As I crested Mc Carn Hill on entering Clayton in the spring of ’82 I said: “I’ve come home!”
That sense of belonging to a community and feeling adopted by the River has never left me. Not once in these past 27 years. However it is time – time to go and explore other worlds, but not without regret; for this is where I leave a large slice of my heart. To have it all make sense I need take you back with me to July 4th 1970
I was a very busy, professional photographer and was driving to a wedding. Out-of-the-blue, I felt a tremendous “explosion” in my head. There wasn’t really one, it just felt like it. The reason? I had been working too often, too long, and too hard. The medical profession would call it “stress”, a little word with potentially-large implications for one’s life.. Those long-and-stressful 15-to-20-hour days had finally taken firm hold of me in a way that will be forever etched in my memory.
It was, simply, the result of “Burning the candle at both ends” and it took me more than five years to recover. However, that is another story! The experience had such an impact on me that I became dedicated to the word “Relax” in my own life and in communicating the concept, and need, to others.
Born from that devastating experience was a radio show on WWNY called "Joy In The Morning". I followed that with three “treasure” books where I hid a brass key and wove clues into those books that would lead the reader to a not-insignificant amount of money for their efforts.
$ilver Trea$ure rambled all over Jefferson and Lewis counties for a prize of $1000. Treasure Island II was set in the 1000 Islands with a key worth $1500. The third, Joshua’s Secret, had a $2500 prize. The last two were set in the 1000 Islands and it was here that I discovered the true treasure in this “Garden of the Great Spirit” : Peace-of-Mind!
As my workload increased so did my need for rest and relaxation. Finally, I closed the doors of our very-successful studio. It was easy. One day I simply chose not to unlock its door and I placed an ad for a little cottage, hopefully on the River.
The answer to my “need” came in the form of a tiny 10’ x 14’ garden cottage on Steele’s Point in Clayton. That first entry into the town was as an answer to a prayer: “I’ve come home!” For a time I simply rested, ate when I felt like it, slept short-or-long, played with rabbits at 3 AM, watched two families of ducks grow up, always absorbing the refreshment of the St Lawrence.
It was not only my personal need for relaxation but also the necessity of having to earn a living that prompted the launch of "Relax! In The 1000 Islands". Advertisers and readers responded with enthusiasm. I was delighted in that I could marry my joy of writing with my gifts of photography. It worked! It had a 17½ year run.
The following year I worked out of a refurbished, 16’ travel-trailer parked at French Bay Marina. By 1984 I had found the perfect apartment on Riverside Drive and I also shifted my radio show to the banks of the St Lawrence. How delighted I was to be able to share with my listeners the ever-changing face of the River. As I continued with the newspaper I worked as a partner- Innkeeper at the Hart House Inn on Wellesley Island. The work was hard, but it was a joy to serve our guests. Guess what? Slowly, but surely, I had returned to my old-and-stressful habits. So, we sold out in 2005 and finally I gave priority to my new lifestyle: cherishing the River.
I am usually seen with a Canon Rebel XTi slung over my Swedish shoulder. I’ve been fortunate to live in Japan, Hawaii, and travel extensively in Europe. There is nothing I’ve found to match the 1000 Islands in what the Indians named it: The Garden of the Great Spirit. It is a place of peace. It is for healing of body, mind and soul but only if you look for it.
It has been a remarkable 27 years. My age numbers are now reversed – 47 has become 74. It is time to leave. I am fortunate that I have thousands of images of the islands stored in my computer. I have a millions softly stowed away in my mind. How blessed I am!
It will be only a few more days until we leave. Diane and I often come to the River to walk with Elsie, our little French Bull Dog, just to feel the pulse of this soaking-wet waterway. It always eases the stresses of life. It breathes in new life. I recall a fishing guide who said to me, “When yer fishin’ nuttin’ bothers ya. Nuttin’ at all.” Truer than truth! I recently told a friend how much we hated to leave the River. Their response? “Dudley, you can leave the River but it will never leave you.”
So, empowered by the River, I go forward with nearly ten-thousand sunrises, and sunsets, locked in my garden of memories.
Thank you for allowing the Danielsons to be a part of your life. We leave you with that word of magic and love and wonder: Shalom – peace to you!
~ Dudley E. Danielson, Dudley@revdd.com