“This time, this place / This state of grace”

I suspect it is not possible not to feel like you’re in a state of grace when this is the road on which you find yourself on a late-September day in Hastings County.

As Raymond and I drove north and west through the darkness toward Queensborough late last Friday night, along county roads and township roads and good old Highway 7 (the two-lane Trans-Canada Highway), we were listening to a new anthology CD by Art Garfunkel. (It had come highly recommended by Bernie Perusse, the Montreal Gazette‘s awesome music critic.) Some songs on it I knew well (Bridge Over Troubled Water, I Only Have Eyes For You, What A Wonderful World), but several were new to me. One, a very pretty song called The Thread (you can listen to it here), has a chorus that ended up running through my head all weekend long:

This time, this place
This state of grace,
The promise of tomorrow…

It’s a song about one of the most urban places in the world, Park Avenue in New York City. But a time and a place that strike any one person as being a state of grace can happen anywhere, can’t it? For Art Garfunkel, it’s Manhattan. For me these days – as I think it has been for much of my life – it is tiny, rural, off-the-beaten-path Queensborough. It was, after all, the place where I grew up, where I lived the most formative years of my life. As I’ve written before, for all the years after my family moved away from Queensborough in 1975, I would dream often of it, and of the Manse where we lived. That time and that place are imprinted on me for all time.

So what an extraordinary thing it is, really, that Raymond and I are, as of this year, the owners of the Manse, and that we have an ever-firmer foothold in Queensborough. A place of memory and dreams has become something else: it has become real.

This is excitement in Queensborough: a cluster of very healthy-looking wild turkeys by the roadside.

We aren’t there full time, and I don’t think we would want to be, at least not now. One of the great pleasures of our life these days is being able to move back and forth between a supercharged and never-boring life as senior editors at a busy city newspaper, living in one of the best cities in the world (despite everything you hear and read these days), and a place where you stop and pull over to the side of the road on the way to a community event because half a dozen of the biggest wild turkeys you have ever seen are hanging out between the roadside and the Black River.

Last Saturday morning, the morning after our drive through the darkness to the Manse with Art’s lovely schoolboy (still, after all these years) tenor on the CD player, I took a run into town (Madoc) to do some errands. The drive back to the Manse – under a clear and sunny sky that day – takes one past a row of maples that have stood for many, many decades. My father used to tap them in the springtime to make maple syrup, and we kids (and many of the neighbourhood kids) would help gather the sap each evening. There are a lot of memories along that stretch. On Saturday morning in the warm sunlight, the old maples’ leaves were red and orange and gold, so beautiful that they – and the memories, and the pretty song’s chorus running through my head – brought tears to my eyes. A state of grace indeed.

And perhaps even better: “The promise of tomorrow.”

2 thoughts on ““This time, this place / This state of grace”

  1. Those maples along the Queensborough Road used to be on both sides of the road until the brilliant minds at Hastings County headquarters in Belleville decided that they would widen that road. They cut down the trees on the south side and then, amazing, the road never got widened. That amazing row of trees was planted by the Kincaid family well over 100 years ago. (The large farmstead on the corner was “The Kincaid Place” in localspeak.)

    • Don’t even get me started on those maple trees being cut down! Every time I drive that stretch I think about how beautiful it was with the canopy overhead created by the branches stretching across both sides of the road. Elaine Kapusta tells me that her uncle Allan Thompson was the one who refused to let them cut down the trees on the north side, and bless his heart for that. And to think that after all that destruction they never widened the road! It still makes me angry.

      That is interesting about the farm on the corner being “The Kincaid Place” – doubtless relatives of Wallace Kincaid, who owned the old frame house beside the Manse. In my day – hey, wait a minute; maybe now is my day! But anyway, back when I was a kid – that was “The Sager Brothers” farm.

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