"In Praise of Older Buildings"
Monday, February 6, 2017
In the course of our email conversations, Marianne mentioned that she is a writer (of considerable stature, it turns out: biography historical fiction, natural history...) Last year she collaborated with her brother Gerard to create this toothsome book about the Grand River. Marianne's descriptive prose and Gerard's exquisite wood engravings (a medium I greatly admire) have created a wonderful book. It's published by Porcupine's Quill press, and is a lovely thing indeed.
The Grand River : Dundalk to Lake Erie now sits on my reading bench, a gift from Marianne. Its very presence seems to emanate an invitation to the Grand River country that I must heed before long.
The introduction describes their collaboration - she on the bank, looking and listening, he sketching, perched on a shooting stick at the edge of the river, an image as timeless as the river itself. An Alice in Wonderland Victorian summer afternoon.
Marianne and Gerard take the reader to towns, villages and wild places, their commonality being their link to the river. Places like Fergus, Elora and West Montrose, which we've visited over the years, are all now linked in my memory. At the times we toured, we admired rock-rushing water from picturesque bridges, or hiked along summer-warm trails, our views of the river episodic, fragmented, our main pleasure, the company of our friends.
The book recalls for me walks along the gorge and dinners at the Elora mill with La and Doug, or wanders through Fergus streets meandering like the river itself.
I remember a time in the mid-1980s when we treated ourselves to a 'stay' at the Elora Mill Inn, marvelling at the perfect Century Home decor. Glad we did it then. I had a quick look online to see how the inn was progressing, and found this link to a development which, well frankly, doesn't have the charm I recall.
Other lovely spots Marianne and Gerard visit in the book include the historically significant covered bridge at West Montrose, the only remaining covered bridge in the province, built in 1881 by two brothers John and Benjamin Bear. Thanks to the wonders of Google Streetview, you can view the bridge on a bright spring day, read the OHT plaque, and even drive through, maybe grabbing a kiss in the shadows, en route. The Historic Places website provides an aerial view.
The bridge has undergone a number of refurbishments, and replacements of elements, bringing up the delicious Theseus' Paradox. Here's a strident but concise introduction of this philosophical problem.
An idea is forming in my head...a road trip in May, bed and breakfast accommodation, and a visit to Paris in the springtime. Stratford, Doon, return stops in Fergus and Elora, riverside walks along the Grand, and a chance to meet these fine and talented folks. That thought should get me through a dreary February afternoon.
In the meantime, if heritage rivers and the people who value them are your kinds of people, consider purchasing this lovely lovely book. It's available through Amazon, although picking it up at an independent bookseller in a village along the Grand River would be much more fitting. Enjoy.