“I love you all, and God loves Edenton!” Mrs Virginia Wood, in a most incandescent acceptance speech, concluded with gracious flourish.
This was last Tuesday night, Oct. 19, at the “Bricks and Boards” Awards Ceremony at the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse.
It was a celebration of preservation and restoration, of valuing structures that are truly valuable, of cherishing repositories of memory that stand for beauty and goodness.
There were reminiscences of shoring up old porches, putting up new plaster, and spending long hours of detailed craftsmanship in a woodshop lined with the mystical hardware of furniture making.
As Tom Newbern spoke of his craft, along with the likes of James Melchor and Don Jordan, one could hear the scrape of the block plane, and see the tiny ribbons of wood fiber chiseled up from the incisor of the carving gouge, and even smell the inimitable aroma of cut wood on a Fall day in Chowan.
I heard one wry bon mot that has a lot to do with preservation. While getting an award for his and his wife Sarah’s work on the Butternut Farm, Larry McLaughlin said, jesting about the constant work involved, that “Rot never sleeps.”
And that is true. Do nothing and things fall apart. But do something good and work constantly at it, then the right things stick around. The truly valuable things are valued.
Beauty always calls for participation and active endeavor. And hard work. It is hard to bulwark a home against the tides of time.
One of the main and many, many reasons why I love Edenton is that it is a locus of long and tender memory. It is a place whose grace, over the years, actively seeks to recognize and preserve the good in the past and present — the long past and the long present, where the wounds of a hundred years might find some balm of Gilead.
I cheer on efforts like the East Gale Street renewal. To see the Kadesh AME Church restored, inside and out, with its Tiffany Glass windows replaced in their original glory, is a dream, as Shakespeare said, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
I was talking to some of the members of Kadesh, and they were regaling me with their memories of the evening sun gleaming in like a rainbow through those windows while the choir sang on Sunday summer evenings. Oh Lord, how that resonated in my Oklahoma childhood memory of Stamps-Baxter and Ira Stanphill music, and my dad singing “Unworthy” in the pulpit, from his softback shaped-notes book, the “second songbook” next to the more upstanding hymnal in the rack nailed on to the back of the pew in front of you.
I wonder if memory doesn’t take us all to the same old echoing church, much like Kadesh at sunset, down over the hilltop, in that bright land where …….