Nomad in Pants; alone, lost, and feeling awkward

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was asking how I pronounced something. She has been hanging out with some folks from Michigan. I told that while she may think my mid-western accent is still strong, it has had time to adapt. I have been back and forth between home and the east coast for nine years. It was one of those revelations that makes you reflect on your life, where it is and where it has been.

I am in a graduate program where I am at least four years older than the majority of my cohort. It makes me feel old sometimes. It makes me feel like I have seen many more snapshots of the world than they have. It makes me think about how nomadic I have been in the 9 years since I first left the shores of Lake Superior.

My friend and I also discussed fast-food employees that day. She was surprised to learn that my first job had been at Hardee's. She has been working retail all through college and graduate school, in addition to a research assistantship. But I am amused when people who meet me through professional settings are shocked to learn some of the jobs I had over the years. A person has to earn a living, you have to humble yourself to the mighty dollar. So inevitably you take jobs that sacrifice some dignity, that is, people will treat as though you are less than they are. There is a contempt and rudeness people show for fast-food employees and other minimum wage jobs that you don't get if you are percieved as being educated or on your way to middle class status. Even in my last retail job I was able to retain the feeling of being a person with dignity that I often did not get while I worked fast-food. Of course, my boss at the last job treated most of the customers with a bit of contempt to it was easier to realize I didn't need to take shit from people.

That was a bit of a side-bar to what I really started out to say. I recently was in a store where a song was playing it sounded sorta country, but I really don't pay much attention to popular music, so god knows what it was. But the jist of it was that you could always go home; there is always a place for you at home. How I wish that were true. After college I tried. I wanted to go home. I have family obligations that would be so much easier to keep an eye on if I were close by. Life didn't work out that way. I can't live in my hometown. It's leathal for me. I tried to move to a larger city in my home state, but that didn't work either. And now I am on the east coast too far away from my family. I am happy here; I think I could have a good life here.

I was listening to music while at work today (I have a professional type job these days, but sometimes you have to work on the weekend anyway) and I heard "Girl, from the North Country" by my main man Bob Dylan. And it was hard to realize that that won't be me. I always identified with it in a way, but I am not her. In this version of an odessy, I am a nomad in pants taking a road that I don't know where it will lead me. I am alone, lost, and feeling awkward.


Why Elizabeth Bathurst?

1) She wrote so well that there was speculation she was actually a man writing under a pseudonym. I aspire to write well enough to inspire gender confusion.

2) She was weak and sickly and didn't let that interfere with her ministry. I am sickly myself.

3) Despite all our self-congradulating talk about women's equality, there weren't/aren't that many female Quaker theologians. I'm a girl who thinks theology is important. Also, female role models.

4) Because I'm so not posting my real name on the internets.

Elizabeth Bathurst


I left my heart in Pistoia; the nunnery Part I

I have joked for years about how one of my callings on this earth is to found the first order of Quaker nuns. When I was younger and more bitter about my celibacy, I used to refer to it as the "nonery" and call us "nones." Because I am clever.

There are many reason's why I would consider starting a Quaker order of nuns, rather than just biting the bullet (for some militaristic imagery) and becoming a Catholic. First, converting is a pain. Second, I like being Quaker and while there are aspects of the Catholic church that I respect a great deal...there are other aspects that don't jive with my world-view. Thirdly, there is the whole debate (internal mostly) about marrying god and giving up worldly things, like sex.

See I have always prefered to qualify my celibacy by saying it is forced and not self-imposed. There is a little part of me that wonders if there are people placed on this earth who are not ment for carnal love affairs but are here to give themselves (w)hol(el)y to the divine to serve as vesels and instruments of god's love. But then there is a part of me who truly does not believe that god would ask us to give up sex. It is something that can be a religious exerience that is shared with another; it isn't meant to be frivolious or cheep or impersonal, it is meant to be mystical.

So what would my Quaker order of nuns be like? Is is realistic or just my bitterness at a life of celibacy? I know I am cappable of living an intentional and devoted life. But am I capable of living that life and knowing passion with another?


True God from true God

Due to family obligations, I recently found myself in a Catholic church for mass on a Saturday afternoon. Amid the mental gymnastics of trying to remember what to do and say when and deciding how to balance being respectful without being hypocritical, I found myself touched by the celebration of the Pentecost.
The Pentecost story is from chapter 2 of Acts, where the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and a bunch of other people in a gust of wind. Then there are flames that look like tongues on people's foreheads and whenever someone talks, everyone else hears it in their own language. Kind of like a backwards Tower of Babel.
I grew up aware of Pentecostal churches. I knew that the speaking in tongues, which is mocked in some circles as being among the more ridiculous of christian practices, was based on a bible story and that it was supposed to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It's a denomination that always struck me as theoretically experiential.
In theory, the catholic church is the same way. The bread and wine aren't symbolic of blood and flesh, they are actually transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. I know very few Catholics who actually believe this, but that's beside the point.
I'm not convinced that everyone who speaks in tongues is actually being moved by the Spirit to do so every time any more than I believe that transubstantiation happens during every mass. I'm not about to say it never happens. I'm definitely not going to say it can't. I believe that the Holy Spirit is capable of creating events which appear irrational or impossible.  
The priest had some lovely things to say during his homily about experiencing the Holy Spirit. He then clarified that we all knew what he was talking about because we'd all been baptised, confirmed and taken communion in the Church. Well, not quite.
Maybe the only reason I have experienced the Holy Spirit is that I was baptised with water as a baby and fed some leftover Host as a toddler. But I happen to believe that the movings of the Holy Spirit in me and my life have more to do with His plans than anything that my mother and/or a couple of priests did before I was old enough to remember or understand. Whatever the reason, whatever the means, I am grateful for the presence of the Spirit in my life and for reflections of my experience in the experiences of others.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Where I have been...ruminations on the tower of Babel

I could start this by being all self-pitying and self-centered and say that my recent travels have been a metaphor for my life--lost and alone. But then someone would say "yea, whatever, she is in Tuscany. I do not feel bad for her."

Italian is a language many people say they want to learn but it seems that few follow up on this. I wonder why? It is a beautiful language made to express strong emotions. I think that there are important lessons to be learned from the Italian way of life. They are not one of the economic powerhouses of Europe and part of that is because they still cling to the way life has been for centuries. This is evident in the beauty and sofistication of the crumbling villas; the way the sun refects off the young buds that will become olives; the roosters crowing all day long; the dogs that run free; the the italians arguing politics over a shot of expresso. In some ways I truly appreciate the way life has been preserved here, the way the olive trees and grape vines are the backbone of life. I am even more appreciative of this after my trips to Florence and Siena where I see Americans being ugly, rufusing to attempt to learn even the simplest Italian phrases or refusing to accept cultural differences. It pains me to make my colleagues and co-workers talk in English; I can understand a lot of Italian if it is slow but my ability to talk is almost non-existent. I feel the pain of coming from a country so proud it trandscends arrogance to something above and beyond expression.

The kindness that has been shown to me is amazing. I wish that somehow Italians could export that mind-set and way of living life to American we would be better for it. I feel a bit like Scarlett O"hara, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Or however that quote is supposed to go.