Well, compared to ebooks and all this digital reading.
- I can caress it. Yes, even the texture and weight of the paper itself.
- Admire the spine on a shelf.
- Frame a page and mount it on a wall. (I’m thinking of a broadside, especially.)
- There’s marbling in some old editions, and end-papers. Nothing like that in ebooks.
- Underline and make notes as I read, enhancing the engagement.
- A sense of timelessness. Unlike a computer crash.
- Open an old book and there’s a special aroma. Hopefully not mold.
- Reading one works better at the beach, in full sunlight.
- Easier to find errors when correcting galleys or drafts.
- It really does feel finished.
In local Quaker congregation, the head honcho is called a clerk, an important (unpaid) job even when there’s a pastor. (A whole other discussion.)
In a traditional body that observes “unprogrammed” worship like ours, the role carries the added burden of being the official spokesperson for all and the presumed face and voice of the Meeting. (Not that everyone will agree. Not in our pluralistic age. Beware of the back-sniping.)
The position rotates among members deemed worthy, and I have served five years, plus a few others as the deputy recording clerk and also as clerk of our regional umbrella, so I’ve done more than a little. But I’m far from the only one. Nor am I whining.
Here are ten others from the three-plus decades I’ve been in New England and active in Dover Friends Meeting.
- Silas Weeks. Replanted from an old Long Island Quaker family and long the steady hand in rebuilding our Meeting. Quite a Character.
- Pat Gildea. Quite an administrator. She loved having lunch to discuss things. After marrying, she scurried to England and new challenges. Whew!
- Barbara Sturrock. A beloved elder. Now in a retirement center up the coast.
- Charolotte Fardelmann. Grounded in her heart. In a retirement center closer by.
- Sara Hubner. Now much appreciated in her demanding, detailed work in the yearly meeting office. Membership moved to Gonic Friends up the road. Board games, anyone?
- Connie Weeks. Silas’s wife and then widow.
- Chip Neal. A New Hampshire public television personality and producer with a gentle sense of wonder who has since moved under the shadow of Parkinson’s, yet still showing flashes of wonder.
- Bill Gallot. Deceased all too early and dearly missed.
- Jean Blickensderfer. Also deceased and ditto. I never would have made it through my terms in the role if it weren’t for her support, eventually recognized as assistant clerk.
- Chuck Cox. Organic farmer. It helps, especially where nurture and patience and more patience are needed. I always lean on his warm smile and twinkling eyes.
As you can see, it’s an equal-opportunity job gratefully sifted by the Nominating Committee. Tell us about similar public servants you’ve known.
Although I’ve concentrated a lot on the hippie end of the counterculture revolution, I’m not that conversant in many of its more recent manifestations.
Considering the events in my novel Nearly Canaan, when Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined, out in the desert on the other side of the mountains from Seattle, I see I need to pay attention, especially since grunge entered the scene just a little later.
Here are ten points.
- Sometimes called the Seattle Sound, grunge was a blend of punk and heavy metal revolving around the local independent record label Sub Pop and featuring a distorted electric guitar sound. (I’ll let others define both punk and metal.) And then it took off into the ’90s and mainstream.
- The lyrics are typically angst filled of a socially alienated sort. Apparently, we could do a Tendrils right there.
- Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 likely played into its demise.
- Its mundane, everyday style of clothing sharply contrasted to punk’s mohawks, leather, and chains. It also featured Doc Martens boots, wool flannel plaid shirts, and thermal underwear befitting the Pacific Northwest.
- It was seen as anti-consumerist. The less you spent, the cooler you were. Cobain’s widow Courtney Love was the embodiment of the thrift-shop philosophy.
- Males, especially, had unkempt hair.
- Espresso, beer, and heroin have been cited as its three main drugs.
- It led to a distinctive graphic design based on “lo fi” or low fidelity imagery, with intentionally murky lettering, photography, and collage enhanced by desktop publishing and digital image processing on Macintosh computers.
- The appearance of ‘zines, often of a literary sort, blossomed as an off-shoot of this. I’ve appeared as a poet in many of them, mostly photocopied and stapled.
- Some see the movement as introducing non-binary sexual awareness to the wider culture.
Can’t help thinking this sounds like hippie on a downer trip to me.
What’s your take on grunge?
The two sisters of Lazarus in the New Testament play a bigger role in the overall story than they’re usually given credit for. You often have to piece it together from the four different Gospels.
- Mary anoints Jesus with costly oil.
- In one version, she’s identified as a harlot (prostitute).
- So what does that make her sister? And why are they single rather than married? (Take that as a clue.)
- Considering her aforesaid status, as well as the expectation that women not be present alone with unrelated males, see how much scandal that element adds to her going in to listen to the guys rather than help prepare dinner. (Yes, it’s still an affront to social customs, only more.)
- Martha gets slighted for feeling a responsibility for feeding their guests, but she does openly rebuke Jesus earlier for his failure to come to the aid of his (presumably close) friend or relative. That is, don’t see her as some shy feminine type.
- Mary can’t keep a secret. She blabs, and that’s why everybody and his cousin shows up on the streets of Jerusalem for Palm Sunday a few days later.
- By the way, don’t get this Mary confused with Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. No suggestion there, despite widespread assumptions. No, the Magdalene maybe had only mental problems, as far as Scripture reports, nothing of a salacious nature.
- Although Jesus revives Lazarus from the stinky dead, the religious authorities come back and kill the girls’ brother a second time. Is this some kind of bad joke?
- Bethel, where they live, has always had a rap as a disreputable neighborhood. FYI.
- The Hymn of Kasianna, in the Eastern Orthodox Passion Week services, is no doubt the most erotic piece of Christian liturgy ever. Look for it at the end of Tuesday evening’s or Wednesday morning’s service, the only time in the year it is chanted. It voices Mary’s deep gratitude for redemption and salvation despite everything.
Now, do these considerations add or detract from your estimation of these two saints?
Southern Indiana is a distinct subregion in the American Midwest, as I touch on in my novels Daffodil Uprising and What’s Left. Defined loosely as the third of the state south of Interstate 70 or the earlier National Road, U.S. 40, it’s hillier than the farmlands to the north, which had been leveled by glaciers back in the Ice Age. Besides, it was also heavily impacted by migration from the South, especially North Carolina and its Quaker stock fleeing a slaveholding culture.
Here are a few observations.
- It gravitates toward the Ohio River and its border with Kentucky. Louisville is as influential as Indianapolis.
- Much of it is forested and hilly, with Brown County as a kind of spiritual center. Many folks there live in log cabins. The county seat, Nashville, and the state park are tourist magnets. It was also influential in the development of bluegrass music, thanks to Bill Monroe and his festival at Bean Blossom.
- The region is underlain with limestone and caves. In fact, its quarries are legendary, just look at the Empire State Building, Pentagon, and National Cathedral.
- Evansville, on the Ohio River close to both Illinois and Kentucky, is the state’s third largest metropolitan area. Its impact is largely unseen.
- Columbus is a showpiece for contemporary architecture, thanks to J. Irwin Miller and the Cummins company.
- Terre Haute, on the Wabash River, is the birthplace of radical Eugene V. Debs. It has a liberal tradition.
- Basketball great Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs and played college in Terre Haute, after moving on from IU in Bloomington. Basketball, we should note, is a religion throughout the state.
- Speaking of Bloomington. It’s the cultural and intellectual center of the state. Purdue up north prefers engineers and agricultural economists.
- It has a different dialect from the rest of the state, linguistically.
- Tornadoes are a distinct threat. On April 25, 2020, twisters killed 10 people in Bedford, 104 in Terre Haute, 48 in Mitchell, and 300 in Martinsville. Not your typical day.
Random notes in no particular order:
- A neighborhood can be a community of peace or of conflict. Either one is layered with opportunity for faith.
- Some say I approach life as a mystic.
- Silence can be overwhelming; no wonder it is widely avoided!
- Right now, it would be a job rather than service.
- I’ve preferred to ride Lone Ranger rather than fly with the team in coach.
- Great line from M.W. Jacobs’ San Fran ’60s: “It was only later amid the flashing chrome and rumble-clatter of the subway that I realized my accomplishment.” Remember, I love the underground rails and have written a novel set there.
- Visions of your lover as God, where you’re only a passing sacrifice.
- Eastport Convention. Like maybe a rock band from Maine?
- Nola, a possible character appellation.
- Presidents as first names … Grant, Clinton, Carter, Lincoln, Madison, Roosevelt etc.
Look, I never have figured out what passes for “popular” dancing, but I am grateful a few forms of folk versions have come to my rescue.
I could mention those times I’ve been moved while watching others dance, like at the Tinowit on the Yakama reservation or maybe at a ballet, but this list is places where I’ve done the steps, too.
- The Rockwells’ apple barn in Barnesville, Ohio. My introduction to contradancing, despite my initial resistance.
- Scout House, Concord, and VFW, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mecca. The latter was also known as the Rocket House, ‘cuz of its mock-up Nike missile out front.
- Town Hall, Nelson, New Hampshire. Mecca again. Plus the legendary sloped floor.
- Dublin Academy, New Hampshire, for Bob McQuillan’s CD release party. I wound up waltzing with an Amelia when I mentioned the tune we were dancing to shared her name, she said calmly, “It was written for me,” back as a toddler.
- Town Hall, Bowdoinham, Maine. Always fun and lots of kids out on a Saturday night out.
- Town Hall, Kingston, New Hampshire. Smokey of the band Old Wild Goose shucked fresh oysters at intermission one night, and I really pigged out as most folks turned up their noses, not knowing what they were missing. This was November, and the shells were fattened to perfection. There was another night somewhere when he was both the caller and musician, who knows where the rest of the band was, but everything certainly was fun.
- City Hall, Dover, and the Oyster River Band, bringing with it memories of times when they starred in Madbury and Lee and even the Kittery, Maine, Grange Hall.
- The Star Grange, Greenfield, Massachusetts. They dance wild out there in the Pioneer Valley. Plus I thought I was engaged to be married, and she was a great dancer. Whole other story.
- Our wedding, Dover, New Hampshire. The reception featured national treasures Dudley and Jackie Laufman at their best, getting even beginners moving elegantly on the old one-room schoolhouse floor.
- Greek festivals at the Hellenic Center in Dover and a big tent at St. Nicholas in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Feels great learning a new talent, even at this age.
Gee, how could I overlook the big Ralph Page Legacy Weekend at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, just a dozen or so minutes from us? Maybe because it’s always on the Martin Luther King weekend, when my schedule is pressed by other demands. This gets serious.
- Physical fitness.
- Cheerfulness. Enthusiasm.
- Confidence. Self-esteem.
Not that I’m arguing for sloth.
What virtues do you find overrated?