I haven’t posted in awhile. Fifteen days, to be exact.
My sister Carol thinks it’s because we’ve been playing two and three games of online Scrabble at a time, to which I reply, “Carol, if I were spending *that* much time on each of my moves, I’d be winning more, or at least losing by smaller margins.”
No, with the fall semester staring me down, I’ve been spending as much time as possible reading novels, napping, walking the dogs, crafting, and in general pretending that 8/31 simply will not happen. Where’s that famous Mayan calendar stand on the end of the world? Any chance it’s 8/30/09, around midnight?
Anyway, sitting at my computer posting a blog entry has seemed too much like work to my denial-laden brain. But I can no longer put off prepping for school — I actually cleaned my office and filed last semester’s paperwork over the weekend — and so I can also bring myself to sit still and type full sentences. I mean, I’m going to take a nap directly afterward, and then walk the dogs and, after dinner, craft my way through some mediocre television, but hey, baby steps.
So, I have a lot to share. First, the yearly meeting of Iowa Quakers (conservative).* Everyone was friendly and welcoming and Scattergood Friends School, where the meeting was held, was amazing. I got to tour the attached farm and found out the students also help with the extensive vegetable gardens, the hens, and the cows, sheep, and pigs. The animals provide most of the lawn and field mowing for the school’s land, as well as much of the meat and eggs for the cafeteria, and it’s all very environmental and nifty.
We stayed at a motel about 10 minutes from the school. We drove to Scattergood by 7 every morning and left around 10 at night, and stayed busy with meetings for most of that time, with breaks for delicious meals prepared by the school’s cook and his student helpers. Meeting attenders took turns doing kitchen chores and I put in my two shifts washing dishes. But 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. always busy and always interacting with folks — that is exhausting! During one brief break on day 4 or 5, my motel roommate found me reclining limply on a bench beneath a tree and asked if I was okay. I replied, “The Quakers broke me.”
Now, meeting for business — officially called meeting for worship for business — among unprogrammed Quakers is a funny thing when you first encounter it. Because we have no paid ministry or church officials, all business of the meeting — the budget, paying bills, making charitable donations, hearing reports, accepting new members (both individuals and monthly meetings (every “congregation” is called a monthly meeting)), reading and responding to correspondence, etc., is done by the entire membership, led by a clerk. We don’t vote, as it’s not a matter of majority rule, but rather it is the clerk’s job to determine the “sense of the meeting” and offer decisions and then write the official minute and read it back for the meeting’s approval. In between all this, moments of silent worship may be called for so we can be sure this is all being done in the Spirit.
If you’ve read this far, you can no doubt see two things: first, the clerk’s job is complicated and it takes someone with the literal patience of Job, a strong sense of organization, and, occasionally, a “velvet hammer” manner to do it (we can safely assume I will NEVER be clerk of the yearly meeting. The monthly meeting, maybe — that’s easier). Second, a two-hour session of this seems to last about four years, especially when it’s your first time and you’re sitting on benches designed by the Spanish Inquisition (we’ll get to the benches in a minute). I mean, I respect and love the unprogrammed Quaker way of doing business and after a couple of sessions I got the rhythm and I’m planning on attending next year, so you know I mean that. But in the shock of the first 2-hour session I wanted to storm the head table and say, “Oh for heaven’s sake, let me do that! We can get through this in 20 freaking minutes!” **
Fortunately, I brought yarn and sticks, and I’ll be posting the pattern for my “Scattergood wrap” as soon as I finish making one.
As for the benches, I’m pretty sure that if my monthly meeting had such achingly uncomfortable seats, I’d probably be a Mennonite or Brethren by now. Luckily, our benches have solid backs that rise straight from the seat for about 10″ and then angle slightly back to the top. Not too bad as benches go. The benches at Scattergood have a 6 or 8″ slat across the top and then nothing to the seat — your lower back is just flapping in the wind.*** I have a triple scoliosis, meaning my spine resembles San Francisco’s Lombardi street without the flowers, and by the end of day two, I could hardly walk. So I spent most of the week sitting in a padded folding chair and allowing most of the others to believe I’m just that wimpy, rather than insisting it was my bad back. I did get a couple of gentle comments — turns out there’s a sort of bench pride amongst some lifelong Quakers, akin, I think, to Catholic school graduates claiming *their* nuns were the meanest.
And so that was yearly meeting — spiritually satisfying and exhausting and relaxing in an 0utside-the-normal-flow-of-time kind of way. I give it 10 out 0f 10 boxes of oats.
*conservative in this context represents our worship and meeting for business styles, and a definitely Christian rhetoric, not our socio-political stance. If you’re wondering about our socio-political stance, I can tell you that Labor Day weekend, I’m attending a lesbian Quaker wedding.
**Which is pretty much how I feel at faculty meetings, except faculty learn early to never, ever volunteer to be in charge.
***although if your lower back actually flaps, you’ve got more serious troubles than what kind of bench your meeting uses.