Sumac's Red Arms
by Karen Shklanka
A practicing doctor finds antidotes both simple and sophisticated to the daily drama that is her working life.
Karen Shklanka writes clearly and unsentimentally about stitching a fight victim back together in Moose Factory, going to sign the death certificate of a radiant long-time patient on Salt Spring Island, watching a man slowly losing his memory in an unnamed city. How is a medical professional to survive these daily reminders of life's fragility and uncertainty with compassion and humanity intact, without becoming cold and distant?
She presents two very different answers to this task. One is to drink deeply of the earthy beauty of the natural world and its feast for the senses. She writes passionately about garden flowers, exotic fruits and spices, animals both wild and domestic, the crystalline beauty of the heavens.
The other is to give oneself to the nuanced, sophisticated, sensuality of the tango. She tangos, poetically, with husbands, lovers and strangers in many parts of the world. She finds in the dance's controlled abandon an embrace, a celebration of her life sufficiently intense to make her want to go on, despite what she so clearly knows about what inevitably lies ahead. We live in the physical world, she says, both the world around us and the physicality of our own bodies. It is the potential for beauty, grace and passion in both of these physical worlds that must be our touchstone and our solace.
Partial Proceeds of this book will be donated to the Vancouver Foundation, and directed toward programs for Aboriginal youth and suicide prevention.