Part 2: Lets continue last week’s story.                                                            51NA3O1MD+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_


Earlier Years

One day at noon time, 15 or 20 boys went sleigh siding on the hill beside the school.  I went too.  It was far enough away so the teacher could not see us.  We stayed there until 3 o’clock.  We forgot all about school.  School was let out, each one of us got four slaps with an oak ruler on our bare hand.  Just as one of the boys went out the door, he – well – he said something that wasn’t very nice to the teacher and away he went.  The next day all the boys in the school were kept in after four to see how the boys would be punished.  He was told to stand on the floor and take his coat off.  He wouldn’t do it, so it had to be taken off.  He was slapped across the back with a blue beech rod with frost taken out of it.  He was given about 20 lashes.  He didn’t try any of those tricks again.

The making of maple sugar was both work and play.  About 100 trees were tapped in our bush.  The operations were all carried out in the woods.  Wooden spiels, troughs, and yokes made by hand were used.  The sap was carried in these to the boiling-down pots, big iron pots hung on a pole over the fire.  Sugaring off took place about twice a week.  It was fun for us when we were allowed to fill empty egg shells with the hot sugar and then eat it when it cooled.”

”That would be fun Grandfather, I think you had as much fun when you were a boy as we do now, just different, that’s all.”

The door opened and dad walked in.  ”Well it was a great game,” he said.  I looked at him blankly.  Could it be possible that the game was over while I was listening to Grandfather’s story?

It was.

In 1951, when he was still a priest, Neil wrote Holiday Memories, which appeared in the Jesuit Bulletin.

The bay was clear and fresh in the bright morning sunshine.  Here and there pools of light and shadow reflected the fluffy clouds hanging like tiny puffs of white smoke in the blue sky.  And the dark spruce skyline, penciled with slender white poplars, was so sharp and close that it might have been painted on a colored backdrop hung just behind the ridge.

Our tan cedar skiff slid easily through the water, her double oars flashing and dripping sliver drops in the sunlight.  There was no sound but the soothing swish of running waters and the sharp morning cry of birds, clear as an icicle.

No one spoke.  The three Jesuit scholastics in the boat were making their morning meditation.  For a Jesuit there is no holiday from this, ever, nor from morning Mass which we had heard at our villa chapel overlooking lovely Lake Joseph.  Somehow it is easy to pray here in this enchanted spot as the frosty mists roll up from the water and the sun’s early rays fall on the tree tops about the hidden valley where the chapel is.  No, it is not too difficult to think about God here, so prodigally strewn are his gifts of water and air and sky.  To keep one’s eyes clean and one’s ears quiet, and one’s mind serene, to breathe God’s air, to work under His sky, that is the perfect holiday.

Meditation over, we slip quietly into the broad lake polished and gleaming like a silver paten.  Over there snuggled behind two gashed rocks lies Angel’s Cove.  This is a delightful haunt for a sunny afternoon.  One may swim in the clear water or read in the tracerwork of light under the spruce.  There is a room on the flat rock to set up an easel and sketch the wide expanse of water and rolling wooden hills.  Back through the woods wind shady trails for hiking.  Islands sprout up around us now.  Bright yellow and white cottages, resembling doll houses in their setting of green shrubbery, peep out from behind the islets.  Sleek motor launches skip about between the islets.  Their gleaming prows tossing spray leap out of the water like greyhounds straining at a leash.  We wave to one if the boats riding the swells nearby, its two occupants busy fishing.  At the bottom of the lake a modern hotel, with stone turrets flung up above the pines, stands out in a sweep of smooth green lawns flowing down to the water’s edge.  Just as we row under a narrow bridge into Lake Rosseau, a yellow seaplane wheels out of the sun, skim down, and taxis sloppily across the water like a great wounded bird.

Around the spur of a rock we come upon a shady cove and stop for lunch.  but first there is fifteen minute examination of conscience, made walking under the trees over the soft fragrant pine needles. The Jesuits’ spiritual exercises, lasting nearly three hours each day, are not cut down in holiday time.  As a matter of fact, after ten months of intense study, this much needed three weeks rest is capped by an eight day retreat.  For the past few years the annual retreat has been made at the summer house.

After a brisk swim and a delicious lunch we stretch out under the trees for a bit of rest before starting the row home.  Flies drone lazily in the sleepy sunshine while overhead the soft billowy clouds flap about in the fresh breeze.

Off again about four.  Lake Rosseau’s choppy surface is a patchwork of whitecaps.  Soon we slip into the Joe River leading back to Lake Joseph.  This is a picturesque stream set between ridges swaddled in spruce and pine.  It curves through scarred rocks shattered to make a channel so narrow in spots that our oar-tips brush the shore.  Sunlight glances off the quiet waters and so still is the deep afternoon that the boat might be moving across a painted landscape, flowing with greens and blues and suffused with golden light.

Back in Lake Joseph now, rowing into sunset.  The white wings of a gull poised motionless on a glistening rock are tinted pink in the flush of light.  An air of mystery hovers over the water as the evening shadows deepen.  The shore line falls back into the misty purple haze and over the darkness sounds the eerie wail of a loon.

As the boat glides silently into the dock we are just finishing the Rosary.  At the top of the bluff one can see the last rays of the sinking sun flame up behind the ridge across the darkening bay.  And through the chapel window the warm glow of the sanctuary lamp flickering before the Blessed Sacrament welcomes us home.

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