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Best Wishes from Round Island

It is Christmas on the River, a place quite different from summertime. The hustle and bustle of water sports and recreation is replaced by Nature hitting a slower pace. Leaves have left the trees, and the frozen ground crunches as you step. Small flocks of water fowl feed near shore on the lee side of an island or shoal.

There are few boats and no jet-skis. As the sunset moves almost imperceptibly toward the spire on the church in Clayton, one's mind slides into reflection, remembering summers past, friends come and gone, and childhoods;..... ours and our grandchildren's.

As I age, I think more about the past than of the future. Life seems like long stretches of time, in which nothing memorable happened, punctuated by events that may have been insignificant at the time, but are now stuck vividly in my memory as waypoints, in a long wandering journey.

As I think of Christmases past, I  am reminded of our young family in a rented farmhouse in Vermont. We found a small crooked balsam tree growing out of a rock wall. It had no chance of growing to maturity or ever even being straight. It was just the right size for our little house, and we still remember the joy it brought to all of us that year. After 70+ Christmases, that's the one that I can still see clearly.

Tonight there is a ship in the Upper Great Lakes that is unusual. The crew is almost all Syrian. I hope that on their way out to sea they will see our Christmas tree all alight with bright colors. May it show a glow of hope against the totally black background of our island. The tree is on the channel side especially for the seamen who will not be home for the holidays. They may not understand us, but the message is clear.

Finally, my Christmas is not complete without thinking of a special gift I got years ago. It was Christmas Eve, and I was hurrying to make last minute purchases before the pharmacy closed. A high school classmate, whom I had not seen since graduation, hurried in. He recognized me, and knew of my profession. He said there was a man collapsed in the grocery next door, and could I help? We hustled to the store, and found a man on the floor between the check-out counters, obviously in cardiac arrest. This was before the day of 911 and instant paramedics. Cardiac arrest outside of a hospital was almost always a terminal event. Accessibility is not part of the basic CPR curriculum, but in spite of our bumbling efforts, and with very good fortune, he survived.

After recovery he worked as an aide on the orthopedic floor of our hospital. I saw him frequently during the several years he survived, and I am still struck with his joy. He was one of the happiest persons I've known. Maybe he was always like that, but happiness he brought to our patients and staff during his "life after life" was inspirational, and a great gift from him to me. Every Christmas is special because of him.

Regardless of your religious persuasion, or lack thereof, I hope that the joy and peace of the season will find a place in your heart;...that will make me happy.

Stay warm and dry......Best wishes from Round Island.

Richard L. Withington, Round Island

Dr. Richard (Dick) L.  Withington is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream, spending his fifth consecutive winter alone at the head of Round  Island. His wife Roseanne heads to Florida when "Rivercroft" is closed in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft".     Dr. Withington has an airboat which he keeps at  his own dock in winter ready to help. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem.

Dick’s first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009.  To see all of Dick’s island experiences search TI Life under Richard L. Withington.  Kim Lunman, writer and publisher of “Island Life” a print magazine presented his profile in TI Life entitled The Doctor is in, February 2012.

Posted in: Nature, People
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Comment by: Nancy ( )
Left at: 7:36 AM Sunday, December 15, 2013

.....I understand.

I've printed this to save. Thank you for it.

Ross Rowland
Comment by: Ross Rowland ( )
Left at: 6:55 PM Sunday, December 15, 2013
Dick, Wonderful thoughts beautifully written. I became aware of your selfless service to the river community when you saved our sons life on Grindstone Island many years ago and am often reminded of all you've done and do for all of us who love the river.

I'm confident that your Christmas tree on Round has warmed many hearts!!

Merry Christmas and many thanks for all you do.

Ross Rowland
Jan Arno
Comment by: Jan Arno ( )
Left at: 11:27 AM Monday, December 16, 2013
This brought me back to what is really important in life--people and helping others.This is a heart warming article especially for this time of year when there is so much attention to the gifts and parties. Thank you so much for this article and may you have many more years to enlighten us.
Janet Troyer
Comment by: Janet Troyer ( )
Left at: 12:04 AM Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Mom lives in Black River and her parents before her. Love the Thousand Islands and enjoyed your article. Very inspirational and cheerful. I would love to be there this time of year. My mom, Joy, you know. You and your family are very special to her.
Janet Troyer
Comment by: Janet Troyer ( )
Left at: 12:42 AM Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I felt like I was there with you while reading your story and experiencing what you live. Gives me hope and joy to know there are good people, doing good things for others because it is right. Hope you have a very Merry and blessed Christmas!
Cathy Coleman
Comment by: Cathy Coleman ( )
Left at: 4:24 PM Tuesday, December 17, 2013
This post brought me great joy. I thank you for it. Christmas brings out the best in us all - may we experience its beauty all year long.
Judy Brenon
Comment by: Judy Brenon ( )
Left at: 12:04 PM Thursday, December 19, 2013
Thanks for the beautiful story EMS 1. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.
Kirsten Swanson Bowen
Comment by: Kirsten Swanson Bowen ( )
Left at: 9:40 AM Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Dr. Withington,
Merry Christmas and thanks for the memory of my first sailing outing!
DeWitt, RG, and my sister Jenny were along! (we are Genie Kanes daughters)
Happy writing and a peaceful winter to you! ~I had no idea the island was habitable in winter! Stay warm!
~Kirsten "korki" Bowen