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.

June 2013 028 June 2013 024 June 2013 026 June 2013 027

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

 

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

A Moment

Sipping hot coffee.  Already this morning, I sat in the backyard garden, reading Sisters in Two Worlds by Michael Peterman.  I looked up at the old trees, listened to their creeking branches…cold wet grass beneath my feet.  It looks like another sunny day, with transparent white patterns of cloud, dotting the sky.  My mind is somewhat preoccupied with the words of/stories about Susanna Moodie right now.  I do tend to be like my neurotic border collie, Max, in this respect…once I have focus on something, I really like to exhaust that focus and think of very little else.  Susanna Moodie would be that for now.

Susanna Moodie

Resting Place: Belleville, Ontario

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!

Beautiful Winds and Blue Skies

This Tree is a Witness to Lives and History

Backyard Maple: Susanna Moodie's Cottage

The Houses by Rudyard Kipling

1898 A Song of Dominions

‘Twixt my house and thy house the pathway is broad,
In thy house or my house is half the world’s hoard;
By my house and thy house hangs all the world’s fate,
On thy house and my house lies half the world’s hate.

For my house and thy house no help shall we find
Save thy house and my house — kin cleaving to kind;
If my house be taken, thine tumbleth anon.
If thy house be forfeit, mine followeth soon.

‘Twixt my house and thy house what talk can there be
Of headship or lordship, or service or fee?
Since my house to thy house no greater can send
Than thy house to my house — friend comforting friend;
And thy house to my house no meaner can bring
Than my house to thy house — King counselling King.

114 Bridge Street West: July 25, 2011

Cayley in Susanna Moodie's Gardens: A Spiritual Experience

This afternoon, before heading south on the Via Rail, Cayley and I headed to the west hill and the former cottage of Susanna Moodie.  A beautiful…calming…peaceful experience.  History…family…and the tree’s witness came to mind.

Fountain Detail

I have just purchased the books, Belleville: A Popular History by Gerry Boyce and Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Cathearine Parr Traill by Michael Peterman, so more details will follow as I learn and experience more.

114 Bridge Street: Front Entrance

Rock pathway laid down in a similar way as I have back at home.

Summer Discoveries on Bridge Street

I enjoy early Canadian writers and have a small collection on my book shelf at home, of Susanna Moodie’s writings and journal pages.  Equally as fascinating are the writings of her sister, Catherine Parr Trail.  Both women struggled initially with the harsh Canadian winters, but then grew to write very powerful reflections about their experiences, thus enlightening historians about the transition from the more gentile life of England and other places in Europe to the weather and stark reality of life in Canada.

Sometimes life’s little surprises are…well…surprising! It is when I am ‘going along’ noticing the simple things, that I end up having amazing revelations and am struck by that sort of magic that I hang onto forever.  It would seem that Susanna Moodie’s cottage was in Belleville, Ontario…on Bridge Street.  Presently, I am staying with my parents, just a block away!  For all I know, I have already featured her home in my Bridge Street Photo Essay.  We shall see!  In the meantime, I will try to find some words of Susanna’s to post here.

On the notion of memory…something I’ve been thinking about all of these photos later…

What a wonderful faculty is memory! — the most mysterious and inexplicable in the great riddle of life; that plastic tablet on which the Almighty registers with unerring fidelity the records of being, making it the depository of all our words, thoughts and deeds — this faithful witness against us for good or evil.
Susanna Moodie