Civility on Highways & Byways
You Know What I Mean
I got up at 5:00 am in order to make coffee, feed the cats, shower, and cook kale with scrambled eggs. I got in the car and entered the Burton Camp address in my GPS. I was the last to arrive at the circle of logs around a flickering fire in the middle of the woods at the edge of the bay below a pink streaked-sky for the 2015 Vashon Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service. (That’s a lot of prepositional phrases in a row.)
A frying pan with fish sat in the coals. Someone kindly handed me program; another, a plastic bag to protect from the log’s dampness.
I knew no one. I felt slightly ill-mannered about snapping a few pictures with my iPad, but did it anyway. Usually I ask permission.
A Methodist pastor in black jeans started the service; Kathy’s voice was welcoming; her manner, unpretentious. She led a brief responsive reading—I liked the lines:
“Leader: Early in the morning while the disciples slept,
Participants: Jesus prepared a feast/ to fill their emptiness;/ rolled away their hardened hearts/ opened them to grace;/ whispered their names/ to awaken them to new life.”
A second woman read a poem by the mystic Hafiz. We sang “Morning has broken…” a cappella, weakly. It’s a hymn I remember from childhood, though the tune for any but the first line escapes me.
I haven’t been to an Easter sunrise service in, what, fifty years? But in childhood, in boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, that was the one service of the year I whole-heartedly liked. We’d wake up in the dark, race to the top of the hill, shiver and huddle together, sing “Lo, in the grave he lay…,” and watch the sun finally blaze over the mountain ridges. Then we’d troop back down the hill to our dorm dining room for early-morning cocoa, hot-cross buns, and marzipan Easter eggs (if our parents had provided a little extra money for purchasing those). Those treats were especially for us early risers, if I recall correctly: I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.
There in the Vashon woods, there was a scripture reading of two passages: first, the story of Mary Magdalene and “another Mary” going to the tomb of Christ, only to be frightened by an earthquake that rolled the tombstone away, and by an angel perching on the stone to wanted to chat with them; second, the story of Jesus appearing on the shore of the lake of Galilee, instructing his disciples to fish on the other side of the boat if they actually want to catch something that day.
I haven’t heard those New Testament passages in oh, so long. Last fall I went to Israel for the first time. I visited the supposed burial place of Christ, the simple white-stone/green-plants/no-gold-ornaments Protestant cemetery outside the city wall—not the ornate, candle-smoky darkness of the Orthodox supposed-burial spot in the tourist-filled Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This Easter morning on the damp log, I recalled the stillness of that Jerusalem cemetery, and how three friends and I marveled at the quiet there, given the traffic and bustle of the city just some-hundred yards away. I remember I cried a bit there, softly singing a song in memory of my father who would have been so pleased and relieved to know his errant daughter was actually at the empty tomb of Christ.
Then another woman stood to lead a rustic communion service. Inadvertently, I’d sat closest to her. I could hardly listen to her prayer, worried that she might start the serving with me when I didn’t know the protocol—do they all sip from the same cup? what do I do with the bread? Whew. She didn’t start with me. Instead those who wanted to take communion rose and formed a line; she handed each a chunk of bread to dip in the chalice of wine held by another, beside her. Oh my, that was tasty bread. I wonder what bakery uptown makes that?
I confess here that it’s taken me a long time to find a way to grok the Eucharist, the “communion” service, the celebration of the Last Supper, the Mass. I grew up engaging in the ritual, with grape juice and white-bread cubes, but honestly, it’s been a big-nothing to me. What do you mean, we’re eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ? After years of puzzling about it, I’ve made peace with the Lord’s Supper: it’s an event that represents a willingness to symbolically take loving and Christ-qualities into ourselves. I can handle ingesting love.
The little Vashon Sunrise Service ended with the group limply to sing “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff. Maybe we all recognized it, but we certainly couldn’t carry the tune. I thought about how un-group-singable most modern music is unless there’s either a recording or instruments to support the singers. That’s why I stick to folk songs or hymns—you know, simple rhythm, simple melody, coherent lyrics, and plenty of repetition.
Then the service is over; the fish is fried. Most celebrants leave. The remaining few are handed paper plates and plastic forks. I don’t want to miss this part. I dig into a fragment of the salmon, cooked while we worshiped. It’s tender and delicious.
When I got into my car, I burst into “Up from the Grave He Arose!” Now in my mind,THAT is a song worth singing at Easter dawn. I could almost hear my daddy singing it.
“Keep Vashon Weird”—That’s the slogan of the little island I’m on now. But I don’t know as I’d describe it as ‘weird’; the word has a pejorative feel. Rather, I’d nominate: “KEEP VASHON PARADISE!”
That’s what it seems to be to me, coming from the juniper-and-cedar-pollen zones of the Northern New Mexico desert. I’m thrilled I’m housesitting here for almost three months!
Vashon Island is, well, an island (37 sq. mi.) in the Puget Sound. There’s no bridge to it; you’ve got to take a ferry and there are two options: one to the south end, coming from Point Defiance in Tacoma, and one to the north end, coming from Seattle. There are no big chain stores—no Home Depot, Costco, Target, Penny’s, Sears, Sam’s Club, Staples, Office Depot, Chico’s, or Best Buys. No malls. There are no fast-food restaurants. (Oops, I lied. I passed a Subway the other day.)
If there’s none of that, what is there on Vashon you may ask? One historic lighthouse (just a mile from “my” house!) built in 1915, with an easy view of Mt. Rainer on a clear day.
What else on Vashon? Thirteen little churches that advertise in The Beachcomber. One movie theater whose marquee has unevenly spaced lettering. One red-painted, modern high school where the community holds concerts. A hardware store quite like the old, un-chained variety. A smattering of restaurants with “Great Good Food.” Assorted realtors, dentists, lawyers, insurance agents, hair salons. A tea store. Two grocery stores. A post office where service is very polite, a couple cafés and consignment stores, and plenty of art galleries and performance spaces—that’s what I really like. (This week the quilt store has an exhibit of quilts by four men. They’re stunning.)
Vashon is an island where people make their own entertainment. My first night here my hosts (the people I didn’t know before I got here, but for whom I’m housesitting) invited me to a song-swap. That turned out to be eight intrepid singers with mostly mediocre voice (like mine) who joyously sang together whether they knew the song or not, all sitting around someone’s dining room table.
My third night here I joined a small group sitting in a circle chant/singing the four powerful, miracle-producing ho’oponopono phrases: “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, I thank you.” My fifth night here I attended the Free Range Folk Choir Concert: you don’t have to audition for it, but you do have to learn by heart some elegant and touching folk songs from around the world. (I’ll join for the few months I’m here.) My seventh night here, I joined in the monthly First Friday Art Walk. My eighth day, I went to the Farmers Market and met some local authors. My ninth day was Easter; I attended an ecumenical sunrise service in the woods on a circle of logs about 100 yards from the water. (I’ll blog about that separately.)
See what I mean about people making their own entertainment?
Plus, it seems that everyone has a garden full of flowers and veggies. They can food, freeze it, dry it, trade it, sell it—and share it at frequent pot-lucks.
Vashon has hardly any industry, as far as I can tell. Apparently lots of people commute on the ferries to Seattle and Tacoma. Apparently before their internment during World War II, the Japanese planted and harvested large strawberry fields here. Apparently someone started importing and roasting coffee here—it became the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand and brought prosperity to at least some residents. (And unbeknownst to most people, that brand is now owned by Starbucks although it keeps its original name to disguise that fact.)
That’s some of I’ve gleaned about this quirky Paradise. And I’ll share a colloquialism I learned on day one with you: To go “up-town” means to go into Vashon’s small shopping area; to go “over-town” means to go off island.
So come on over and meet me up-town sometime. 🙂 I’m gathering more about Vashon to tell you and show you.
WHITE LIGHTNING’S ODOMETER MILEAGE:
Lv Eldorado/Santa Fe, NM: 89,464 to Crestone CO (visit friend)… Denver (visit family)… Niwot/Boulder, CO (visit friends). Listened to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Lv Niwot, CO: 89,969 to Boise, ID: 90,773. That’s 804 miles in a day—without too much stress. Listened to Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl
Lv Boise, ID: 90,773 to Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR: 91,219
Lv Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR. Stopped to see Mount St Helen’s Visitor Center
Arrive Vashon Island, WA: 91,387
WHOLE TRIP: 1, 923 miles—which includes the miles I drove getting lost (because my Garmin malfunctioned in Denver, which is pretty darn scary when driving at night), going shopping, side excursions, and making trial runs to see if my GPS would fixed itself. It didn’t. I had to replace it.