GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - August 2, 1998
While Clayton scurries this first week in August to the exciting tempo of The Boat Show, the island is a place of respite. Before the communion service began on the sunny height looking out over grassy marshes and Aunt Jane’s Bay, I stood watching the boats come in to the little dock on the south shore of Grindstone, little boats, big wooden boats, middle-sized, useful-for-everything boats. As the families tied their boats one to another, Manley came by. I turned to him and said, “You’d laugh at me if I wrote that islanders tie their boats one to another, wouldn’t you?” “ Yes I would,” he answered, and as he went on up the steps, he continued sort of to himself, “It’s called ‘rafting’”. Rafting or tying together, I like the metaphor. Islanders have been “rafting” since there were still Indians on our shores. Since the first loggers found the riches of Grindstone, the inhabitants have been tying their boats (or logs) one to another, and setting themselves out on the river. “River” is certainly one of the first metaphors. The thing that always pleases me about a metaphor is that its meaning wavers, …is changeable as a river. A metaphoric image can mean one thing in this sentence and, though it is the same image, it can mean quite another thing in a different context. Dictionaries can’t box in a metaphor. An island may stand in one sentence for peace, in another for death, in another for inhibition. The meaning of “island”, then, can be known only by hearing the whole happening. “River” can be a place that connects or a place that divides, provides a barrier. You have to look at the whole picture, hear the whole story to be sure of what the image stands for. To go back to the boats tied one to another, it seemed, this morning to me, that they were a good image for what I find life on Grindstone to be like.
All week, we’ve hitched our scow to Carolyn Bazinet’s boat. First, she brought us milk when the grandchildren drank more than we’d planned for. Next, she suggested that Gold Cup Farms could send river-rat cheese over to Brenda at Remar, who, in turn, would bring it to the island where I could pick it up! Finally, the tree-men working in our meadow ran into a hornet’s nest when they were taking down the big willow at the river’s edge, and Carolyn, hearing our predicament, sent down Hornet spray. We’re glad Carolyn’s boat has strong cleats, serviceable bumpers, and a hearty skipper!
We had to push way back from the “pulpit” this year to find any shade on the Brooks family’s large lawn. The ice storm had taken its toll on many of the fine trees that used to protect us from the sun. But most of us managed to get comfortable, and the Davis family’s gift of a speaker system for just such difficulties proved to be a perfect solution.
Everyone heard, even those way back up on the hill by the house, heard. We heard the children sing, we heard the adult choir sing, (I think most people heard me read the scripture lesson even though, enemy that I am of computers, microphones, and such, I didn’t notice the microphone on the lectern until Jane began her sermon, and I noticed how well I could hear her natural voice!) and we heard the beautiful words of the sacrament as Katie Carlisle was baptized by John Marks and Jane Wagner. Katie is the daughter of Nancy and Chris Carlisle who live in the house Emmet Dodge built for himself after Nellie died. Katie is one of the playmates here down under the hill on the Cross Island Road. All the little neighborhood children in the choir gathered round at her baptism. Katie was given a mussel shell inscribed with her name and the date of her baptism as a keepsake to remind her of the congregation’s affection for her.
Something else was special on Sunday morning, The congregation presented Doc Schwartz with a plaque to thank him for his ceaseless service as a faithful and wise steward, a trustworthy and sensible man. May he continue his service, we all plead, for a long long time. When he took over the task- -it’s a little hard to name the job-- he’s sort of treasurer and ombudsman to the whole congregation-- he was handed, so Jane tells it, a cigar box full of bills, and a few quarters. Now we have money to keep the church and the parsonage in shape! And pay a minister!!
In responding, Doc said he feels that working for this church is worth the time he gives it because the church is the only viable legend and institution left on the island; the school is gone, the cheese factory is gone…the quarry is gone. Only the church and Dodge Hall remain to give the island some shape and continuity.
After the service, the whole congregation went down the road a bit to the home of Bruce and Elaine Brooks for coffee and cookies and doughnut holes. The committee appointed to gather ideas and preferences about the restoring of the sanctuary met, meanwhile, on the other side of Aunt Jane’s Bay, at the home of Carolyn and Ken Larson, to begin collecting the various suggestions people have presented for the renovation of the sanctuary. Erma Slate and Phil Marra passed paper and pencils around so those who were at the dance on Saturday night and wanted a say in the plans for the church could record what they want, right then and there. Others in different locations on the island have surely gathered the wisdom of the church people in their neighborhoods in one way or another. It is August 1st, and time to begin the process of discussion and definition. By September, if we tie our boats together and stick to the process we have decided to follow, we will have a definite plan to present to the builders. Then, all through the winter, we will be filled with the pleasant anticipation of worshipping in what we have brought forth.
Tying our boats to one another, reminds me that Peter Strong and Libby were at the service, where we could thank them once more for cutting down the huge apple tree that was blocking our path to the dock in June. Judy Bacci was also thanking them once more for all the help they gave her in cleaning up her farm last spring. Then Peter and Libby brought us all home to the north side where we all live.
Like Peter and Libby, Judy ( now working in Syracuse ) is here only for weekends. She is putting to work skills she had let lie fallow, and is very happy to be in the city in a job that she does well. We all know that it is invigorating to get back into a life we live ably. Elizabeth, her daughter, is also here this weekend with a friend. She is an honors student in her senior year at Plattsburgh, majoring in social work, hoping, someday, after graduate school, to open a clinic for abused women and children.
Two of Marjorie Garnsey’s children were also home for short vacations. Debbie Hayes is visiting from Florida with her son, Robbie, who is now 17(!) and Genie Van Wuyckhuyse is here from Rochester with her husband, Eric, and their two children, 2 and 5. Genie, following the tradition of the family, delivers the mail, and, she says, manages to peek at the Grindstone News from time to time. Both Debby and Genie were teenagers when Chris Hein and Pom were also teenagers. Chris and his wife, Uma, (who was also here, though I said, last week, that she wouldn’t be) have gone home, but the two families did have a good, if short time together, three of the children engaging in a fine evening of Suzuki violin playing. The canoe trip they planned could never be fitted in, but another year….they all spent long hours swimming in the river, climbing the rocks, and walking the roads. A good beginning for river rats.
Sis Matthews wasn’t at the service this morning. Grindstone life doesn’t seem right without her. On Saturday, she fell in her own house, and broke her ankle. It was a long time before anyone came to find her. She even tried to scoot herself to the phone, but couldn’t reach it when she got there. But when her grandson, Mike Matthews did come, Sis said “Everyone came!” I wonder how big Mike’s feet looked to Sis when he arrived. I remember Charlie saying, when Stub found him lying in the snow with a broken leg, “Why that boy’s feet looked two feet long…They looked about that long (He stretched his arms to a yard.)”. Sis is now in the Good Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, and Debbie Smith stopped in to see her this Sunday afternoon. She is alert, and quite herself, in a cast, which, she says, will keep her off her feet for quite a while. The doctors are going to keep her in the hospital, Sis told Debbie, for several days to try to find out why she is falling so often. Her room number is 230. She’d love a card, and even more, she’d love a visit.
To our great delight, Marie Moore was at the service on Sunday morning. Her smile is as warm as ever, and even if she can stay only a few days, she says, she is glad to be here. And she made us feel that she really is.
The service over, we stood for a few minutes talking, and Erma watched Urch depart for Clayton to try to sell her boat at the boat show auction. We hope she had good luck! We want everything good for her and Harry.
This week many of us will join in remembering Betty Haxall at both the boat museum and the craft school. She was a quiet and staunch supporter of both institutions, and of all the members of her family and her extended family. She loved the traditions of the island, and was willing to go to much trouble to preserve them. She loved her family and kept Club Island always ready to welcome them. She loved the games that give children joy, and was always ready to let their good times roll.
One bit of happy news: Emily and Shep Holt are welcoming daughter Alison and her new husband, John Threadgill to Long Point. It is John’s first trip to Grindstone. We, in turn, welcome you, John. And we welcome Alison in her new life. We wish much happiness for you in your life together…in New York City, …or wherever you go.
Another reminder: Sunday, August 23, 12:00, Potluck lunch at the Grindstone Island Research and Heritage Center;- that’s the old schoolhouse!- Listen to Reggie Carpenter, Resident Intern and Storyteller, weave a tale of the River.
DOC REMINDS US: THE BARNYARD OLYMPICS, THE ANNUAL CARNIVAL NIGHT ON THE CHURCH LAWN will be held Saturday evening, August 8th at 5: 00 p.m. A great cloud of children come, and we need a great crowd of “Betty Haxalls” who will set up a game or two for the many players! Put your imaginations to work, and come with your games, tricks, sideshows, whatever you can think up! It’s fun! Give the kids what our Phoebe calls “a blast”! (Let me find one instance where I might think it’s an appropriate word??)
And on Sunday morning, join us for the annual pancake breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in the carriage house. Anyone who can lend a hand is welcome to the kitchen!
Saturday night there was a fine party at the Hall. Urch Balcom won the 50-50, and Obrien’s Restaurant donated several other gifts for 2nd prizes to add to the fun. Next week The Bandits will make the music for another good party. Come meet your old friends.
What beautiful weather we’ve had for the Boat Show weekend! Yesterday, little sparkles of light were leaping from the water.
So it is.