On August 19, Chuck & Joy White (along with Hunter Corbin and Bob Haines) will be inducted into the Frost Valley Hall of Fame. Here in this blog entry I want to ponder Joy’s lasting effect on Frost Valley. During the “wellness revolution” at FV in the very late ’70s and early ’80s there was a (positive and certainly well intentioned) effort to bring folks in from outside to teach us about health and wellness and well-being. Some of the changes (taking sugar dispensers off the tables; getting rid of candy and ice cream in the canteen; limiting and then eliminating smoking from camp) seemed to require people outside the Frost Valley tradition to force them on us. Change is often good and people inside the community are not always in the position to show the virtues of such change. So that was all good. But along with such forcing there were some top-down initiatives that just didn’t take. They didn’t seem natural — didn’t seem a part of us. Meantime, however, there was Joy White. She was an RN and had always been interested in wellness in all its aspects. Once the barriers against teaching healthy daily living and values-driven lifestyles at camp had fallen, the rest of the work was a matter of changing hearts and minds, and that, in short, is what Joy did. I can still hear her mildly chastise me for not taking breaks, for not eating enough or well, for not caring for myself, for not having some kind of meditative practice, for not getting enough sleep. Those sentences typically began with “Honey heart…” “Honey heart, you really should take an hour and just sit and think!” “Oh, honey heart, come down to the house and have some tea with me. It’ll do you some good.” Wellness, to Joy, was in the little changes we could make while at camp that would lead to our having the ongoing physical and spiritual capacity to help others. To help others be healthy one has to be healthy. Always the little things. The day, to her, was made up of lots and lots of little good and positive things. She believed radically in goodness but it never felt at any one point like radical change was coming over us.
As it happens, I’m easily able to think of Joy White every day while I’m at camp. You see, on my way to and from the main area of camp I pass by the old grey-blue house where the Whites lived. We used to call it “the White House.” More recently, it’s called “the Group Home” (where a number of staff live together). Chuck and White and their kids lived there for years. Joy was often inducing Chuck to help her beat back the flower-eating deer and other critters. They struggled to make gardens. One day Joy went across the road, directly across from the house, and around the mailbox there planted some flowers and some ground cover. The flowers didn’t easily take but the ground cover did, and I have clear memories of the vine-like leaves flourishing in that little attempt to make a regular home out of that tiny square of Catskill roadside.
Well, the ground cover Joy planted is still there, some thirty-five or forty years later. And it has spread all along that spot. It has survived plows and truck tires and the moving of the mailboxes and goodness knows what else that trampled along that little stretch. But Joy White made a conscious home there, and the signs of it persist and flourish. Love live Joy White! O, honey heart, we remember you!