Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Back Story - Part I

With the launch of my book fast approaching, people have been asking me how it all started...what prompted me to undertake this lengthy project. As a writer, I'm always interested in the back story and as I began thinking through the history behind this book, I realized it had its true beginnings back in 1960s New Brunswick...back when milk arrived in bottles on the front step, televisions had rabbit ears and no one had yet heard of the environmental movement.

You see, the first time I met Mary Majka, I was a reedy and awkward seven year old, lying flat on my belly on front of the television, palms bracing my chin, skinny legs bent at the band aids and wobbling somewhere behind my head.  

Mary on a field trip with students (photo David Christie)
As the hostess of a locally produced weekly television show called, “Have you Seen?”, Mary  introduced me and a whole generation of children around the Maritime Provinces to the back stories of the natural world.  She showed that people and nature should live companionably, that magic really exists, and that the world speaks softly, should we choose to listen. 

I began bringing home stray dogs and cats, injured birds.  Not that Mary created compassion in me - I think that was always there - but, through her program, she did show me that compassion expected action.  She showed me that it was not wrong to give aid to the injured or to pick up bird feathers or to let a caterpillar crawl, inch by fuzzy inch, up my arm. She taught me that I had a responsibility to the creatures with whom I shared this earth.

White-marked Tussock Moth (I believe)
My mother told me Mary lived in nearby Albert County, which is where my roots lie (and where I now live). Although her facial features would be considered more earthy than glamourous, I thought of her as a movie star. And for awhile, I believed if a movie star could come from Albert County, anything was possible for me.

Mary remained in the forefront of the evolving environmental movement, most often in the news for her fervent and vocal defense of habitat or heritage or the wild creatures that share our world.  The press loved her…her Polishness, her passion, her panache.

Mary at our 1988 wedding
Twenty years later, I met Mary Majka again, this time in person. Her presence still commanded attention.  While she had aged, the strength of character in the prominent, hooked nose, slate blue eyes, ready smile and suntanned face remained unchanged.  When I mentioned having seen her on TV as a child, she raised her brows. “Ah!” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “That was so long ago!”  But she smiled, obviously pleased. 

Shortly thereafter, I returned to my roots in Albert County and for a time, my husband and I lived on Caledonia Mountain, a largely unsettled mountain near the Bay of Fundy coast. As I explored the forests and marshes surrounding the mountain, the enjoyment of the natural world that had been shuffled to the background during my teens and twenties reemerged. It wouldn't be until much later that I discovered that Caledonia had also been the location of Mary’s first home after moving to New Brunswick.

In the years that followed, our relationship deepened as we shared occasional afternoons in the home she restored at Mary’s Point, nearby. It was a pleasure to visit. Her home always had a menagerie of recovering creatures in residence...a purple gallinule, a pair of mourning doves, the occasional owls, squirrels, a beaver...an albino raven.  Gradually, she offered the stories of her varied projects in wildlife rehabilitation, habitat protection and heritage preservation in tantalizing bits and pieces and I began to appreciate all that she had accomplished.

Mary had sparked a yearning in me, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. As I approached my 40s, I began tackling those feelings of discontent and initiated the changes in my life that led me into the writing career I now enjoy. I was finally giving voice to the real me, my inborn nature was rising to the surface. Little did I know that I was about to immerse myself in a life that was - at its essence - a vibrant example of that very thing.

7 comments:

Brian Miller said...

dont you love how the right people come into our lives to touch us in ways to shape who we are to become...thanks for sharing this...

Jo said...

I love this and I love that Mary was at your wedding. I relate to so much that you've written and look forward to more of the back story.

Tabor said...

Congratulations on your book. A friend of my son's has just published her first book...I cannot imagine how great that must feel. You mary was the stone in the pond with the ripples getting wider and wider. Who know how my children's lives she touched.

One Woman's Journey said...

What a beautiful post. Blessings to Mary. You are beautiful in your wedding dress. Thank you for sharing - you have made my heart smile.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Isn't it amazing... and a wonder how life flows in circles ...

Your wedding photo is so beautiful... like a fairytale...

gg said...

what wonderful coincidences that flow into our lives. how wonderful that you could reconnect with mary, who obviously had a large impact on you.
i'm eagerly awaiting your book. i' sure there are many who are too.

Deborah Carr said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. You know, the longer I live the more I trust that the right people show up at the right time. And what will be, will be in the right time. I'm no longer as impatient as I was.

It also makes me aware that quite possibly I might be a someone who could set a ripple in motion. A sobering thought...