Sunday, January 28, 2018

RIP Rosaleen Dickson

Surveying the sad state of affairs that's dominating the news in Canadian writing circles these days, it's easy to forget the good and valuable things that make participation in this often dysfunctional sphere worthwhile.
Almost eight years ago, The Porcupine's Quill published The Essential Kenneth Leslie, a book I edited which brought a substantial selection of Leslie's work back into print for the first time since the late '70s.
In the process of working on that book, I got to know Leslie's daughter, Rosaleen Dickson, and her daughter, Elizabeth Dickson, who was working on a biography of her grandfather. It was easy to see that Rosaleen had inherited several of her father's remarkable qualities: charisma, wit, rhetorical flair, leadership and pro-social political commitment.
One of the great joys of my literary life was having Rosaleen and Elizabeth attend the Ottawa launch of the book. At that event, John MacDonald took this wonderful candid photo of me and Rosaleen in conversation.
I learned from John the other day that Rosaleen had died, age 96. Elizabeth told me that, while her mother was physically infirm in the last year of her life, her radiant brilliance never dimmed. This obituary notice gives some indication of what an exemplary life she led.
Seems appropriate to conclude with one of her father's poems:

I must have peace, must have it undisturbed,
quiet and deep, must have it in my soul,
deep in my soul. But let no noise be curbed,
let every restless thing escape control
and find its freedom in its own sweet groove!
Let eagles storm the sky, let the worm creep,
let all things move the way that they must move,
but let me rest awhile and let me sleep!
And do not chide me for my weary eyes,
nor scold because my hands have lost their grip.
Some arrows they have aimed still climb the skies,
some hands shall not for get their comradeship.
I must have sleep and leave the quickened clay
to answer if sleep bring another day!