As I walked up the road on Sunday morning, alone, I had time to notice the deep blue of the corn flowers in the brown grass, the brave little daisies that had survived the summer drought, the graceful Queen Anne’s lace, old fashioned as a fine Swiss ladies’ handkerchief, and the bright red choke cherries overhanging the road. On the altar, when I arrived at church, black-eyed Susans stared out of a spray of new golden-rod. Beautiful as each is, they all warned that summer is coming to a close. School children are taking trips with grandmothers to buy some new school clothes, college students are thinking about getting back to class, and the grown-ups are getting the repairs made that they’ve put off all summer. The Marras, who live close enough to plan some long fall weekends in their cheerful cottage, are installing a little kerosene furnace. And Buck is remembering that his cows ate our pole beans last August. They can’t do it this year because the beans haven’t even blossomed yet. I suppose the rain we’ve had this week might bring about some miracle so we’d get one or two meals from the only vegetable plants alive in the garden, but there is not much realistic hope for them. Nevertheless, it has been a good summer, and the dry weather has been so wonderful for river fun that we are sorry to see the signs of August’s end.
Sarah, Jesse and Phil Beers left the island on Sunday evening to start their trip to Manitoba on Monday morning. Andy Davison, a Methodist preacher’s kid himself, assured them that “withersoever thou goest,”…we will be with you in our hearts. All of the families who live down the road from the parsonage gathered on the Marra and Meeks lawn for a farewell picnic before many of the group went with them to watch the fireworks in Gananoque and bid them good-bye from there. Phil Beer had taken a moment before the worship service began on Sunday morning to thank all of the island people for their hospitality, their help with boats and docking, and the freshness of their friendship. The congregation responded with their own thanks and appreciation to him and the girls who have helped Mary make the island church a hub of good will and good times for the four years of her ministry in our little Methodist Church on the four corners of Thurso.
Many of the family pews had room in them for the first time this summer. We all missed Marjorie Rusho and Leon in their front row-left pew, the one Marjorie can get to easily in her wheel chair. Lolita Pfeiffer was alone, and won’t be back herself next week. But to our delight, Polly Kolle was in her front-row right seat, out of the Alex Bay hospital, where she says, if you have to be sick, that is the place to go. “You can watch all the boats go up and down the river, watch the clouds and the waves and all of the river life.” She delighted in every new hymn…which means she delighted in every hymn…we sang, And laughed heartily when Mary, after leading the Lord’s prayer at the end of the children’s sermon, hurried to the center aisle, looking at Phil, and said “ I know you shouldn’t think about mundane things when you are praying, but I just remembered I didn’t take the pizza out of the oven!” Phil assured her someone did. So the service went on. Later I asked Phil who, and he answered, “Well, that is a big mystery.” So it goes on Grindstone. And people like Polly enjoy the island just that way.
With all of the new hymns we sang, we were relieved to have the Andy Davisons back in their pew! This time both Carol Davison-Turnbull, AND Paul, her husband, were with Andy and Bev. It is Paul’s first trip to the island. Debby Smith was also back for the weekend. She and Robert, her son, have moved to SandyCreek where Debbie will be teaching this year. We laughed over the chance meeting I had with Lisa, her sister, last weekend in a big new drug store in Watertown. Lisa’s husband couldn’t believe she was hugging some woman in a store out “in the middle of nowhere!” John and I were on our way to Plattsburgh, and Lisa was on the way to the island with her husband and baby. When Bill Rueckert, our son-in-law, met Debbie at our house on Saturday evening, he wished she were going to be here long enough to get together with Alice and Robert Berkeley who, as Debbie did, lived for several happy years in Burundi, a place so distressed today. Grindstone seems a surprising place for two families who have lived in little Burundi in the middle of far-off Africa, to cross paths. So it goes, though, on Grindstone. And all we islanders enjoy it that way.
A lot of things happened before the worship service got started on Sunday. Mary had many announcements before her husband and the congregation exchanged “thank yous”.. And after that, Phil Marra, in recognition that the church and the hall across the road are, in reality, one entity, presented a certificate of appreciation to Margaret Taylor from the members of the board at the hall. Every year they choose one person to recognize in this way. They thanked Margaret for all the behind-the scenes- work and support Margaret does. She brings over the turkeys for the church suppers, she is there making sure they get cooked properly, she sees the need for new tables, or crayons, or paper napkins…and they appear, she sees personal needs and they are attended to, she sees medical needs, and a nurse, she attends to those too. And she seldom gets thanked because she is so quiet about what she does. At least that is what Yuvon said at the family supper in their yard on Sunday evening. Margaret said, as she accepted the certificate, “It makes me speechless,” but she smiled all over.
The dance on Saturday night was not crowded. That thunderstorm was impressively snappy and loud! So boaters stayed home. But the new band was one to remember and to come to hear next time it comes to the island. The Bandits play a gentle tune and are good to dance to. They won’t be back this year, but watch for them next year. Their music was so pleasant that Phil Marra asked Sis to dance, assuring her that if her knees gave way, he had strong arms. Sis told me about her dance at lunch after church next morning, still all alight with smiles. “He’s a good dancer. And I could follow just as easily as I always did!” Sometimes it’s nice to have a small friendly crowd. (But Phil and Bubby hope more people come next week, the last dance of the season, since it is a lot of work to schedule the bands and DJ’s, to get the players and disc jockeys with their instruments and equipment over the river, and to buy and serve the food! The people who do all that don’t get thanked very often either. So here’s one little “Thank you” to the noble “Squatters” who do it!)
Next week, the music will be by D&S Music. Everyone enjoyed the limbo contest so they have promised another for next Saturday. Do your exercises regularly this week, so maybe you, too, can get under the bar! It’s fun just to watch, for all of us lazier…, and older!..types.
Here is the tail of notes:
There will be another get- together this Wednesday at the parsonage. Mary has heard several people saying they were becoming frightened by all the vandalism reported in the news, and she thought it might be a good thing to talk about it, about how we might look on all these reports without being unnerved.
Mary Beer has called for a church board meeting next Sunday, August 24th, after church, in preparation for the charge conference which will be the following week. The district superintendent will be on the island on the 31st. Sadly, that will also be Mary’s last Sunday. She, too, will then go on her way to Manitoba. After church that day the congregation will gather on the squatters’ picnic grounds for the last pot luck lunch of the year.
The summer has flown, even faster than usual, so we reap memories to take with us through the winter. I’ll remember Robert, born in Bujumbura, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, as he swam with the family of ducks who paddled by the rock his mother, Debbie, and I were sunning on, as if he were one of them…over to the grasses under the fallen willow tree…back in the midst of them…past our rock…along the shore to the cave under the other willow tree by the old windmill. The ducks seemed to think he was one of them. He swam as if they or a perch had taught him how. It was lovely to watch a ten-year-old so at home in his water, his air, with the live things he joins so easily, with us. We cling to these last sunny days, to the clear, quieting river, to the pleasant breezes, to our friends.
So it is.