Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Peaceful Memory for this Stormy Morning

 St. Lawrence River View, 2006
(Click on image to see larger)

One of my favorite places is Thousand Island Park, a summer community on Wellesley Island, a rocky outcropping that sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River on the border of New York State and Canada.

Thousand Island Park was one of the summer encampments of the Chautauqua movement of the late 1800s. They started as summer retreats for Christian groups. In the case of Thousand Island Park, people from central and western New York State would head north to the St. Lawrence in the summer in search of cool river breezes. They pitched tents and attended revivals under open-air tabernacles. Over time, the religious influence faded, seasonal cottages and hotels replaced the tents and the Chautauqua communities became popular summer resorts.

For someone from a crowded and humid Mid-Atlantic beach resort town, Thousand Island Park is a welcome refuge in the summer. Considering that it’s on roughly the same latitude as Bar Harbor, Maine, the days are warm and the evenings cool. Our friends who summer at Thousand Island Park swear that even in August a fire in the fireplace is necessary to take the chill off an evening. We haven’t found it that cool, but the idea sure sounds nice.

Thousand Island Park is like summer camp for families. Most of the cottages have stayed in same families for generations. There’s a weekly schedule of activities for people of all ages. People garden, play tennis and softball or play on the river during the day.  There’s a yoga group that meets each morning at the waterside pavilion. There’s an old-fashioned ice cream shop at the center of town, and an old hotel that has a few rooms for the occasional transient visitors. At night children chase fireflies. Residents stroll up and down quiet lanes visiting on front porches or dancing at the pavilion.

(It’s worth mentioning that Wellesley Island is so cold and desolate during the winter that Abbie Hoffman, of Chicago Seven fame—for you younger readers, click here--lived there for years on the lam and was only apprehended when he made a run for public office.)

Anyway, long story short. I received an e-mail over the weekend from the owner of one of the loveliest summer homes at Thousand Island Park. She’s also the head of the local historical society. She'd come across my Thousand Island Park pictures at Flickr and wanted to know if I would share some of my pictures at the society’s web site and for Wikipedia.

Of course I was happy to share the photos. And as a result I have a new place to have a cool drink on a summer afternoon if I ever get back to Thousand Island Park again.

The picture above isn’t of the house in question or even taken from it. In the course of looking for house pictures I came across this photo of the St. Lawrence River taken early one summer morning. Behind me the yoga class members chanted their mantras, while in the distance the ore carrier Manitou sounded its horn as it neared the International Bridge. The memories of that morning have already got me into a languid mood on what promises to be a busy and rainy day. I hope this scene will do the same for you.

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