The Queen of Peace Room
Publication Year: 2002
What is memory, and where is it stored in the body? Can a room be symbolic of a lifetime?
Memories are like layers of your skin or layers of paint on a canvas. In The Queen of Peace Room, Magie Dominic peels away these layers as she explores her life, that of a Newfoundlander turned New Yorker, an artist and a writer — and frees herself from the memories of her violent past.
On an eight-day retreat with Catholic nuns in a remote location safe from the outside world, she exposes, and captures, fifty years of violent memories and weaves them into a tapestry of unforgettable images. The room she inhabits while there is called The Queen of Peace Room; it becomes, for her, a room of sanctuary. She examines Newfoundland in the 1940s and 1950s and New York in the 1960s; her confrontations with violence, incest, and rape; the devastating loss of friends to AIDS; and the relationship between life and art. These memories she finds stored alongside memories of nature’s images of trees pulling themselves up from their roots and fleeing the forest; storms and ley lines, and skies bursting with star-like eyes.
In The Queen of Peace Room, from a very personal perspective, Magie Dominic explores violence against women in the second half of the twentieth century, and in doing so unearths the memory of a generation. In eight days, she captures half a century.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Life Writing
"I would like to give very special thanks to Brian Henderson, Director of Wilfrid Laurier University Press, for having such faith in me. I thank him for his guidance and encouragement, without which I would never have been able to write this book. Thank you to my editor,..."
Liturgy of the Hours
"Ancient instructions from Saint Benedict, a wealthy Italian who abandoned everything in the fourteenth century, lived as a hermit, and then moved into a monastery with a book of instruction he’d written,..."
"The blood I am walking through is splattered over a black wooden floor, which makes it impossible to detect until I’m almost stepping in it. I have to stare and see where the light is bouncing. The light guides me as it spills from giant bulbs mounted on high poles. The incline of the slick wooden floor makes everything difficult. It forces me to slow..."
Chapter 1 Friday, Midnight
"I arrive in a friend’s car. Almost everything is pitch-black except for porch lights. Things are lit by stars and a moon. Except there is no moon. Only the dark of the moon, somewhere between July 8th and 9th. The dew-covered ground is slippery under foot. We walk to a large wooden house, ring an ancient doorbell, wake someone I can hear getting..."
Chapter 2 Saturday Morning
"I shower, dress, find the dining room, make a cup of tea, help myself to a few of the tiny muffins laid out on a sideboard, and wander upstairs to a sun-drenched room overlooking trees and an unpainted barn I hadn’t seen last night. Trees are golden and lit by a sky of the same colour. Sunlight rests in branches like pieces from a broken mosaic."
Chapter 3 Sunday, 7 A.M.
"I wash, dress, and say a quick prayer at my make-shift altar. I didn’t sleep under the blankets, so I don’t have to make my bed. This is a bonus time-wise. We meet in the upper meadow and meditate as we face each of the four directions. Then hold hands as we face the centre and one another. These women are all ages, all kinds, and all kind. A woman..."
Chapter 4 Monday, 6 A.M.
"I’m awake and not tired. There is almost no sound, only stillness and light. After meditation in the meadow I have toast with butter and jam, and cantaloupe. There’s meat but I don’t eat it. My friend arrives in her car. We’ve agreed over the phone that she will support my decision, whatever it might be."
Chapter 5 Tuesday, Dawn
"The light wakes me, or maybe it’s the stillness. Everything is at a junction. Night sounds are making room for day sounds and there’s a space in between. Maybe the space woke me. The wide spacious maple outside the Queen of Peace window is silent. One leaf flutters a tiny wave of green. A bird gives one whistle—as if it’s a signal. The new day can begin."
Chapter 6 Wednesday, Pre-dawn
"The tree outside the window is at peace after last night’s battle with the wind. Only a few leaves have been lost in the storm. I don’t feel tired even though I’ve gotten only a few hours sleep. If anything, just the opposite. There is a subtle shift in the light in the sky, a subtle shift to gold blue. The sun is rising. A long-winged bird flies swiftly, like a..."
Chapter 7 Thursday, 9 A.M.
"After finishing breakfast with the women on the retreat, I realize that the overwhelming power of love is more healing than any medication, any inoculation, any amount of money, any vacation to any resort. Love in its truest form can move mountains. In its most honest form..."
Chapter 8 Friday. Rain.
"In the very early morning I walk alone under my black umbrella, which actually belongs to a Canadian poet. He left it at my apartment, so I’m thinking of him in the heavy rain, in these woods, in this gentle silence, and I have another revelation."
"Stillness allows us to think whatever we dare to think. It waits as we sort through all the circumstances that make up what yesterday was. It rests in containers piled high like canned pears on a shelf. There is no electricity, wind is the only music. The moon and stars, a source of light."
Afterword: Reading The Queen of Peace Room As Witness: An Ethics of Encounter
Selected Texts of Related Interest (Canadian emphasis)