s words into context. A special thank you to our sponsors: the Alberta Historic Resources Foundation; the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; the Canada Council for the Arts; and Canadian Heritage through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program. We couldn’t do it without you!

And a special thank-you to all you readers, we know Mrs. Hole would want to hug each and every one of you. Your overwhelming response to Lois Hole Speaks: Words that Matter is a testament to how beloved a “sister” Mrs. Hole was to us all.

Nothing savage about planning an advance directive…

Sometimes you see a movie that resonates with life. I recently saw such a movie, The Savages, directed by Tamara Jenkins and starring Laura Linney as Wendy, Philip Seymour Hoffman as her brother, Jon, and Philip Bosco and their elderly father, Lenny, who is descending into the bottomless pit of dementia.

The family was never a happy one and Wendy and Jon have both gone their separate ways and have not seen their abusive father for years when they are called upon to deal with his sudden homelessness (his aged girlfriend dies). Despite their unresolved anger toward their father for his earlier treatment, they take on the burden of care, which in this case is placing him in a nursing home.

Reflections on Preparing an Advance Directive by Dianne Godkin

Living Will, Living Well: Reflections on Preparing an Advance Directive by Dianne Godkin

I found one scene in the film particularly poignant. It takes place in a diner where Wendy and Jon are attempting to have a conversation with Lenny about an advance directive (living will). Wendy is struggling with the conversation and is confusing Lenny as she is reluctant to ask direct questions: what do you want us to do with your body when you die and do you want to be maintained on life support? Jon has much less trouble expressing himself, and when he sees Lenny does not understand Wendy’s approach he says something like Do you want us to pull the plug?

These are real issues for real people and through our work with clinical ethicist Dianne Godkin we are trying to help people deal with these emotional topics. While the University of Alberta Press was preparing to publish her book, Living Will, Living Well: Reflections on Preparing an Advance Directive, I sat with Dianne and we talked about her motivation for writing the book.

She said that one of the most difficult aspects of her work and those of other medical professionals is dealing with family when there have not been any conversations prior to either life-support decisions or death for a cherished family member. Everyone is in a highly emotional state and it is tough to make important decisions. Often, in addition to grief, there is anger and hurt feelings just when people need each other the most. However, there is a way to mitigate the stress: Communication among family members in advance can help to ensure a person’s wishes are honoured and those left behind can feel some solace in having eased the mind of their loved one.

There is no Hollywood happy ending in The Savages; however, there is some healing and closure. I recommend the film for its complexity, humanity, and truthfulness.

~ Linda

A visit and a book from a good friend of the Press

A New Trilingual Translation of the World’s Oldest Collection of Lyric Poetry

Fu-Shiang Chia's “Airs of the States” from the Shi Jing: A New Trilingual Translation of the World’s Oldest Collection of Lyric Poetry

Today I had the pleasure of a visit from Fu-Shiang Chia, professor emeritus of biology, University of Alberta, who presented me with an autographed copy of his new book “Airs of the States” from the Shi Jing: A New Trilingual Translation of the World’s Oldest Collection of Lyric Poetry.

I first met Professor Chia several years ago shortly after Cécile and Sandy Mactaggart presented the University of Alberta with an astonishing collection of East Asian art and textiles, the single most costly gift to the University of Alberta, ever. The University of Alberta Press in collaboration with U of A Museums has published Dressed to Rule: 18th Century Court Attire in the Mactaggart Art Collection by John Vollmer and will publish later this year Brilliant Strokes: Chinese Paintings from the Mactaggart Art Collection by Ka Bo Tsang.

Fu-Shiang is a close friend of the Mactaggarts, and he has generously volunteered his time to assist the University of Alberta to promote the collection; also, he has been a strong advocate for a “world-class museum” at the University. In 2006 I was privileged to be invited to visit Fu-Shiang and his artist-wife, Sharon, at their lovely hilltop home on Salt Spring Island. It is easy to see how Fu-Shiang could be inspired to interpret and translate “Airs of the States” from that location.

Fu-Shiang has been working on the translation for many years and found great joy in interpreting the 3,000 year old poems in modern Chinese and English. It is a fabulous gift to contemporary Chinese people and to westerners to have access to the poems in this manner.

In the preface Fu-Shiang refers to the great sage, Rien-Yu, who centuries ago told his students the Shi Jing has three functions:

  1. to help us to think, to observe, to live with others and to make good judgments;
  2. to help us to respect our parents and the state; and,
  3. to help us to learn the names of birds, beasts, grasses and trees.

In particular Fu-Shiang hopes to ensure his interpretation will accomplish the first two of the Shi Jing functions and revitalize our interest in the third function, “to help us to learn the names of birds, beasts, grasses and trees.” Why is this so important? Because as Fu-Shiang tells us “…there is almost no art which can be divorced from the natural world…. We need biodiversity. Nature’s creatures are necessary for humanity’s survival, and birds, beasts, grasses and trees are our soul, as they are the soul of the Shi Jing and the blood of 3,000 years of literature.”

Overfertilization of the World’s Freshwaters and Estuaries by David W. Schindler and John R. Vallentyne

The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World’s Freshwaters and Estuaries by David W. Schindler and John R. Vallentyne

These sentiments are important and poignant today as we hear daily about the precariousness of our world due to environmental issues of land, sea and sky. The University of Alberta Press will soon release an important book concerning the threat to water quality worldwide, entitled The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World’s Freshwaters and Estuaries by outspoken professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, David W. Schindler, and the late senior scientist, John R. Vallentyne.

Reading Fu-Shiang’s translation of “Airs of the State,” the distance between poetry and nature and survival of the human species seems obvious to me.

~ Linda


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