These days, the stage (really just an 8΄ x 16΄ deck with a roof) is where the dog and I sit to take the evening air and keep an eye on the squirrels and crows. The kids are grown and gone, but now the grandkids are accumulating so I’ve begun viewing the edifice with new eyes.
I built it pretty well, with the help of my son and some of his strong, young friends to set the pressure-treated uprights in holes that reach beneath the frost line and then square them up to support the pitched roof. It’s probably good for another 50 years if the next owner of the property doesn’t just root it out and start caring for the lawn instead. But, before that distant day, I have a feeling the stage will rediscover its purpose for the next generation of Broussardlings.
This thought has taken on a special profundity in the wake of the successful, new and improved Best of NH Party we held at Shaker Village in Canterbury in late August.
My first real job in New Hampshire was working at an independent school in the woods named Horizon’s Edge, just a quarter of a mile up the road from Shaker Village. The students and staff were welcome to explore the extensive grounds and ponds of the Village as an open-air classroom and the lessons of the Shakers themselves were a part of the Horizon’s Edge curriculum. The school had been founded by Quakers (from whom the Shakers had emerged as a millennialist splinter), so it was a natural fit.
Class lessons were built around the pratical genius of the Canterbury Shakers: their graceful crafts, entrepreneurial imagination and progressive worldview (including equality of the sexes in all spheres of life). In spite of (or perhaps because of) the group’s voluntary celibacy and separation of the sexes, the joy of work and the sheer bliss of life were built into Shaker Village like a template. They relished their food, simplified their tasks with inventions, wrote and performed hundreds of songs, wore bright colors and danced ecstatically until their numbers dwindled to where the Village became a convalescent home for the last remaining “eldresses” (one was still alive there when I worked at the school).
Like me, with my sturdy backyard stage, the staff of Canterbury Shaker Village has been looking at their marvelous acres of history and enterprise with new eyes, adding concerts and picnics and renewing their outreach to neighbors in surrounding towns as well as to their global network of students and lovers of Shakerism. Fortunately the Shakers handcrafted and adapted things to last the tests of time, but imagine the present-day upkeep on the thousands of square feet of clapboard and wooden shingles and you might feel some sympathy for the groundskeepers and restorationists of Shaker Village. You might even want to kick in a little support in your annual giving (visit shakers.org).
Our Best of NH Party is always the coming together of so many talents, gifts and efforts by so many different people that it takes on a life of its own and everyone feels a part
of it. And this year the party was also blessed by the work of the many hands that had built the Village, maintained it and finally preserved its treasure — all so yet another generation could gaze in wonder at the beauty of what the Shakers considered “simplicity.”
We invited Shaker Village Education Consultant Donna Scarlett to offer the blessing over the dinner at our party and to that end she sang three short Shaker songs. The last one should be familiar to most: the Shaker’s famous anthem “Tis a Gift to Be Simple.”