The Story of Susanna Moodie: Continued

As my friends will know, I have a huge interest in Canadian history and in that of the world, especially where it relates to my family history. It isn’t possible to know everything well in my lifetime but, what I can do, is become a connoisseur of my own life.  As a result, I am intrigued by stories of immigration coming out of the early colonization of both the Atlantic provinces and Ontario, specifically the Guelph, Elora, Fergus, Lindsay and Hamilton areas.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Digital+Archives/Arts+and+Entertainment/Literature/ID/1865723787/

Sometimes, mingling with the writers, artists and performers who I call my friends, I hear less than positive remarks made about the genre of writing that came out of the early 1800s and that were championed by people like Susanna Moodie and her sister, Catherine Parr Trail. Some refer to their works of observation/reporting/narrating, where it relates to living ‘in the bush’ and making observations of wilderness surroundings, as sleepers.  Quite to the contrary, I find these pieces of writing, while absolutely short of drama and excitement, filled up with detail that creates a picture for me, of my own ancestors, what they must have seen and what they must have felt.

I also have always liked that, out of a world made, led and meant for the male gender, it is a wonderful thing to see women who have captured the interest of society at the time, as both writers and artists.

But…I digress…I really have the intention of sharing a wonderful story that sees its happy conclusion on the 8th of October..

I spent a summer visiting Mom and Dad in Belleville, Ontario and took a genuine interest in exploring the city for its literature, history and art.  I purchased several books ( Belleville: A Popular History by Gerry Boyce and Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill by Michael Peterman).  Here are a couple of the bits that I wrote during that summer and during the summer of 2013.

THE MORNING HOUR by Susanna Moodie

Like a maid on her bridal morn I rise,
With the smile on her lip and the tear in her eyes;
Whilst the breeze my crimson banner unfurls,
I wreathe my locks with the purest pearls;
Brighter diamonds never were seen
Encircling the neck of an Indian queen!
I traverse the east on my glittering wing,
And my smiles awake every living thing;
And the twilight hour like a pilgrim gray,
Follows the night on her weeping way.
I raise the veil from the saffron bed,
Where the young sun pillows his golden head;
He lifts from the ocean his burning eye,
And his glory lights up the earth and sky.

Ah, I am like that dewy prime,
Ere youth hath shaken hands with time;
Ere the fresh tide of life has wasted low,
And discovered the hidden rocks of woe:
When like the rosy beams of morn,
Joy and gladness and love were born,
Hope divine, of heavenly birth,
And pleasure that lightens the cares of earth!

And this…

A Champion for Susanna Moodie written on June 30, 2011

I wrote at length a few summers ago about Susanna Moodie.  Staying on east Bridge Street in Belleville, Ontario, it only made sense then and because I have returned under sad circumstances, it also makes sense that I continue my exploration of her writing and her place in Canadian history.  Recently, it just so happened that I met author and historian, Gerry Boyce, as he was doing some yard work at the front of his house.  We engaged in a rich conversation about the surrounding area and the fact that he had, the day before, completed his index for another book.

When I explained to Mr. Boyce my interest in Susanna Moodie, he went on to share with me about the refurbishments made upon her monument over the last several years.  He also told me that the entire marble base had been replaced by the Campbell Monument Company and that he believed the original to be in their yard somewhere.

So, yes!  Of course I went to meet Gary Foster of Campbell Monuments and he and I walked out to the yard, together, to view the original monument base.  Now, the thing is, this beautiful reminder of an earlier day, can not continue to exist as a discard, but rather, needs to be displayed in a place of importance somewhere in the city…perhaps at the front of the library or in a public gathering space.  In whatever capacity, I hope to be a champion for this cause.  I was remarkably touched to meet Gerry Boyce.  He is generous in his sharing of history and I think that sort of generosity is to be admired.

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Daughter, Cayley and I made certain that we visited 114 Bridge Street West on July 25, 2011, right before heading south on the Via Train. This was the former cottage of Susanna Moodie and is marked as a noted historical property in the city. It was a beautiful…calming…peaceful experience. History…family…and the tree’s witness came to mind.

moodie

July 25, 2011 044

Through all of this…and taking up the suggestion of Gary Foster of Campbell Monuments that what the monument required was a champion…I began to write letters. This is how the communications went, with the exclusion of my gushing gratitude and appreciation that, of course, wove in and out of the entire journey. I began by writing the mayor.

Mayor Ellis,

My name is Kathleen Moors and I am visiting Belleville for the summer. I have been an art and english educator for the past 34 years. As a visitor from Calgary, Alberta, I can not help but notice that a beautiful portion of marble, the base sections for the Susanna Moodie monument previously replaced, is being stored at the back of Campbell Monuments and NOT on display somewhere in the Quinte area, for all visitors to enjoy. I would like to, for my time in the area, to be a champion for this base and encourage someone to begin planning a place of importance for this piece. Please forward this request to a department related to the historical and parks development, as I was unable to find an e mail address connected to my inquiry. I would appreciate hearing back from you and have included some blog submissions that I have written over the past three years, beginning with the most current. Regards. Kathleen

Very soon after this, I received a note from the mayor.

Thank you for your email, Kathleen. I am taking the liberty of forwarding your correspondence to Richard Hughes, President of the Hastings County Historical Society, in the hope that he can respond to your concerns. Neil R. Ellis, Mayor
And then…

Kathleen: I apologize for being slow to respond to you, but it is July and we have been away a fair bit. I have seen the monument and had a good talk with Gary Foster of Campbell’s Monuments. A very pleasant person!

I agree fully that this monument deserves a home in a public place. It is a big piece of our local history.

I am going to start talking around town with people who can help with this.

Bear with me a bit and I will keep you informed of the progress.

Richard Hughes
President
Hastings County Historical Society

And then…

Kathleen: Over this past week I have been discussing with the directors of the Historical Society which would be the best location for the monument, both for security, beauty of location and for people to actually see it. When we come to a conclusion, we will approach the relevant authority, the owner of the location or park, and see what we can work out.
You have started something….and now a lot of people are enthused. Well done!
Richard

and this…

Hello Kathleen: It must seem like a long time, but your initial proposal that the Moodie Monument find a suitable home in a Belleville park is alive and well. I have met with officials of Campbells and the City and we are now all working to come up with a method that will work. As the weather is now less favourable, we will work on the project together, over the winter with a view to installing the monument in a city park location in the Spring. I will keep you informed of the progress and, of course, the outcome.

Thanks for bringing this situation forward.

Richard Hughes
President
Hastings County Historical Society

AND FINALLY…TODAY…THIS!!

I’m so very excited!

Kathleen: On July 2, 2013 you sent an email to the mayor of Belleville, below, and he forwarded it to me “in the hope that he can respond” as the mayor put it. Well, it has been a long year but we have been – thanks to you – fabulously successful. The Moodie monument has now been completely refurbished and installed just yesterday in a beautiful site along the Belleville waterfront and it will be formally unveiled on Wednesday Oct 8th at 11am by the mayor. It is simply beautiful as you will see by the picture I am sending. This was taken during the installation.

You have done a wonderful service to our city and I congratulate and thank you.

Richard Hughes
President
Hastings County Historical Society

I am so happy for the front yard conversation I shared with historian, Gerry Boyce, while he leaned his rake against his hedge. I’ll always appreciate that Gary Foster came for a walk with me through his back lot when he really didn’t need to accommodate my unusual request on that particular day. It is such a generous gesture that Mayor Ellis should respond to my e mail personally and then pass my concern on to the Hastings County Historical Society. And finally, it has been a most treasured experience to have the project communicated to me from so far away and then to finally receive this news today from Richard Hughes. I am hoping that all of my Belleville friends will make their attendance. I know that Dad will be there.

Moodie Monument Oct 3, 2014.XViD-NiNJA-041-1

 

Corby Park, Belleville, Ontario

P1110245A short walking distance from my Dad’s apartment on Bridge Street, is Corby Park, a beautiful rose garden.  I have discovered that plants do not grow anywhere like they do in Belleville.  They enjoy the humidity and the heat, resulting in huge blooms and such a variety of lush gardens throughout the city. This particular garden and existing fountain are presently in a redevelopment phase and  because I was in Belleville earlier in the season this summer, there were many more plants in full bloom.  It was spectacular.

Lesson learned…paradise can be discovered by taking pause and really experiencing the world…or even a small part of the world.  It is a bit of a cliche or ‘corny’ to suggest that one take the time to ‘really’ look at a blossom, but it is so!  Looking at a single bloom, a person may discover a little bit of heaven.

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Paradise by Coldplay

When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
So she ran away in her sleep
Dreamed of para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Every time she closed her eyes
Whoa-oh-oh oh-oooh oh-oh-oh

When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
And the bullets catch in her teeth

Life goes on
It gets so heavy
The wheel breaks the butterfly
Every tear, a waterfall
In the night, the stormy night
She closed her eyes
In the night, the stormy night
Away she’d fly.

And dreamed of para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Whoa-oh-oh oh-oooh oh-oh-oh

She dreamed of para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Para- para- paradise
Whoa-oh-oh oh-oooh oh-oh-oh.

So lying underneath those stormy skies.
She said oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.
I know the sun must set to rise.

A Champion for Susanna Moodie

I wrote at length a few summers ago about Susanna Moodie.  Staying on east Bridge Street in Belleville, Ontario, it only made sense then and because I have returned under sad circumstances, it also makes sense that I continue my exploration of her writing and her place in Canadian history.  Recently, it just so happened that I met author and historian, Gerry Boyce, as he was doing some yard work at the front of his house.  We engaged in a rich conversation about the surrounding area and the fact that he had, the day before, completed his index for another book.

When I explained to Mr. Boyce my interest in Susanna Moodie, he went on to share with me about the refurbishments made upon her monument over the last several years.  He also told me that the entire marble base had been replaced by the Campbell Monument Company and that he believed the original to be in their yard somewhere.

So, yes!  Of course I went to meet Gary Foster of Campbell Monuments and he and I walked out to the yard, together, to view the original monument base.  Now, the thing is, this beautiful reminder of an earlier day, can not continue to exist as a discard, but rather, needs to be displayed in a place of importance somewhere in the city…perhaps at the front of the library or in a public gathering space.  In whatever capacity, I hope to be a champion for this cause.  I was remarkably touched to meet Gerry Boyce.  He is generous in his sharing of history and I think that sort of generosity is to be admired.

June 2013 028 June 2013 024 June 2013 026 June 2013 027July 26 2011 Susanna Moodie

114 Bridge Street July 25 2011 Susanna Moodie

Restoration of the Glanmore National Historic Site, Belleville, Onario

Walking from the hospital to my Dad’s apartment on Bridge Street, on my last trip to Belleville, I stepped into the past for a couple of hours.  I was emotionally exhausted upon my arrival, but on each visit I’ve made home, I’ve wondered about this beautiful building.  The banner on the front yard read OPEN.  I entered into the front foyer, where I was met with a warm greeting and smile, received a brief history and headed into this beautiful and somehow-enchanted space, quite a departure from the cold and discomforting experience of the hospital room.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors ©

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors ©

The building is in the process of restoration and so I was granted admittance to most of the three floors apart from the back of the house.  I was alone to wander and so I felt as though history was holding my hand.  I am one who loves that sense of nostalgia, so to be transported to this magical time was wonderful.

I have visited Virtual Museum Canada and located a concise history of the building and collections to post here.  I purchased, upon my departure, the book about the personalities who lived here and more detail about the architectural elements of the building itself, but I thought for the purpose of a blog post, a concise bit of writing would suffice.

“Glanmore National Historic Site of Canada

Glanmore National Historic Site, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1969 in recognition of its exceptional 2nd Empire architecture. Glanmore was built in 1882-1883 for wealthy banker J.P.C. Phillips (1842-1912) and his wife Harriet Dougall Phillips (1839-1915). The grand interior features beautiful hand-painted ceilings and ornate woodwork. Many of Glanmore’s rooms have been restored to the 1890s and feature period room displays containing some original furnishings as well as beautiful objects from the Couldery Collection.

The museum cares for an extensive collection of antique furniture, paintings and ceramics. Local history is highlighted in Glanmore’s lower level, and includes the Pre-Confederation Homestead exhibit and Maid of All Work: Domestic Service at Glanmore. The Museum is open to the public six days a week and offers a wide variety of programs and activities for schools and the general public. Guided and self-guided tours are available year-round.

About the Collections

The Couldery Collection of European and Oriental furniture, decorative art and paintings; Phillips-Burrows-Faulkner Collection of artifacts original to the site; Paul Lighting Collection; History of Hastings County Collection; Manly MacDonald Collection.

Approximate number of objects in the collections: 35,000″

Glanmore National Historic Site of Canada Video Tour Highlights from Gerry Fraiberg on Vimeo.

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Looking at Tree Roots

Strength

 

I think about my days living on Bridge Street and the trees, seeming ancient, that caused in me a sense of being small.  I remember nights when the wind would blow off of Quinte Bay and summer storms were gathering. I would open my window and listen to the trees move.  It was remarkable in every way, that they could move at all, given their size.  Their arms were black shadows in the night, lashing one direction and then whipping back, again and again.  Such rootedness must be required.  I am in awe.

The Journey Home: The First Time I Cried

Leaving home is never easy.  All of my readers know that.  This year, leaving Bridge Street… and my parents… was heart-breaking.  I tried the all-business approach to my packing up and sorting things (I still managed to leave one back pack behind), but beneath the surface I was again and again choking, choking in rooms by myself, while walking Max and Budster in the park across the street, on the elevator and in the parking lot.  By choking, I don’t mean crying tears.  I don’t know if you know what I mean.  It was a feeling so deep that it hurt my chest, but no sound came out and no tears were released.

When I last looked up at the balcony…Mom, cozy in her morning robe and Dad, tears in his eyes, I had to pull into my cave of a van and cry.  In my life I have been faulted for my emotions about things.  But this moment was one I will never forget, for its connection to my life…for the feeling of ‘leaving’ and the longing for connection.  I am home now and I will update my blog with a few significant happenings along the way.

I wish I could change some things.

I Looked Up At My Mom & Dad

Back on Bridge Street

I’m back on Bridge Street.  Before curling up to read, I’m thinking of my loved ones, family and the notion of ‘home’.  Skyping with my sister-in-law, niece and nephews this morning; Bridge Street to Cairo; once again I was overcome by the concept of the global community and what distance separates us.  Also, what a blessing technology (the very thing that can most frustrate us at times) is that it allows families to remain near though far!

The night before last I made it back to my parents’ home in Belleville after an absolutely ‘magical’ stay in Prince Edward Island.  After Mom and Dad headed for bed, my sister and I stayed up late to watch the movie Cairo Time.  Mom and Dad had tried to watch it, but it had lasted ten minutes…a slow-mover, my Dad had described.  But my sister and I knew that we wanted to see what would be ‘home’ to my brother and his family for the next three years, so we persisted.

He who hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world. Her soil is gold; her Nile is a marvel; her women are like the black-eyed virgins of Paradise; her houses are palaces; and her air is soft, as sweet-smelling as aloe-wood, rejoicing the heart. And how can Cairo be otherwise, when she is the Mother of the World?
–“A Thousand and One Nights”

Canadian filmmaker, Rubba Nadda, is responsible for this ‘artistic’ film, Cairo Time.  The story itself leaves the viewer feeling ambivalent, but the setting is rich, warm and luminous!  An amazing piece of work, honestly.  With these images in my mind; the sights, sounds and smells of Cairo…it was an interesting thing to then speak with my family who is there for this extensive posting.  Their world at this time, has shrunk significantly, given the differences in currency, food, schooling, language, social boundaries, transportation and well, all else that can impact a culture.  I asked my nephew, for example, if he could see the pyramids from his apartment…he laughed and replied, “NO WAY!”  Such was the beginning of the long list of differences that we established between the movie and its romanticism and the reality.

It was a wonderful thing to speak with family in Cairo while having morning coffee on Bridge Street.

 

Bridge Street: July 29, 2011

It was a humid night.  Nothing moved.  I thought a lot throughout the night, even after writing a blog about bees and bee keepers and bee books.  I just couldn’t sleep.  The sky was grey on Bridge Street this morning; the first day of rain since my arrival and I lacked the motivation to go out and collect one misty drizzle-filled photograph of a house on Bridge Street.

Subsequently, here are my words.  I dawned my hoodie and put socks on for the first day of my vacation…then the shoes…and loading Max into the van, headed for the Belleville off-leash area.

When we arrived, there were some other owners and their pooches, but it looked to me like I might have had an umbrella in order to fit in perfectly.  But, have I ever really been concerned with that?  A drizzle soon turned to a down-pour, but given the Ontario- air, it was still warm.

And suddenly I went to that experience of ‘memory’ and I returned to warm Ontario rains of my childhood.  While dog-owners raced to their cars, pulling disappointed dogs behind them, I began my second loop of the park.  (This is where the head leans back and the open-mouth turns to the sky…this is the moment when a person actually smiles in the rain.)  Max’s body extended into a streamlined figure bulleting about the park in a wild frenzy of squirrel-chasing and bounding through the trees.  We were both so happy that I just had to come here tonight to write it down…the happiness is written down here…a reference for me when I might forget.

I returned to Bridge Street where I hung out with my Mom and read  Sisters in Two Worlds.  I will finish this one off tonight.  I continue to feel amazed by women and their hands…the work they do, the lives they touch.

Being here on Bridge Street is a blessing.