Grindstone News - September 4, 1991
One of the distinguishing marks of life on Grindstone Island is the apolitical way its people resolve their ways of living together, change to a simpler form or state, move from dissonance to consonance. Organization is purposely kept loose. Polity is almost nonexistent. Consensus is the law that prevails. That doesn't mean that peace always reigns over the island, or harmony, but it does mean that life here is roughly authentic.
On Aug. 21, two GIs, Rob Lashomb and Bruce Faust, related their adventures in Saudi Arabia. The island's way laid its hand on their presentations. The shoulds or shouldn'ts of the U.S. being there, the political questions in the forefront of the news reports were never mentioned.
Rob Lashomb was in the Army, Bruce Faust was in the Air Force, and their experiences were so divergent that they did not seem to have been in the same war or in the same country.
Rob was stationed in a desert outpost just south of the Iraq border at the point where troops and equipment were secretly gathered for the attack around the end of the Iraqi lines. He lived in a tent, eating army rations from sealed plastic bags, drinking quarts and quarts of warm bottled water ever day to prevent dehydration. The men worked frantically about two hours every day repairing vehicles which returned immediately to the front. The rest of their time was given over to a concerted effort on the part of, especially, the older married men, to keep morale high enough to prevail over the harshness of desert life, over the imminent fear of scud missiles lobbing over their heads, over their loneliness away from their families. They did a good job.
Honorable and friendly men meeting Arabs who also were honorable, friendly, and away from their families, they kept the vehicles running, showed kindness to fleeing enemy troops, made wordless friendships with the bedouins, and, at the end, came home bearing coffee ums, the sign of desert hospitality, and prayer rugs, proud of the job they had done. But they did not like the experience.
Bruce, on the other hand, was in the Air Force, stationed a few miles south of Kuwait City, living in comfortable quarters, and further removed from either battle or scud missiles. Whereas Rob had almost no R & R, Bruce got into the city almost every week, met Kuwaitis who spoke good English, went sightseeing, spent a night during the feast of Ramadan with an Islamic family, bargained in the bazaars, and repaired the planes carrying the ammunition from the huge "dump" near his camp with the expertise we all witnessed in our TV news coverage. He liked his experience and would like to go back someday to the Middle East.
Bruce told about an enormous cattle ranch near Kuwait City where almost 20,000 head of cattle were milked everyday, where the fields of alfalfa and other grain were irrigated with desalinized water where the cattle were under the constant supervision of the veterinary staff, where rich, creamy milk, shelves and shelves of it, were produced - and ultra-pasteurized to keep for several weeks, even months, in the hot desert climate. Harry Slate studied Bruce's pamphlet from that farm with intense interest.
Rob, who had a lot of time to ruminate on Saudi customs, explained that the women veil themselves because the veil gives plain and beautiful young women "the level playing field" so coveted now by U.S. women. Where he was, the Saudi law against consumption of alcoholic beverages was strictly enforced, and Rob feels this contributed to the remarkable success of U.S. military missions.
That was as close to a discussion of polity as the two men came.
Different views of polity often, however illucidate discussions on Grindstone Island. Given the reality that there are no, and probably never will be, given their costliness, law enforcement officers on duty on Grindstone. The islanders have to resolve their problems of safety, of noise, of transportation by consensus among themselves. Organizations like Save the River, the Thousand Islands Safe Boating Association, and even The Grindstone Association (which may or may not become a reality) have only educational impact on the island community. Our septic systems have been enormously improved by the year of education Save the River has led. Grindstone Islanders will be safer on a river where the growing multitude of expensive and powerful speed boats are run by those who know the rules for safe boating, and Grindstone Island roads are more passable now that the people struggling to establish a Grindstone association have persuaded the town to grade them. In our own ways, we all, winter and summer residents alike, support the work of these organizations. But we all know that, finally, we have to figure out, by common agreement, how to keep the island a good place for everyone to live. That is why Frank Slate was appointed by its board to see that common sense prevails on the road and on the grounds of the Dodge Community Hall Association on Saturday nights. That association has done a magnificent job this summer. Chris Matthews and the whole board deserve congratulations.
Unfortunately, the northwind blew out the lights all over the island just before the much anticipated last dance of the year, so, after waiting at the hall until 8:30, Chris Matthews cancelled the party and everyone went home.
The second performance of Vibrations in G was also cancelled, but the Friday evening performance was a delight. The children, Jaycie Donaldson, Jamie Donaldson, Stephanie Donaldson, Jada Lashomb, Anna Larson, and Courtney Natalie interpreted the centennial story of the first hundred years of the Grindstone Island Church in imaginative dance choreographed by Debbie Donaldson. Jaycie's ability to hold onto the concept of the poem throughout the whole dance clearly enough for the audience to understand it too, Jada's graceful figures and lovely gestures, Jamie's remarkably vivid portrayal of the Rev. Short's miraculous work, his stride, his bearing of the great load, Stephanie's depiction of the Rev. Short's successor, Anna's weaving through the parishioners struck down with cholera, ministering to them tirelessly, made the poem alive and moving.
Debbie Donaldson danced an interpretation of Mary Pananen Anderson which was not only graceful and technically beautiful, but which reflected, also, her close reading of the poem and her intense sympathy and joy in Mary herself. John Marks read both poems from "so it is" with a clarity that allowed the dancers their insight.
Carl Larson joined Aminta Marks in reading and dramatizing Betty Haxall's charming "Poems for River Rats." He read three of them with relish, and acted out a first lesson in an outboard motor boat adeptly enough that the Grandmother-teacher-reader came so alive that every grandparent or parent outboard-motor instructor in the audience recognized himself/herself in some moment or year gone by. The same recognition seemed to sweep through the whole small audience, when Betty's poem about a grandmother who is also a poet made all the grandmothers smile in sympathy.
Klaus Ebeling's panoramic photography and his play with ideas and color added variety, and
stretched the Grindstone Island production around the wide circumference of the world.
On stage, around the hall, in every historic doorway, Greg Lago and Karen displayed Grindstone Island sculpture, woodcuts, portraits, and Will Salisbury's marvelous, leggy chair. Most of the pieces are now on display at their Winged Bull Gallery above Kennedy's Drug Store. It is a gallery worth visiting - unusual for the authenticity of the art they show. Greg also made transparencies of Betty Haxall's sketches for her poems, sketches which he played behind the readers - adding to the delight of the verses.
Betty Giles, the impressario for the occasion, and for two earlier August performances in the Clayton Opera House, deserves many thank-yous for reviving drama on this stretch of river! Ken and Caroline Larson carried dancers and a great grandmother, Mrs. W.D. Craig Wright over the St. Lawrence from Grindstone Island's town dock to the village dock in Clayton in the gracious old "workboat" built by Captain Thibault when 94-year-old "Grannie" was a young women. Final Service
Finally, Sunday, Sept. 1 was upon us, and the last service of the summer in the Grindstone Island United Methodist Church. (All week people had been getting together in small groups and large groups, anticipating the long winter separation. On Monday morning, Debbie Donaldson invited the minister, William and 3-year-old Jalyce for dinner - which turned out to be pot-luck for 28 planned for in one day!) (The Thurso Bay Association, Heins, Marshes, Pope, Churchills and Markses, also had pot-luck on Thursday evening). And, yes, Sunday morning came. Willette Gipson was back with Mia Hope to pack and say good-bye. William, the minister tried to say enough in one sermon to keep his flock well-fed through the long coming months, quoting the woman who said, "I love you Jesus, 'cause ya got heart."
The children's choir sang "Sing to the Lord a new song!" and the congregation sang "He leadeth me, a blessed through!" before they received their last benediction for this summer.
Bob Smith, Joyce and Lisa invited the whole congregation to coffee after church at their house across the road from the church, and everyone gathered, unwilling to say a final "farewell."
At one o'clock, Alyssa Davis, daughter of Gena Bazinet and Chris Davis, and Brittani Robinson with Debby Robinson her mother were baptized by the Rev. John Marks before a family group who met once more in the little church.
Then a large part of the Grindstone family gathered once more for pot-luck up in Aunt Grace Slate's territory, lingering together and enjoying each other on the blue northeast-wind day until the sun was low in the sky. Yvonne and Phil Marra's rolling green lawn was surely, Debbie Donaldson said, as she brought out six fresh-baked loaves of bread, "full of life!"
On the south side of the island, the Shirleys were also having a great family party, even roasting venison!
And so the summer comes to an end.
Here are some personal notes:
Bobby Custis, who has been with us in church nearly every Sunday, was absent this morning because he suffered a slight stroke earlier in the week. He is home, now, however, and recovering nicely.
Polly Kole is also "coming along." In fact, everyone at Aunt Jane's Bay seems to be well now, Mrs. Shirley reports.
The Raccoon car, however has had to have a part sent to the vet. Emmy Sorth and Kay Duncan had to come to church without it.
Stephanie DeHart visited church Sunday morning for the first time in 20 years! Alaska is now home for her.
Debbie Donaldson wants to say a special thank you to Chris Davis and Eric Lashomb who found them a generator during the time Grindstone's electricity was out, to power a compressor for
Jamie Donaldson who was suffering an asthma attack.
I want to thank Steve Donaldson whose sharp eyes kept our Boston whaler off the Pig Island shoal in the misty dark of Friday night!
Caroline Larson is making a collection of photographs of as many former ministers of the Grindstone Church as she can find.
I, too, find myself lingering over writing these last lines of summer news. I, too, hate saying good-bye. And with the last line, I will feel it has been said.
This is the last column I will write this year, but Bubby Bazinet has volunteered to write the Grindstone Island news during fall, winter, and spring. He will keep us all in touch, even when the river freezes over and the snow piles high. Addenda may be written, too, by other Grindstone reporters. They should be signed, however so Bubby's byline is kept clear. And now, a last...
So It Is.