Nestled atop our local cinema is a place of art and music, light and colour.
People come here to share and to laugh and to dance – to join a fluid, diverse community of creative folks.
This is Janice and Moose’s place. (Moose has four legs and a wet nose.)
I first came here three or four years ago for one of Janice’s “Brave Mike” nights. On these evenings, writers of all sorts come to read from their work – not to be judged, but simply to be heard. Some (like me) come just to sit by the fire and listen. Brave Mike is now the stuff of local legend; everyone knows about it.
One night Janice read, in prose both skilled and harrowing, from a work that would later become “Mental Case 101: Trussed Issues.” You could not make this stuff up if you tried. The people in the room sat riveted as Janice told but a fragment of the story of a horrifying past: a tale of every sort of abuse imaginable.
But there was the paradox. Here in front of us was this cheerful, colorful, energetic, generous woman – one who seemingly overcame a brutal and violent past. And not just overcame. She surpassed and transcended it. How could this be so? I asked myself. How could anyone have the strength to make this transformation?
Months later, Janice showed me the entire manuscript and told me of her intention to have it published. To lay bare for all to see the unspeakable human misery she had endured. It struck me as an act of supreme bravery.
Well, the rest is history, I suppose. The book was published by Kindle, and Janice grew into one of our community’s most creative, positive, and unifying influences.
Thanks to Janice’s many public readings (at events mostly self-organized and always enthusiastically attended), awareness of mental health issues has been greatly enhanced. I know. I am the board chairman of the Arrowhead Clubhouse, a clubhouse for adults living with mental illness. I also write a regular newspaper column on the issue.
She has raised money for our local food bank and for a variety of locally important environmental issues.
But perhaps most importantly, she has drawn critical attention to the unregulated state of counseling therapy in B.C. and started the ball rolling on reform.
If the word “courage” comes to mind, it ought to. For the English language has no better way to express Janice’s journey.