Some of you may remember a public service announcement from long ago – I can’t even remember what for – that featured a sweating chain gang working in a quarry, while a prison overseer smirkingly promised to “introduce yew to the joys of bustin’ rocks.”
Well, with apologies to all who showed up on Sunday or Monday looking for my customary sermonette on Sunday’s Gospel lesson – that’s what I was doing Sunday instead of sitting in church or blogging: slinging rocks around.
Let me back up. Saturday was a lovely, almost perfect day here in northern Michigan, and I spent much of it traveling along the Lake Huron coast to to visit a community art fair…or what was billed as an art fair, but actually turned out to be a crap -- I mean, craft fair. You know, with the plywood bend-over ladies for your yard, the crocheted scrubbies for your pots and pans, and so forth. (Note to self: Look for the word juried in the local calendars of events, you idiot.) Anyway, in amidst the soy candles and toilet-paper caddies and tole-painted “Gone Fishin’” signs I actually did find a couple of very lovely, evocative, professionally crafted photographs of northern Michigan scenery, soon to grace my living room; my travel partner and I had a dee-lightful lunch (ironically provided by a regional barbecue guru whose joint is all of 30 miles away from where we live, who happened to have a concession up at the fair); and we had a great time sightseeing along the coastline – lighthouses and sailboat regattas, forested scenic drives and bodacious summer homes and folkloric/historic little villages. But I was also, to use the technical medical terminology, expecting a visit from my Aunt Flo, so by the time we were halfway home I found myself nursing an atomic one-sided hormonal headache, the kind that make you feel as if your eyeball is liquefying and oozing out of its socket, and had lost whatever energy I had left from the morning, to the point of feeling like a limp sock. “I think I’m going to stay home tomorrow and sleep in,” I groaned, anticipating a Sunday spent lyin' upon mah faintin' couch bein' ministered to by an attentive maidservant proffering heating pads and ibuprofen.
But when morning gilded the skies I was up and about –- Aunt Flo having apparently changed her mind again (more about that in a future post) -– headache-free and at least marginally perky. And in the meantime my pal and I, on arriving back home, had heard that a mutual friend was in a jam. This person juggles a full-time big-city job with weekends spent simultaneously caregiving and trying to fix up the family cottage. And she’s also had some fairly recent orthopedic surgery. Anyway, she was faced with what I will describe as a landscaping emergency that needed to be resolved by early afternoon when she was scheduled to head for home. “Maybe we can help her,” suggested my pal. So I found myself donning beat-up jeans and a Beefy T, and after swallowing about a gallon of restorative coffee headed toward the friend-in-need’s cottage, in a tiny resort village that makes Outer Podunk look like the big city.
There is something about manual labor – strenuous work that has a beginning and an end, with signs of progress along the way -- that is profoundly satisfying to me. I used to feel that way when I was a kid baling hay, and I felt that way on Sunday hauling loads of stone in a wheelbarrow while my pal and another friend shoveled and the friend in need spread and smoothed. In two hours the four of us got-er-done, with hours to spare -- in fact, with the neighbors barely roused for their Sunday brunches (this despite the cacaphony of rock hitting wheelbarrow, and my half of a duet version of "Chain Gang"). Our mutual friend even had to wink back a few tears as she thanked the rest of us for coming over.
You know, it was a pleasure; a real pleasure. And while I missed my church family a little bit that morning, I was happy to be able to help someone in another branch of the family. Now...if I can just make up with Aunt Flo...