Friday, February 9, 2018


Her home is nestled there at the edge of a ravine that is clustered with forest. She is a lovely and precious woman who has always been one of the kindest people I know. A now world-known photographer, she is unassuming and even quiet in the way she handles herself. She moves with grace and certainty. One gets the feeling she is unflappable, although great artistry runs in her spirit and ripples beneath the surface.

She and her husband have lived in Chelsea for approximately 30 years. They had originally bought property to build on Link Road but on a whim checked out a for-sale sign on Dunn Road and fell in love. They had no idea what made them do it but they purchased the place that very day. But it is almost as if the forest itself chose this woman particularly to live there where the wilderness catches at the edge of civilization. The forest picked her particularly to love it.

Chelseaites know her well. If not from actually knowing her in person, then from her photographs. We have lived with her and continue to do so throughout the years. We have seen where we live through her eyes. We have seen her forest, her trees, our forest, our trees. Her crows, our crows. We have seen her back yard with its turkeys, hostas and deer in all the seasons. We know her backyard almost as much as she does. It almost seems unfair that towards her twilight years she has to do anything whatsoever to maintain a property that has almost become Chelsea’s own. Adrienne Herron has shovelled the walkway herself for my visit, those snow-covered slate stone steps with its charming handrail. She is strong and competent. A woman for all seasons.

Adrienne and her husband Richard will be moving to an apartment in Aylmer within a year or two. It is a stressful time disassembling a house and a lifetime of work and redistributing it. How hard it is to leave a place. How hard it is to part with a memory. But Adrienne is optimistic and resolute. I am fed gingerbread and peanut butter cookies and lovely coffee at her kitchen table. The house is immaculate and welcoming. It is warm with kindness. I remember the last time I was there was with George. She, as with many of the older women I know, by my presence is reminded of what could be their own loss. And I tell her if she should be left alone she will be fine because I know she will be. We do not know the strength we have until it is needed and I, looking at this wonderful woman, know strength when I see it.

Outside the windows I see the snow and cool colours of winter that belies the warmth of Adrienne and her kindness. I imagine the deer there and the crows and the hostas waiting under the white for spring. I am remembering when I first met Adrienne. It was maybe even as many as 20 years ago but perhaps not. I cannot recollect exactly when. There was a crew of us working for the Gatineau Valley Historical Society. We would gather at Chelsea’s Pub on an afternoon and eat walnuts. Adrienne insisted we eat walnuts. They were fun times and I still eat walnuts.

Adrienne has done work for the Gatineau Valley Historical Society on the image bank for a very long time. Here over 11,000 images of Chelsea and the area’s past have been carefully scanned and recorded for posterity. The image bank itself was imagined and created by Adrienne and has been added to by many since. It is a well-loved piece of the Historical society's mission. She has helped give us our very soul: the spirit of our town and particularly its landscape. Where urban buildings grow, it can be assured that Adrienne has walked those fields and taken those photos. Is it true then that we do not know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been. It is someone such as Adrienne who has given us a piece, a wise direction to our very journey and don’t we need such enlightened direction! She is earnest in her love of this town. “I’m not even Catholic,” she says of her donation way back when to help pay for the new steeple of St. Stephen’s church. It is the love of the landscape and its buildings and history that drives so much of what she has done and continues to do.

I will be back for coffee. I am reluctant even this day to leave the warmth and walk up that snowy path to the car and home. I leave her standing in the doorway. Her snow-white hair highlighted against the darker interior. I wish I had a photograph of her there under the snow-covered roof. I will try and take one next time.

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