As first light breaks the thick black of night, the most unabashed Spring choir comes to full voice. The choir’s members have traveled from afar and attuned their voices to this specific landscape—a place of Sand and Swamp, of Hickory and Oak and Pine, of River and Lake shore. Yesterday I attended, for the first time, the Saturday afternoon Mass at the grand stone Church atop the hill on the far side of the broad, sandy River, built by the French Catholics around 1900. The pew I slip into doesn’t have a service booklet to read from, so I spend an hour listening. I am struck by how much of the service is sung—simple chanted prayers committed to memory by all in attendance, save me. I stretch my ears into the shared air space as others sing, just as I would extend my hand upon meeting.
After the service, my ninety-year-old neighbor Pat calls me over to introduce me to a few people, including the priest. Father Chris has a kind way about him. I extend my hand, in greeting. Like most people I’ve met in this town, he knows of the old Farm where I live. There’ is a good bit of mystery surrounding the place, which sat abandoned for two decades. The Schermerhorn family descended by marriage from the Adgates, whose patriarch Matthew was awarded the land for exemplary service in the Revolutionary War. On that day, he was granted claim to this patch of unceded Mohawk hunting, fishing and gathering territory. I pull a stack of printed invitations to Sunday’s May Day Gratitude Feast from my jacket pocket, and hand a few to Father Chris. “Please pass along the invitation as you see fit, and join us yourself if you are free,” I say. He thanks me, and I walk from the church.