Of Sam Clark and reunions
Looking back…thirty five years or so…we lived in a small New England town. I was the Rector of the Episcopal church in that town and we (my wife and two young sons) lived in the Rectory next door to the church. We were there only six years, yet in that short span developed some deep and lasting relationships.
One such relationship has lived on in a slightly unconventional manner. There was an elderly couple living across the street from the Rectory; a farm house on a small holding that used to boast more acres and a house full of children. One of the children born in that white clapboard home was Sam Clark. We met Sam when he and Winnie were in their eighties. They had a son and daughter, the former living around the corner, a bachelor, and a daughter with family about an hour away. Sam and Winnie adopted our two boys as grandsons in residence.
Sam told stories. Winnie cooked, sewed, smiled and loved. When our older son ran away from home it was to this nearby refuge that he fled. He was given leave to collect eggs from the hen coop to pass the time until we “found” him.
When we moved here to Grafton seventeen years ago we had a major bit of tree work done to create our now much beloved field with a view. There were a few elder-type trees the logger suggested sparing. We decided to leave two of these to provide perspective as one looked toward North Petersburg. One, a ragged field oak we named after my mother’s sometimes crotchety father, “Black Tom”. He is out of view unless you get lost and wander down among the thorns near the swamp. (Nosey here is a friendly welcoming Oak on our driveway.)
On the edge of the new clearing was a worn, wormy yellow birch. It had character, and we named it Sam Clark. When it came time to set up a tent platform and camp side on the edge of the field we chose the foot of Sam Clark as the most likely spot.
Over the last fifteen years Sam Clark aged to the point of shedding more of his upper limbs than our canvas wall tent would be comfortable with. But we didn’t wish to take him down completely. Working with a friend who is good with trees we devised a plan to give Sam Clark a major (and final) pruning. It worked. And, it turns out that Sam was completely hollow on the inside, though seeming to fairly thrive on the outside. We placed a few slices atop this monument to our old friend: an act of art, not a judgment of character.
Sam Clark continues to watch over our family campsite, over the grandchildren who have their little cots in the tent for the various summer editions of Camp Grafton, and over our field, with its playful pathways, tall grasses, newborn fawns…and over our home in the front of the property.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sam Clark (and Winnie, and Bill, and Laurie, and Effie the mini-poodle).
This blog also arrives with my wife’s family, who are gathered in Williamstown for the weekend, and will gather at our place in the woods this afternoon for a picnic. One of our sons, with his wife and grown daughter (a true veteran of Camp Grafton) will be here with us. Memories will be flying, rivaled only, and at this point potentially, by swarms of flying insects: buzzing happily, sometimes annoyingly, mostly always present.
I have mixed feelings about reunions. I love the reminiscing. I love the stories. I love the viewed staging of generations. I love manning the grill and serving up Grafton’s finest bovine, porcine and poultrine delights. I don’t love the disorder, the invasion of our silent world, the cacophony of dueling personalities, and the general mayhem (or so it seems to me, who cherishes P & Q above all else). One of my goals for today is to relax and be present in every moment. Mindfulness practice time!
Twelve hours from now it will be all over. The house will be restored, the dishes washed, the chairs rearranged and the family returned to its W’town lodgings. Sam Clark (not to mention Black Tom and Nosey) will still be here, along with more stories, more memories and maybe some deeper bonds with these fellow middle-sized beings who somehow belong not only to themselves, but to one another.
Addendum: The reunion weekend has come to an end. Folk are on their respective ways to Boston, Chicago, Woodstock and NYC. We were not able to enjoy an outdoor picnic as a large front of rain and lightening spent itself on our appointed picnic hours. Our little house stretched to accommodate the twenty of us who gathered. Gratitude. Namaste to all.