GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - July 5, 1998
The fireworks are over, most of the fast boats have roared their way home, even the northeast wind has mellowed. That wonderful, sharp blue sky we woke to, has sombered to a milky tint with a bit of pink promising a comforting sunset, and the river has settled to its easy late afternoon easy wash. I’ll wait a while before I go for my evening swim and begin the account of the first week in July on Grindstone Island.
The first day of the week (it was still June) we were enjoying our guests from East Aurora (my niece and her family whom we hadn’t seen for almost 20 years) until late in the evening when my daughter and her family got into their boat and went back up river to Midriver Farm. I wrote the news very, very late, and I have two corrections to record:
Emmie Sorth called on Wednesday to report that Jack Heineman is “very much alive.” We send him, besides our apology for our mistake, our sympathy. It is Ruth, his wife, who died this past year, and his “very much alive” is, therefore tempered by Ruth’s being missing. We are sorry and, as we remember Ruth in the Memorial Service, we will also pray for her husband’s comfort.
What Kayla really said, was “I heard something awful happened to Marjorie Rusho. Jane’s response was, nevertheless, wonderful. “Marjorie Rusho’s prayers were, surely answered, and her suffering is ended. Life and death happen, and God takes care of us in both happenings.” On Monday morning most of the Grindstone people gathered in the Clayton Methodist Church with others of Marjorie’s and Leon’s friends to give thanks for the life of Marjorie Rusho. Jane Wagner led the service, Helen Ingerson sang some of the songs she knew Marjorie had loved, the house on Rusho Bay looked out at us from the bulletin we were given reminding us of Marjorie’s grace and hospitality and fortitude, and Leon, after the service, once again told us of the joy they had in their long marriage, in their children, and in their grandchildren. Their courage has been a gift to all of us.
So the week passed. Our guests left, and we rested, grateful for enforced hours of rest the rain proffered us, happy on Friday, when Sun returned. The Mark Bosses on the north shore of the island just northeast of Potter’s Beach, that evening, opened their new house and meadow to their grand circle of friends (all ages of us were invited, but it was mostly the young ones who gathered there). From our house, it sounded like a supremely lively party, and we’re sure that this now annual event is one looked forward to by all the young adults who, by July 4th , are more than ready to begin summer’s vacation festivities.
The fourth of July, as we all know , proved a good indoor day. The quiet rain seemed a respite from the thunder and lightening of last week. By evening, however, the wind had shifted, and out of the northeast a wonderful zesty river whipped up, and lovely sunset spread over the rolling waves before fireworks began to sound up and down the river. The Cummings on McRae Bay had a big hoard to shoot off for their family, and I could hear echoes of their big bangs off to the east and west. We didn’t, however, hear any from over Clayton. And that was one of the things that were talked about in the church yard where we all gathered as we always do before church begins on Sunday morning.
Sunday dawned, northeast-wind-beautiful, blue as could be, and the pews were fuller than they had been in June. Obviously, summer people are arriving at the River! Phyllis Schwartz brought a huge bag of lettuce for whoever wanted a share of it, and yellow lilies, too, that will, perhaps bloom next year beside the porch steps of the parsonage. Urch Balcom taught Sunday School, and everything seemed in stride.
Minister Jane announced that there is a movement to form some choirs, a children’s choir which would practice at seven-thirty on Saturday evenings, and an adult choir which would practice at eight on the same evenings. She asked for volunteers, but she said, if she doesn’t get any volunteers, she will make some “appointments!”
Once more Doc Scwartz asked us to remember to give him the names of people who have died during the year so we can remember them in the Memorial Service on July 19th.
He also announced the names of those who have already volunteered to help (Erma Slate, Margaret Taylor, Brenda Slate, and Minister Jane)( all helpers are welcome….!) with the TURKEY DINNER on SATURDAY, JULY 11TH AT 5:30 PM! Come one, come all, and all of those faithful who have done it for years, remember to bring your pies! The annual auction will take place right afterward. If you have some treasures please bring them that night…good things people will want! Salt Garnsey and Kitty have donated a sailboat! So come for food, for good buys and for fun!
Phase I of the construction on the church, Doc pointed out, is finished. Now we are in Phase II, deciding together , how we want the interior restored. These people are on the committee appointed to bring together all the suggestions people have and present them to the whole congregation for consideration in drawing up the final plan: Manley Rusho, Elaine Brooks, Erma Slate, Fred Jackson, Phil Marra, and Ken Larson. If you have anything at all to suggest or make note of, tell one of these people. If you put it in writing, it will be sure to be heard. If you can say why you think what you do, it will help the rest of us to put ourselves into your thinking, to empathize with your ideas and integrate them with ours. I have promised to report conversations I hear through the week in order to encourage us to talk about it. I’ll put in this news column any suggestions given people on the committee if they pass them along to me, preferably in writing! It’s interesting to think that about every fifth decade, the church has been refurbished radically, in the 1890’s, in the 1940’s, and now in the 1990’s. It’s an invigorating event. (And maybe the bats have found themselves a new home by now.)
I’ve overheard three conversations in the last two weeks, one when Manly Rusho was showing the readied- for-service interior to John Marks when we first arrived, one in the church, with Erma, Minister Jane, and John, and today in the Marra’s sunny backyard, with Yuvon, and Phil Marra, John, and Ada Bazinet. John seems to catalyze conversations because he just listens carefully. I’ll try to report these three conversations accurately:
Manly is excited by the space we have to work with in the cleared structure, and the remnants of the handsome original interior: wood paneling, a high, decorative border, and a third window which matches the shape of the others in the sanctuary we’ve worked in for the last fifty years. That window was buried safely under the platform that raised the altar rail and the pulpit. The early church, must have resembled several Methodist churches in the north country area. Manley mentioned the newly restored Densmore Church, and others have pointed out other similar buildings. (John and I are going to visit Ramona Nunn on Wellesley Island on Tuesday to look at the diaries she has which record much of the history of the building of the two churches.) Manley also likes the light from the large windows that were in the rear room of the church, and the cathedral ceiling. But for the summer, Chris Williams and Manley have already lowered the ceiling with temporary plastic sheeting so the sound is not lost, and so the worship space feels more familiar to us.
While Manley was talking mostly about the architectural structure of the building, Erma and Minister Jane were talking mostly about the feel of the church and what goes on in the worship service. Erma found the pulpit so far from the pews that the minister seems removed from the congregation now. Jane agreed that she feels too high and too distant on the raised platform as it now is. She feels much more comfortable when she comes to the front of the altar rail and joins the people…but she can’t carry her Bible and papers in her hands…The Methodist tradition, she said, is that the minister is one of the congregation. There are no high pulpits in Methodism. She wants us to preserve that feel, and so does Erma.
Erma also pointed out that she likes our traditional way of coming to the communion rail and kneeling to receive the sacraments. But we can ‘t kneel on the floor where the communion rail is now bolted down. We need the ledge of the old platform to kneel on.
The stained glass window of Jesus praying in the garden also worries Erma. It is now exposed to the back yard of the church where a lot of active play goes on, and she is afraid it will get broken. On the former interior wall, it was protected, and Erma rested more comfortably with it. Erma also misses the back room where “grooms can get ready to enter the church for weddings, and we can store things..” Jane added that she likes to have a moment of prayer with the choir and organist before the service, likes a place also to quickly discuss last minute preparations…an entry to the worship. She also likes the idea of a small office where a minister with a family can work quietly, away from all the family activity.
Phil and Yuvon went to a wedding in a Methodist church in Watertown this weekend, and it reminded them of the Grindstone Church. They liked the way the ceiling, which was much like the Grindstone ceiling, even like the plastic temporary one, was built of tongue-in-groove, light-colored wood, running the length of the church. The upper walls were of sheet rock, and wainscoting about four feet high ran around the bottom of the walls. They talked, also of adding another fan, and of the lighting fixtures, but didn’t come to a firm decision about these incidentals. They did like the light sconces between the windows in the Watertown church. (Dora Schneider, by the way is the minister there; She was once summer minister on Grindstone.)
Ada mentioned her wishes for a back entry room, and Phil and Yuvon agree. Ada remembered Craig Heverly and Bob Smith seeking refuge in the carriage house to write their sermons and having to carry their books to and fro from wherever they could put them in the parsonage. She said they both had to relinquish their space when the women gathered to make the pies and prepare for the church dinners. She saw them move out then, and presumes they had to move out many other times for the various activities during the summer. (I remember John finding it hard to find a place to study when he was minister in the church.) This group, then, agreed that a small study with a desk and a few book shelves would be a good addition to the church, and that the space where the old back room was would admirably fit that need, especially now that there is so much light there. All three want the window on an inside, protected wall. They also like the idea of a reredos behind the minister that would compliment the window, that would focus attention to the main activity of the worship service.
Carolyn Larson says she wants to be sure we can get a wheelchair into the church from the rear entrance ramp. Marjorie Rusho had to get out of her chair and into a pew because the wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the space between the platform and the pews. John finds that a wall with two doors (one on each side of the pulpit platform, one with a step up to the platform, one leading into the church on the church floor level), works conveniently.
So we already have begun the work of decision making that we set for ourselves this summer. Let us preceed! We need everyone’s thoughts and criticisms and dreams.
There was a dance on Saturday night, as there always is, in Dodge Memorial Hall. Bubby Bazinet is president and is making sure the tradition continues. Erma won the 50-50, there was a good crowd, music was DJ music, but helped by a drum…more news of the dance next week when Bubby and I get our communication system worked out!
Bev Cummings, whose husband was the son of Aaron and Mildred Cummings who still lived on the farm on the south shore in the early sixties, was the weekend guest of Doreen and Donnie Meeks. It’s nice to have old friends come back!
Jacie Donaldson plans to attend Waterloo College in Ontario in the fall to study Kinesiology. She will get credit there for her thirteenth year in high school and will enter a co-op program in her second year which will give her on-the-job training for teaching students how to exercise their bodies in healthy ways.
Rebecca and John Connolly arrived on Saturday to spend a week or two with their children in the A-Frame that Audrey and Bob Lashomb keep open for the family on the south shore of Grindstone. Audrey’s book proceeds apace. She is insisting that EVERY PHOTOGRAPH that she has been given be included in Going Home, so there is work yet to do…but she sent Mary Curtis back to Princeton with originals of all of them to scan into the pages she is setting for type. With that, we come to the beginning of another week.
So it is.