All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

Discovering angels unawares

When we opened the doors for the first time on our dear old house in Bloomfield my brother presented us with an embroidered sampler to hang by the back door. It’s simple message– treat everyone who comes to the door as special — and not to pre judge a stranger.  It’s a good reminder and gets to the heart of what life is all about really:  trying to find the special qualities which makes a person unique and important.

Pre judging people is common to all of us I think.  We take a mental inventory of a person’s age, dress, demeanour and our mind characterizes that person in a  box which we tend to give a mental rating to — without doing the required research to really determine the truth.

I’ve done lt  — and often to my everlasting regret.

A few years ago  I lived in an old House just north of Aurora, Ontario located between Yonge St. and the ancient toll road called Old Yonge Street.  Built in 1829
it had been owned mostly by the Cosford family — but during the 40’s by George Leacock the brother of the iconic humourist Stephan Leacock who made Orillia famous with his Sunshine Sketches.   Local lore when we arrived in the Red House was that George was really the funny one.

Anyway after the Leacocks moved along the estate was divided and so we bought the red brick house and an elderly couple took over what had been the Leacock’s coach house located on the corner of the St. John’s sideroad and Yonge street.  And I can tell you it  was pretty tough trying to keep our formidable property going on a young journalist’s meagre earnings.

My new neighbour’s name was Art Duncan.  He was quiet and dignified and always wore a gentleman’s peaked cap and walked with a cane. Occasionally we would meet and pass polite small talk over the fence.  It was always about the weather or the garden but I really didn’t get to know him well.

On a sunny morning in April 1975 we learned that our neighbour had passed away in the night.  We were saddened by our loss — but the enormity of it didn’t hit home until the next day when cars started competing for parking space beside us along old Yonge street.

The first group to walk by contained Red Kelly and behind him George Armstrong  and Bob Baun all Toronto Maple Leaf legends.   People just kept coming
— the royalty of Toronto’s hockey heritage I can tell you.   A multitude of hockey personalities and greatness were all converging on the converted coach house next door to pay their respects. For a guy who used to send in Beehive Golden Corn Syrup labels for Leaf hockey pictures I found the happening mind boggling.

It was also a time when I realized that because of my lack of energy and imagination I had missed a unique opportunity to learn a great deal more about a segment of the world I truly adored.

Art Duncan had been the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1930 to 1932.
He had been a player in the Pacific Coast League for eight years and later played for the Leafs and acted as coach.   He had legendary players like Charlie Connacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson on his roster.

Not only that, but I also I discovered that in 1916 Art had transferred over from the 228th Battalion Canadian Hockey team to the Royal Flying Corps and was credited with 11 victories in aerial dogfights in his SE5.a  before returning to Canada.  We had a family interest in the Corps because of Dad’s involvement.

What a treasure trove of life and lore this man carried with him!  Just talking to him would have been an education of immense benefit and interest to me personally.  But I couldn’t see past the edge of my nose.  I didn’t ask the right questions.   I didn’t try to discover his opinions on the right subjects.  I let a golden opportunity for gaining first class knowledge and discovery pass before me.

The lesson here I think is this:    Each of us has our own inner computer of life, jam-packed with events and special knowledge.  We have all been there and done that in some special way.  Don’t wait until its too late  to find out about other people’s unique experience.   I often wish I had asked my own grandfathers and my father more about their lives and how this has impacted on the beginnings of our family.

That’s why its good to have that embroidered sampler beside the back door– to remind everyone that comes and goes that there is a little angel to discover in every one.

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About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. Louisa says:

    Donald, I’m slightly jealous – you spent time with Freeman Patterson!?! A wonderful nature photographer. I’ve always wondered what he’s like in person. I have a book of his that I wander through over and over, called The Garden. I have quoted him a few times in my blog, as well. He just makes so much sense and shows us how beautiful everything is. (I didn’t know where to post this – I saw your comment re: FP in Terry’s blog on ‘November’.)

  2. Donald says:

    I like your analogies Louisa — both on the idea of “seeing” the world through blindness and relating the acceptance of animals in their trust of humans.
    What did my mother used to say? “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin
    with me.” I think this is the starting point.

    Many thanks

    Donald

  3. Louisa says:

    Sometimes, to avoid pre-judging people visually, I close my eyes and think “If I were blind, what that person looks like would have no bearing on who they are.” Certainly we’re all guilty of judgments, and it is really one of the most unfair things we humans do. I also sometimes think how animals do not judge, and try to be more like them.

    Thanks for a very enlightening reminder Donald!

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