Everyday reflections a product of hard-earned wisdom

Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations
By Richard Wagamese
Douglas and McIntyre, 140 pp., $18.95

I will state my bias at the start: I have known Richard Wagamese, the author of this fine little volume, for a quarter of a century.

I worked with him for a couple of years, got to know him quite well, and admire many of his abilities. To name just two: He has triumphed over adversity many times, and he is one of the most gifted writers in the land, able to capture raw emotions into words.

He has been a professional writer since 1979, and has worked in newspapers, in radio and in television. He is the author of 13 books.

Wagamese won a National Newspaper Award for column writing in 1991, and has also received the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction and the Alberta Writers Guild Best Novel Award.

He was the 2011 Harvey Stevenson Southam guest lecturer in writing at the University of Victoria. Since then he has published two novels, Indian Horse and Medicine Walk.

Wagamese has received a lot of acclaim, and it is justified. He is an inspiring figure, and could probably make a fortune as a self-help guru of sorts. He is able to reach into the hearts of the people around him, and help them to see things more clearly.

“Life sometimes is hard,” Wagamese says. “There are challenges. There are difficulties. There is pain. As a younger man, I sought to avoid them and only ever caused myself more of the same.”

Wagamese does not have all the answers — he will admit to that. He sees life as a learning experience, with every day a new lesson, and a chance to do better.

Some of his thoughts along the path have been gathered into this fine little book, a collection of the personal, everyday reflections of Richard Wagamese.

Embers brings together the best of those personal reflections, thoughts based on everyday conversations and thoughts. Wagamese deals with joy, grief, recovery, spirituality and much more.

Those of us who follow him on Facebook are familiar with these words already, because for several years, Wagamese has been posting these snippets almost every day.

For example: How to turn a dream into reality? Don’t focus on the dream, Wagamese says, but focus instead on the first step toward that goal.

There is wisdom here, wisdom gained through a life that has included many steps, and not all of them in the direction of the dream.

Embers is a reflection of Wagamese’s experiences, and of our own. It encourages us to look in the mirror, and that is not a bad thing.

The reviewer is the editor-in-chief of the Times Colonist.

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