The Good Life

by Annie Stoltie | April 2020

Kid photographs courtesy of Mona Dubay; loon by Jeff Nadler; monarch by Russ Hartung; forest by Karen Millspaugh; autumn by Janice Prichett

Appreciating the people and places we love

y dog walks me along
the Ausable River, pulling and pulling for the next sniff, dipping his doggy beard in puddles. Along the road and scattered on front yards are dollops of melting snow. It’s too slushy to ski, too slushy to hike. I’m out to get some air, to move my body and quiet my mind in this seasonal in-between.

We wind up a narrow road that I could navigate with my eyes shut. For years I drove my kids this way, delivering them to the one-room cabin where they attended day care. Here, they toddled on forest trails, hugged trees, curled up in the meadow’s flattened places where deer had napped, constructed fairy houses and made bird-berry offerings to their feathered and furred neighbors. Leading the charge was Mona Dubay, singing, playing, serving homemade meals and snuggling her crew. She taught them to love and respect themselves, their friends and the natural world.      

My kids have outgrown that Eden, but they remember the cabin, its wood-stove heat and Mona at the center of it all. We still see her, sometimes with her husband, Frank, hand-in-hand on walks around the neighborhood—“morning constitutionals,” as Mona calls them. And just last weekend the Dubays invited half the hamlet to the theater on Jay’s village green to eat and dance and celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

Frank and Mona raised nine children in the farmhouse they added onto—and onto—in Jay. Mona knows things. She’s held those who are new to this world and those ready for the great beyond. She officiates weddings, hosts potlucks and candlelit solstice walks. She sells her baked goods (including scones that taste like happiness) at our community’s winter market. Many of us go to her for advice, walking away feeling cared for and heard. Mona embodies what is good.

As Adirondackers we often define ourselves by our landscape. But right now, for me, the trickiest part of North Country living is the dragging winter, the bipolar temperatures, Jay Mountain in patchy gray stubble. I miss splashing in the river with my family and feeling grass beneath my toes.         

I doubt I’m alone. There’s plenty of other stuff to weigh us down—across the world, maybe in the front yard. What we need right now, more than ever, are the Monas in our lives. We could also use some positive news about the Adirondacks: wildlife that’s making a comeback, lakes and rivers in recovery, and (just because) some pictures of fuzzy loon chicks—future yodelers, icons of our wild country. Also, knowing where to fat-tire bike or warm your backside at a bonfire can prevent cabin fever. An island walkabout on Lake Champlain—think big sky, big ice—offers a new perspective on our vast park. And love letters to this region by some of its notables push us to consider what it is about this place that makes it so special.    

All of the above, and more, can be found in the following pages, in what we’re calling our “Feel Good Issue.”

So please, read on. We hope it brightens your day and, just maybe, inspires you to find your inner Mona.    

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