Lesley Strutt died yesterday. That seems absurd and impossible.
When she said she’ll be doing cancer treatments for the rest of her life, somehow my brain translated that as ‘good news, leukaemia can now be kept at bay successfully for years.’
When someone fades away, declines and is eager to leave for years, that’s a hard adaption for those around. But Lesley was vital, larger than life, loud and theatrical, positive and bubbling with excitement, enthusiasm and encouragement.
She was warm and honest, and often the first to greet a new face or telling people that they did great, and they will do great, and that all will work out. She radiated an earnest kindness, compassion and attentiveness so when she talked with you, she only knew you existed. When she laughed she hooted.
She and her husband Chuck were in my haiku group. She was a regular in my poetry circles, and she was good for conversation any time. She was a good friend.
She wrote and presented her poetry. There’s almost a dozen videos of readings she did at the Tree reading Series when she lived in Ottawa. She was a feature reader 5 years ago. She won the Tree chapbook contest for her poetry in 2015 for Small as Butterflies.
She advised writers that the writing life “asks you to let it stand alone, exposed, vulnerable and to be seen. This can take years. You must learn to be patient and steady in your devotion to writing. It will ask only that – that you choose it and stay the course.”
A self-described ‘soft activist’ she got things done. She ran life coaching services. She was part of the League Feminist Caucus. She chased down poets for Heartwood, an anthology she edited just over 2 years ago. She rallied forces that be and got her architect father’s house historical protection in 2017. She just finished her YA novel, On the Edge. about a girl sailor, in 2019. She blogged about her research in 2020. She skidded sideways, sweaty and beaming, towards the finish line of life.
She blogged life lessons of moments of confusion, clarity, awareness, appreciation. That rolled into her book Living Starts with Love: Learning to Make your Life Shine. (It’s $1.30 for the Kindle version.)
In Living Starts with Love she wrote of emotional intelligence,
The point is not to act out the emotions. Emotions are energy in motion. They pass through the body. When we are healthy emotionally we have learned to feel the emotions, and let them pass through, not acting out of them, but not blocking them either.
Even in the workplace it is possible to feel emotions healthily. An emotionally intelligent person will tell the truth that they are nervous about an up-coming presentation, or that they are angry that something didn’t go the way they had expected. They will acknowledge their feelings, but there will be no blame attached, no need to cause harm out of their current emotion.
She lived fiercely with urgency but I didn’t realize that was part of knowing your life is short. Even if we are 5 years old and live to 100, your life is short.
Since she moved to Merrickville, she threw herself into the community there as she had in Ottawa. She joined the Merrickville Artists Guild (MAG), and was part of the MAG virtual tour a few months ago.
People are gathering money in her name.
A close group of friends and the MAG Executive have decided to honour Lesley’s contribution to us personally and to our community by creating a fund to inspire people to continue her legacy of writing and poetry – a number of ideas have emerged. We have decided to call it the Lesley Strutt Poetry Prize (or Fund) and it will be administered by the MAG Executive.
If you wish to contribute, the treasurer of MAG, Mike, is collecting. Find them on Facebook at MAG. See there, too, a poem for Lesley by Anna Yin which reads in part,
Lesley, how could we forget you?
your loud and bright laughter，
your cheery and comic claps,
your tall and solid standing,
your warm and wise poems…
How could we forget your strong arms
like the branches searching for heaven,
calling Spring, Spring…
Anna Yin 2021/02/02
This tribute by Claudia Radmore goes deeper and wider and shares the news of a Strutt poetry collection coming down the chute.