Grindstone News - July 4, 1993
Although the breeze is light, waves wash in over the swimming rock on this July 4 in McRae Bay in unceasing succession. Boats, big and little, silent sails and roaring engines plow furrows up and down blue water. The rock point lolls rose in the afternoon sun. Summer is now, finally, here.
Up the road Bubby Bazinet, Caroline and Robbie prepare to move into the old Conant house which they have modernized with indoor plumbing and a wonderful kitchen with ample counters and cupboards. One counter, splendid mahogany, was, in its earlier life, the bar at The Lost Navigator in Clayton. Bubby, Caroline and Robbie will pull bar stools up to it to eat their morning raisin bran and drink their orange juice.
Bubby, last night, at the quiet dance at Dodge Memorial Hall, phrased a sentence that stays with me like both a hope and a wish. He is what we once called a guard at the Cape Vincent Correctional Center. I was remembering my reaction to fireworks in Gananoque in 1967 on our first night back on the island after we had been evacuated from the Six-Day War in Palestine. Bubby responded with his story of staying at Bob's and Ada's house (they are his parents) on nights when he can't get back across the river to Grindstone. They keep their scanner on all night, but they sleep through its bleeps. Bubby, however, wakes with a start at each bleep—and this is the phrase that stays in my head... "because we're trained to think a prisoner might need us."
A couple of weeks ago, Bubby told me about the short talk his boss asks him to give to new arrivals at the center. What he says reminded me of the headmaster's welcome to new students each year at the Lawrenceville School. He tells the men about the center's resources and urges them to use the respite they've been given from the stress of the city to accept help in achieving high school diplomas, learning a trade, or even preparing for college. You can see why his phrasing is both my hope and my wish.; •
Grindstone Islander's* knowledge about the use of a yoke makes him a good correction officer. They know, bound together as they are by the crossbar of the island roads, that in a yoke each one helps his yoke mate.
That happened to be the interpretation the Rev. Barbara Kuempel gave to her text on Sunday morning: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light"
Always, on the Fourth of July weekend, the summer people have returned to join the winter residents in worship, and the little church fills once more to bursting with the sound of singing. Afterwards, as we often do, those who could gathered in the carriage house over the miracle of a pot-luck lunch, catching up with the comings and goings of all the friends they haven't seen in so long, and as Jacob did in last week's story, we Wake to find we have been blessed...even if we have come through sorrow and trouble during our separation.
As I finished writing the last sentence, Rachel Bazinet and the Donaldson girls came to the door to invite us to a house warming picnic at Caroline's and Bubby's new house. We also celebrated Caroline's and Harry Slate's birthdays. When the food was almost gone, Judy Bacci arrived on her four-wheeler with a print of the old schoolhouse for the new living room. Judy opened her shop, The Grindstone, this weekend, in Clayton. It is a place that has surprised us all, as exhibits do, by the riches of craft on this small island. There were elegant ducks and a loon carved by Frank Slate, wonderful handknit woolly hats, mittens, and sweaters done by Chris Matthews, canvas bags stitched with Grindstone symbols and t-shirts embroidered' with the same symbols by Alice Rusho, jellies from island fruit, and, of course, prints done by Judy: of the church, the schoolhouse, and the cheese factory. Her portrait of Erma was there, too, and some beautifully meticulous paintings of dogs.
Grindstone is not an "art colony" in the usual sense, but a lot of artists live here. In church, Debbie Donaldson, a dance-artist, announced that the children's theater production of "Clowns" will be postponed until August so people who were out-of-town can try out at a soon-to-be-announced date. Already 50 children have turned out to be considered.
On Saturday evening, Debbie and Steve Donaldson were disc jockeys at the dance at Dodge Memorial Hall. The evening was quiet and friendly, and a success, especially, when they played three square dances. It is the square dances that make the island parties "different"; then the islanders, summer people as well as winter residents, coalesce to one rhythm, weaving in and out in patterns as natural to them as moving in concert with the river. I think Brenda and Buck know every square dance call there is!
At the head of the island, the clans there gathered on Sunday afternoon for the traditional baseball game, another yoke that keeps friends and connected families together. I have just finished Phyllis Dodge's book, Tales of the Phelps - Dodge Family, stories of a family related to Grindstone Islanders that also knows the use of a yoke. Reading about this one family's history tells us what was going on "at Home" during the
nation's wars, and earlier depressions. The Grindstone Island Methodist Church received help with its renovation from the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation which was set up in 1917. "Cleve once told an interviewer (p. 300) that his giving was 'wild to me, doing something for somebody is not what you can put in a shop budget, standardize into a mechanism, reduce to a task for bookkeepers and inspectors...! hope you won't blame me for running wild, Mr. Carnegie."
Wildness in giving, is, of course, wholly understandable to a Grindstone Islander. But the yoke is also always a mark of the Dodge family, and the overriding, though unnamed image throughout Phyllis' book. The family roots lie deep in puritan Christian tradition which, of course, stands firmly bound in the yoke that is easy, that makes the burden light, the yoke of love, not only of God, but of one's neighbor. And a neighborhood runs wild and free as love itself, crossing all rivers and all seas, straight through all prison walls.
So it is on this July 4, 1993, on Grindstone Island, our neighborhood. The following islanders have taken up the yoke of Sunday school teaching for 1993:
July 4, Aleatha Williams; July 11, Ray and Lolita Pfeifer, Debbie Donaldson; July 18, Mary Lou Rusho; July 25, Robyn Davison, Carol Pierce; Aug. 1, Peter Strong;
Aug. 8, Erma Slate, Ed Barlow;
Aug. 15, Marie Moore; Aug. 22, Caroline Larson; Aug. 29, Aminta Marks; Sept. 5, Phyllis and Doc Schwartz.