The socially distanced Peter DeMott Peace Trot

Peter DeMott, Ellen Grady,
and two of their children. 
The photograph was taken
during the 2008 Witness
Against War walk from
to Saint Paul, Minnesota.

One year ago, I traveled to Ithaca to participate in the Peter DeMott Peace Trot, which is a fundraiser for the Ithaca Catholic Worker. The Ithaca Catholic Worker community is one of a loosely connected group of Catholic Worker communities that exist all over the world. The Catholic Worker movement had its start with Dorothy Day (1897-1980),  a journalist and an activist, who advocated for women’s suffrage and for an end to war. In 1927, she experienced a spiritual awakening and became a Catholic. Together with her friend and companion, Peter Maurin, she created a newspaper and started a movement that inspired a whole bunch of houses of hospitality.

Catholic Workers offer hospitality to the homeless and dispossessed and to refugees. They feed everyone who comes to their doors. Their generosity is impressive. But, like everyone else, they need financial support to continue their mission.

Well, last year, the Peter DeMott trot was fun. All right, I didn’t exactly trot. I walked. Slowly. Because the course was muddy and it was raining off and on.

Or I slid. But I finished, despite my slowness.

And this year, it was necessary to do things differently. We couldn’t converge on Ithaca and walk and trot as a large group. So, the trot this year became virtual. We chose our own courses. The course that I chose was in my hometown of Grand Island.  

The first place that I walked to on my trot, which I think was somewhere close to 5K, was to Kelly’s Country Store. No, I didn’t go in to eat some of that scrumptious chocolate that they sell. I just took pictures of the outside.

Of the store and of the old one-room schoolhouse that used to be an actual school here on Grand Island. That one room schoolhouse is really tiny. I’ve been inside. There are tours offered of the school every year, during the October fall festival at Kelly’s Country Store. Who knows if there will be a fall festival this year. It attracts a lot of people.

My next stop was around the corner, at the Thompson farm, for the Saturday farmers’ market that featured fresh produce, cooked foods, vodka, plants, jams, jellies, and more.

It is a weekly event and, since the lockdown in March, a source of great joy. We are slowly opening up and rediscovering life and humans and all things good.

It is different, of course, because it is essential to maintain our precautions. There is still the risk of a second wave of coronavirus. It is far too early to declare victory and to go back to the way that things were.

At the farm, I bought red leaf lettuce, scallions, and zucchini. So good. There is nothing like fresh produce that is locally grown.

My route then took me to the bike path. It is called a linear path, and it is a direct route to Buckhorn Island State Park.

I walked past the Havenwood Courts. This is an area for kids and adults to enjoy outdoor entertainment. There is playground equipment for kids and, for everyone, there are pickleball and tennis courts.

There is also an area, enclosed by a fence, to play team sports, but that area is closed. People were there, enjoying their games of pickleball and tennis. 

I then continued on the trail and, before long, I was in Buckhorn Island State Park, which is a wildlife refuge, as well as an Important Bird Area. A good number of migratory birds make Buckhorn Island State Park their summer home. It is one of the more wild parks and it doesn’t have any of the amenities of many of the other parks, such as Beaver Island State Park, located at the south end of Grand Island.

The park was delightfully green. It is fun to walk there and look for birds and to look at the Niagara River.

Just make sure to stay on the main trail or on side trails. Don’t wander into the woods because there are loads of ticks, as well as poison ivy.

You don’t want to have any extra passengers with you when you return home.

After I exited the park, I walked through the Sandy Beach neighborhood, which is one of the older neighborhoods on Grand Island.

I used to know a lady who remembered when the neighborhood was built, sometime in the 1940s. She moved into that neighborhood and never left. She watched the neighborhood grow and become the community that it is today. She had a lot of interesting stories to tell about her life as a young woman in the 1940s. She told me about how she and a bunch of other young ladies put together a little newspaper, full of Grand Island news.

They sent those newspapers to Grand Islanders who were serving in the military  during World War II. I used to see her often. She spent a lot of time observing life from her porch.

After walking through the Sandy Beach neighborhood, I found myself on the grounds of Huth Road Elementary School. It’s a lot bigger that that tiny one-room schoolhouse. But, alas, it has been empty since March. Teachers talked about returning to school to clean out their rooms. And it was hard for them to do that because time stood still in the classrooms.

All of the decorations were about Saint Patrick’s Day and all things that said mid-March. It was as if people fled the scene and time was frozen.

No one knows what school will look like in September. It will be different for sure. Nothing can remain the same. 

I walked through the parking lot of the school and headed for the street. I then walked to my last stop. It was an adventure, to be sure. An exploration of my world, both externally and internally. I am still a bit skittish around other people, yet so happy to see them. And I have been out of quarantine for almost a month. In another post, I will talk about my Big Government Job at Buffalo Harbor State Park. 

But today was all about the Ithaca Catholic Worker. From a distance. Please support them. You can do so by writing a check! Make the check payable to “Ithaca Catholic Worker,” and write “peace trot” in the memo section. Then mail the check to the Peter DeMott Catholic Worker House, 411 S. Plain St., Ithaca, NY 14850.

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