Monday, December 13, 2010

The Day I Met Mary





(Photo #1 Deborah Carr Photo #2 Mary Majka Photo #3 Myself and Mary Photo #4 David Christie, Mary and Deborah


Written By: Sharon A. Layton-Pollock

I arrived fifteen minutes early at the library in Riverview and already the large room was filled to capacity. With camera in hand and my book ‘Sanctuary’ tucked under my arm, I managed to find a spot in the corner. I was anxious to have the author, Deborah Carr, and the subject, Mary Majka autograph my book. As I got myself settled and was waiting my mind wondered back to when I first met Mary.
In 1987 my daughter Lois and her classmates, from JMA Armstrong high in Salisbury, were going on a field trip, and I volunteered to drive a vanload of her friends. The itinerary for the afternoon was exploring Albert County, and finishing up at Mary’s Point Bird Sanctuary in Harvey. The day was a delight and I so enjoyed telling my Albert County stories to these Westmorland County kids. My father was born and raised in Curryville and there I was born also, so the countryside was very familiar to me and I had no problem arriving at our final destination.
We pulled in and piled out at Mary’s Point Shorebird Reserve, and there to greet us was Mary Majka and David Christie. What an interesting woman she was, with her thick Polish accent, and tuffs of white hair peeking out from under her knitted hat. We followed her down a winding pathway through forest and field and arrived at her cottage on the Bay. We sat around wherever we could find a spot, on a picnic table some refreshments were laid out and Mary began. She told of the flight and plight of the Semi Palmated Sandpiper, she introduced us to the vast variety of life found in and around the marshes of Harvey, she told us about the restoration of heritage properties in the area. The more she talked the more excited she became, and the more she used her arms and hand jesters in telling her stories. I as enthralled with her knowledge, hospitality and excitement, as were the students who gathered round.
The day was a delight, and a great learning experience; it was nice to be back home in Albert County. On our way to Harvey all vehicles travelled the same route, but on the way home I veered off the beaten pathway. I went around this turn and that turn onto dirt roads in the deep woods. After driving for quite awhile and shadows were lengthened I looked over at Lois, with great concern in my voice I said,
“Gee I wonder if I made the right turn or not?” You could have heard a pin drop, Lois turned around to her friends and said, “Don’t worry, Mom’s just kidding, she knows her way around here,” much to their relief.
I never saw Mary again for several years, but often wondered about her. In 1995 I married and moved to Albert County and soon met Mary again. I was very much involved in the tourism industry and Mary was still working on her many passions, one being the natural preservation of Albert County.
Often times our aggressive tourism industry associations plans would not set well with Mary’s endeavours and she was not afraid to speak her mind. On one such occasion I decided to put my thoughts, in these regards, down on paper in a letter to Mary. After receiving and reading my letter Mary called me and asked me to tea. There she told me she never thought about the tourism industry in the way I had shed light upon it. We became friends and allies in different Albert County projects. Mary has since won awards in tourism related matters.
Since I have moved away from Hopewell Cape we have kept in touch via phone calls, e-mails and great visits. So to say the least it was a great pleasure to join with the many people at the Riverview Library on November 23, to listen to author, Deborah Carr, read an exert from her newly published book of Mary’s extraordinary life called “Sanctuary…The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka.”
The book Sanctuary was seven years in the making. Deborah would take her lap top on what Deborah called “Her Thursday mornings with Mary.” There she visited, interviewed, walked, talked and sometimes even cry with Mary. Then when she felt she had enough info, Deborah locked herself away, so to speak, and began weaving Mary’s story together.
It was so moving to listen to her; because I had also gotten to know Deborah, we both lived in Hopewell Cape. I joined her at different writers workshops, followed her articles in different newspapers and magazines and latter attended workshops given by Deborah herself.
Deborah opened the floor up for questions, and there were many, for she and her writing was no stranger to those in attendance. Then she stepped back and invited Mary to come to the front. David pushed her forward in her wheelchair, and all waited with baited breath to hear what she herself had to say.
The stories were not new to me for she had shared them with my husband,Richard and I, on her different visits with us, but they were still wonderful to hear, and to watch as she got more excited, the twinkle in her eyes and waving her hands about adding to the pleasure of listening.
Mary told us she was 87 years old and she found the process long and sometimes very painful as Deborah kept pulling her past to the forefront of her memory. Remembering the loss of her beloved Father, the separation from her Mother and brother during World War II. The toils of farm work in the hills of Austria.
But her spirit sustained her and life got better. She and her husband Mike moved to Canada and arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax. Caledonia Mountain in beautiful Albert County New Brunswick became her new home, the place where she has pursued her life long passions. Mary said it was her hope that those reading her story would be inspire to do their best and make a difference in the world we all live in.
At the end there was a line up waiting to have Deborah and Mary sign their books. A gentleman at the back of the room was sitting at a table selling her book, and he told me Sanctuary was one of the most popular local books Chapters has ever had, and that they have trouble keeping it on the shelf. I would recommend her book to everyone. Deborah told Mary’s story eloquently and it will move you and inspire you, and I will cherish my book forever.
I was the last in line and Mary wrote in my book…”To Sharon an old, good friend with best wishes! Mary Majka Nov.2010.”

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