It was Boat Show weekend in Clayton, and on the island we were planning to hold the Sunday service outdoors at Aunt Jane’s Bay. On Saturday morning when we awoke, the weather looked very threatening. We were sure rain was going to spoil all the plans. I always hate to blame God for all the disasters or bad luck in the world, so I don’t know that I can praise God for the beautiful weekend we actually had. But I do anyway! As early as Friday, with blue-sky overhead and in bright sunshine, handsome wooden boats began to ply their ways through the Middle Channel that flows by the north side of Grindstone. Surely some of them were headed for Jolly Island. It was an elegant parade. At about the same time plain little fiberglass boats began to pull into Thurso Bay for the weekend. We all, old, young, middle class or highbrow, enjoyed the sun and moderate temperatures.
Clayton was crowded. A lot of people from the island work in the marinas on the mainland, and they came home hot, sweaty, and ready to rest, but glad for a successful day both for the merchants in town and for the marinas . Brenda Slate described the chaos that reigns at Remar when everyone tries to dock, find a bathroom, get their boats out all at once, and on and on…But Remar’s Audrey Lashomb, delivered some more afghans for us to sell over here on the island, and, when we stoppped by on Saturday, Hungerford’s had the package we were looking for. So chaos or not everything proceeds in order.
At the church on Saturday afternoon Debby Donaldson practiced with her daughters, Jacie and Stephanie, and Sarah and Jesse Beer and two of their friends from Kingston for the liturgical dance they were going to do to celebrate Communion at the annual Aunt Jane’s Bay service which is always held on the lawn of the old Brooks residence overlooking the river and the hills of Clayton. Some of the north-siders went to the boat show, but a lot of us, when the necessary shopping was finished, enjoyed the quiet of the back side of the island, and swam in the blue water which is now a perfect temperature. At one point in late afternoon, clouds gathered in the northern sky and thunder rolled around for a bit, but no rain interrupted my swim or the arrival of the Leannas at Bertha’s farmhouse where the Cummings were already awaiting them.
By nighttime, people were ready for the weekly dance. Ray John’s Band was set up and playing by nine o’clock and a crowd was already gathering. When Sarah Beer said it was a good dance, I asked her why. She thought a moment and answered, “Because a lot of people danced”. And everyone said, yes, that was true, a lot of people danced. When Bubby called two square dances a little after midnight, four circles came out on the floor! So the old time dances are still danced, and young people still do love their lilting friendly motion. We didn’t get up to the hall on Saturday night because we were awaiting a telephone call from our son, John, who was driving in from Michigan with Phoebe and her twin sisters, Anna and Eliza. More thunder also made the walk up the hill seem unpleasant. I usually love looking at the stars, especially as we walk down toward home. The Leannas, next door to us, did go up and one of the girls won the fifty-fifty drawing! Next week the Kopy Kats will make music for the fun in the hall.
Debby Smith and her son, Robert, is here for the first time this summer, so there are lights in Bob Smith’s cottage across from the church and kitty-corner from the hall. Lisa, Debbie’s sister, is coming this week with her new baby, and Preacher Bob himself is coming next weekend. It’s nice to have the house alive again.
I was thinking of Debby and of Burundi not long ago when I read that malaria is once more killing a great many people in central Africa. I had thought that was one disease we had learned to handle if not conquer. So when Debbie’s own husband died of it a few years ago, I thought confusion and lack of provisions during the war were probably to blame. Debby herself knew of the particularly virulent strain now infecting Central Africans, and felt the hospital in Burundi had done all that could be done to save her husband. Because of Debby and her love for Burundi, Grindstone Islanders have felt closer to the tragedy of the war there that drags on and spreads, and more sympathetic to the thousands of people who are suffering violence and misunderstanding in a place so far away from the St. Lawrence. Debby is going to be teaching in Sandy Creek next year, so she will once more call the North Country home and seldom be far from the island.
By 8:30 am on Sunday morning, we had a call from Mary that the outdoor service was “on”. The rain had passed. So John left to go across the island with the dancers to practice on the ground they would dance on. By 10:00am Phil Beer had the church van full and at my door to pick me up on his umpteenth trip. It is always a treat to drive across the island and see the fields spreading to meet the sky. The break in the roadside trees at Annie Couch’s land is especially pretty, rolling back to a low hill in the far distance, and to the bay which you can’t see, but which you know is there because of the distant downward roll of green.
We all sat on ground, which wasn’t even wet from the night’s rain. (Gardens are suffering badly from the sunny weather we’ve been enjoying.). We began the service, as we often do, with the singing of “Shall We Gather at the River”, and we could hear the organ, and Mary, this morning because of the new sound system, which was given by the Davison family in memory of Virginia and William Davison! John pumped away on the little World War I organ which Lolita Pfeiffer managed to get there even though Ray is in Halifax this summer, Carol Marsh sang “The Lord’s Prayer”, and held the pages out of the wind’s hands so John could read his music. Mary, the minister, wasn’t so lucky as she tried to hold both the microphone and the Bible, and trick the wind. But with some adjustments, the New Testament Lesson did get read. Phil Beer read one his favorite Psalms, and managed to keep his pages in order…without the microphone.
During Communion, the dancers interpreted the reading so we could all experience it in their gestures. The service seemed very special. Anne and Bob Binhammer were there in the golf cart that allows Carol to participate without clambering up and down the island’s rough land. Their taking part makes the service even more joyful. Marie More, the Rusho family, Mary Lou trying to keep the grandchildren reverent, Beth Binhammer’s bringing her little kin up to hear the sermon right at Mary’s feet, and , finally, the wonderful chocolate chip cookies and coffee and lemonade that Elaine and Bruce Brooks served after the service to those who had time to stop for conversation and catching up with each other's comings and goings all went into giving us another Aunt Jane’s Bay service to remember with warm pleasure.
Lolita Pfeiffer, however, brought sad news from Canoe Point where Kavn works this summer. A young woman drowned trying to help dock the family boat. Somehow she was thrown out, and perhaps under the boat. Her body hadn’t been found when Lolita last heard. We hate to hear of such an accident and such sadness for a family sharing our campgrounds.
There was good news also, from Lolita, however. Mariah, who was with her mother on Sunday, has a new job, right near Boston where she wanted to be, in a school, doing social work that is just what she wanted to do. Getting a job you want is bigger news than it used to be.
Mary’s sermon about the importance of bread to all of the world’s people, bread being one of the symbols in the Communion Service, reminded me of meeting Matthew Mole in the supermarket. He is studying the economics of agriculture, looking for ways to keep farmers able to make a comfortable living as they work to feed us. This, in turn reminded me of the young couple visiting the Marras a couple of weeks ago. They are running their family dairy farm, but, even though they both like the hard work they do, and like being independent, they are wondering if they can afford to do it much longer. In the thirty- five years we have been on Grindstone, we have watched one after the other young man leave the family farm until only a very few are left. Food seems so basic that we surely cannot allow ourselves to be wholly dependent on far off farms in other countries to supply food to our people. Matt is certainly working in an important field.
Now, a few notes: Jeff and Deanna Marra, who stayed all week for the first time in the cottage Jeff himself has built beside his parents’ house, celebrated their son’s, Michael’s, second birthday on Saturday afternoon. Verna and Peter Crabb from Tampa, Florida were guests of Phil and Yuvon Marra, Jeff’s father and mother, this weekend. It was a celebratory time up there in Thurso!
Marie Moore was at Aunt Jane’s Bay on Sunday with news of her area: Bob and Lou Custis are on the island now. Bob is feeling much better, which is good news to all of us, especially those of us concerned with the church. Bob and Dr. Harold Custis have been such staunch and generous supporters that we miss them when they are absent.
Saturday, August 9, at 5:00 pm The annual Barnyard Olympics will take place. If you have some good ideas for games or contests, please come and lead them. The 60 or 70 children who are sure to attend will delight you with their pleasure in your imagination!
Next morning, August 10th, come for a pancake breakfast in the carriage house. Serving starts at 8:30 am, and the word is: They are delicious.
On Wednesday, August 6th, Debbie Donaldson will demonstrate what we mean when we talk about liturgical dance. She will tell us something about its history, help us to understand what the dancers want to portray, and, best of all, get everyone dancing, if they want to. Most people want to when Debbie is leading the dance.
So it is.