I’ve been searching on and off for years for this little island on google maps. I failed because I was looking in the wrong region. I had no idea where it was. I was just a little kid. Today I tried google earth. And there it was, yada yada. As a kid on vacation with my brother and mom and dad in absolutely the middle of Nowhere-Rainy-River, I remember being terribly impressed by my discovery of an inconspicuous though very sturdy metal stake driven directly into the bedrock high atop this tiny mountainous island, stating in its engraving that this is the line between Canada and the United States of America. This would have been driven in some time after the Ashburton Treaty of 1842. I couldn’t believe my eyes, which were now opened to international politics and land-grabbing on a massive scale in, as I say, manifestly absolutely the middle of nowhere. I stood there for minutes on end, trying to take it all in. Who in their right mind, thought I, would go through such trouble, especially when it would have been so very difficult way back in the days of yore? Weren’t lines on a map enough? (In those days, they were.) I figured that, after all, I was still surely the only human being who has ever happened across this stake since the time it was so laboriously pounded in. However permanent this type of Arthurian Excalibur was, it was about as useful for marking territory as a dog peeing on a hydrant just before a heavy rain. Anyway, as you can see, since then, and after the time we had visited for some years in a row in the late 1960s and early 1970s, after our spate of 2-week summertime car trips around America, the forest service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture installed a rather large platform dock near the campground on the island.
High atop the southeastern bluffs, there are lush patches of blueberries hidden among the massive rocks. And this is why we would come: to pick blueberries for the best blueberry tarts and pies and everything that my mom would then make when we got back home. Mmmm! And, oh yes, we came for the fish! We would eat the fillets until the next Summer. Not sure if we took over the limit. Pictured is a morning’s catch, which I’m sure weighed as much as I did. We kept them fresh for many days in nets under water until we could get ice one the way home for the coolers we brought for the trip back.
So, what’s the use of repeating unrepeatable circumstances such as this? We’ll, here’s the truth of it, all too predictable: I’ve not told you the whole truth of the matter. I’ve written about some of it on a now shuttered blog. My family was not always idyllic. Big surprise there, right? Who’s family is totally perfect? The point here is, I do think that we tried to begin to overcome some difficulties by investing real time to be together, depending on each other. Ours is, I think, a story that would give some perspective to those in the Synod on the Family who would too easily have people opt for divorce and remarriage. My dad would get advice from the priests in town and he would try to follow up on it. Did he fail time and again. Yes. And in a bad way. But he did try. And things did get better, and better, and much better, and really good. But that’s years of progress, and not everyone in the family was there to take notice. But, change did come. It was miraculous. And it started by trying. And trying. Not bad, that. Not bad at all.
The rock was Christ, the stake our idiocy. The result, not further division, but in His forgiveness, learning to learn unity, not always succeeding, but we continued to try. And that, for me, was always jaw-dropping as a new discovery, Jesus bothering to stake us out as His territory. I would have to just stand for minutes on end trying to take it all in. And yes, all of that, for all the difficulty, did afford real moments of happiness and rejoicing. And that’s just way cool in my book.
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:13-14).
I find it interesting that Pope Francis has not yet released THE DOCUMENT on the Synod on the Family. I’m guessing he’s taking his time preparing something for the sake of unity, not of division.