Erin's Journal

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Just a thought... I know I am a writer because until I’m writing I don’t know what I know. [Wayson Choy]

Well now - it appears I'm not the only person who was affected by that young woman off to work in BC Conservation (or hoping to be) and who was the subject of yesterday's journal.
 
There were a great number of comments on my Facebook page that were illuminating and thought-provoking, including one from a woman whose family was helped to survive over the generations thanks to the seal hunt. Just as was the case when I sat down with this young woman, I was exposed to ideas and perspectives I hadn't considered - and that is always a good thing. A mind is like an umbrella: it only works when it's open, right?
 
Of course, there was one person who, seeing the Ellen D meme on the FB post, didn't bother to read the journal and just said if I'm trying to make people become vegan, to "mind your own biz." Ah, Facebook. Where uninformed opinions go to fester. But the other 98% were well thought-out and, whether or not I agreed with them, intelligently and thoughtfully posited. So, thank you.
 
You got some good chuckles out of my toilet seat humour and some reminded us that the LID has to be down before flushing, as particulate flies several feet when the toilet is flushed. I guess that's of special concern if your toothbrush is nearby (with lots of other things to take into consideration, too). So thank you for that reminder. I'm sure Oprah and Dr. Oz had that conversation and discussed those warnings, but that was a long time ago and old habits die hard and take a lot of effort to replace.
 
This week you may have read of the passing of a well-known Canadian writer. But before I knew anything of his awards, his Order of Canada and his many fans and accolades, I knew Wayson Choy as a friend. And we came to call each other that, thanks to a CHFI listener.
 
Betty Thiessen, who passed a few years ago, had a gift of gently elbowing her way into and around life. As an avid listener (who wrote when she hated hearing "Walking on Sunshine") Betty was persistent in her correspondence with me and eventually we became friends outside of the radio world. And so it was that she introduced me to her friend and mentor, whom she'd met when he taught a college writing course. This was Wayson Choy.
 

Wayson Choy

 
A gentler, kinder man I have never met. He had a softness and a sparkle to his eyes that made every person feel the same, I'm sure. Thanks to Betty, I was introduced to his tale of growing up in the 1930s and 40s in Vancouver's Chinatown (told from the perspective of three first generation Chinese-Canadians) and was as enthralled by The Jade Peony as many others.
 
But long before I considered writing a book, Wayson encouraged me to do so and promised to introduce me to his agent and publisher. (Fate had me take many other paths.) He believed in me long before I did, and many others who knew Wayson said exactly the same thing of his gentle support. How lucky were his hundreds of writing students over his 25-plus years of teaching at Humber College!
 
He called me "dear heart" when we would meet and would say it with such grace and love; he adored Lauren and - by extension - her dad and her surrogate grandmother, Helen Moase. I cherish the memories of dinners at the Pearl Court, where we would take a round table and Wayson would do the ordering, from the lobster on down. As the staff who seemed like family took our order, Wayson was like the king of the banquet, just the small table of us, and oh, how we feasted!
 
"Feast" is how I would describe my soul in Wayson's presence. His kindness and sympathy when we lost the girl he had come to know were like a balm to us. When I told him I had been approached to write our story, he generously offered to write an endorsement of my book, but I could tell that it would be a strain on him, and out of respect for his time and health, I didn't send a manuscript for him to read because I knew that he would.
 
80-year-old Wayson had suffered heart attacks in the past (his book Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying is an engaging account of his illness, treatment at St. Michael's and the ghosts of which he dreamed and hallucinated - ghosts that had visited Wayson in waking hours his entire life).
 
Just days after his birthday, a fatal attack stilled that warm, generous heart. I hope that, where he is, he dances with spirits, writes with Betty and feasts on the finest and most delectable items on the menu. He was a deeply good man and I am glad that I loved him before I had read his work; I was a friend who became a fan. You can read more about Wayson here.
 
Have a gentle weekend and I'll return here Monday.
 
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