Saturday, September 10, 2011, 8:27 a.m.

This morning’s catch:  22 Lucky Stones.  Three fossils.  One Great Blue Heron–my animal totem–standing sentinel on the boulder off shore at the westernmost point of the island.  A thin line of light highlighting the horizon under a glowering gray sky.

On Pelee Island, the weekend after Labor Day weekend is Heritage Weekend.  Heritage Weekend 2011 began last night, just before sunset, looking out from Clayton’s half-amphitheatre on the shore of Vin Villa to Hulda’s Rock, playing with the past, creating new imaginative versions of the story of Hulda, the Indian princess who leapt to her death in Lake Erie when her English husband didn’t return to her on Pelee Island.

Sunset at Vin Villa during Hulda's story presentation

This morning’s forecast:  a visit with Uncle Lawrence at the Heritage Center and then off to tour Clyde Hooper’s barn on West Shore Road in the company of the 35 or 40 Pelee Island residents and cottagers from Canada, Ohio, and Michigan who have been fortunate enough to register for this year’s Heritage Weekend.

Some background:  Ron Tiessen, Director of the Pelee Island Heritage Centre, is leading his last Heritage Weekend.  Kim Gardener is along on her first as co-facilitator.  Next year, Ron’s tradition will be transferred to Kim’s capable hands.

What is it that is so fascinating about revisiting the past?  In a fossil, in a poem, in a barn, the past glows, that thin light at the horizon.  In one way, the past is what we’re all moving toward, not away from, as our stories become a part of the past and we, the keepers of those stories.

Perfect rainy morning thoughts, no?  And these particular thoughts are surfing on a fine mist of wanting to somehow mark this weekend, of Ron, the founder of the tradition and leader of five years of Heritage Weekends, passing on the baton.  So before I move on, before I lose myself in the story of Uncle Lawrence, Clyde Hooper’s tobacco barn, or the Pelee wines tasted at the Wandering Pheasant tonight, or tomorrow, head up to the top of the Pelee Island Lighthouse and hope for the first glimpses of the migratory season with Claire, I’d like to dedicate this next series of posts to Ron Tiessen, the man who so often unlocks the door to the tower.  Those who follow Ron are always, always rewarded with a fresh view of the past and present, of the natural world and how our human sphere fits within it as they consider his thoughtful questions.

This morning, despite the rain and across the expanse of Lake, the Ohio islands stand in stark relief against that line of light at the horizon, each holding their own stories afloat, each a different story than Pelee’s and from one another, but each planted with deep roots in the past of this planet.  And at this very moment, all of those stories are hurtling with the planet through space toward our future.  May Ron continue to help us appreciate the past–the stories of where we came from and who we are–and help us shape fruitful questions for our shared future.

Ron Tiessen, "Pelee Island's Quiet Hero"