I couldn’t get the money together to get my old Dodge truck repaired. I couldn’t afford to fly. So like a good Plain woman, I took the bus and the train. The bus to Bangor wasn’t running from Canada, due to a driver’s strike. Our friend Michael drove me to Bangor, which meant leaving about 2 am, since the bus for Boston leaves at 5 am. I had not crossed the frontier in four years, and we were both a little concerned about that. But it wasn’t a problem. A short car-side interview, off down I-95, stopped for coffee at the last Tim Horton’s I’ll see in a while. (Tim Horton’s is a Canadian owned coffee shop chain.)

Mostly, the bus had students on board, It was quiet. Despite having no sleep the night before, I couldn’t sleep.

People talked to me in the bus stations. They were curious. Plain dressed people often travel by bus, sometimes by bus charter, but rarely in New England. Amish do not fly. Many Old order (Plain) Mennonites do not fly. Poor people like me don’t fly. I had dreaded flying anyway – not the flight part, but the airport part. I am covered in so many layers of clothes – besides the basic undies, there may well be bloomers, slips, petticoats, shifts, stockings, dresses, aprons, shawls, prayer kapp and bonnet.Things are pinned. I would have had to replace all pins with snaps, all hairpins with clips. And then there is the removal of shoes. And bonnets. And shawls and aprons. Possibly, I would be singled out for extra attention, including removal of prayer kapp, which is a terrible embarrassment. I am naked without my headcovering.

I got asked if I was Quaker (yes) and if I was Amish or Mennonite (no). I got asked to pray for people. Yes, I will. The best part was when a young woman hustling for “donations” with a box of stale candy started on her pitch, then sat down beside me, looked me in the face, smiled and said, “Hello, beautiful.”


Jane Eyre, 2011


Plainly Goth

Hammershoi, ca. 1900

I am not quite sure why I identify as goth, as well as Plain. Back in uni, I was much more punk, less goth, although the black wardrobe was extensive.

I have a gothic turn of mind. Although I am actively, and entirely, Christian in outlook, theology and (I hope) behavior, I am attracted to the shadows. It’s not that I seek evil, or find it fascinating, as some think of goths. It is that I want to see the whole picture, the contrast, and find the strength of the darkness. We Christians believe God is everywhere. We use analogies of light to personify His brightness and strength, the warmth of creation, the illumination into our lives, that He gives us in grace. But don’t think that He doesn’t care about the creatures of the night – the bats, wolves, luna moths – that He also made.

A common misconception is that goths are Satanists, or attracted to evil. This may be true of some – I can’t speak for the entire and diverse goth community. My analysis of being goth is that we draw some of our energy from the shadows, from what is quiet, deep, and largely forgotten. We are the id to the ego. We are the quiet ones who move through the day, obviously different, the strength that comes out of dreams and forgotten memories. I think that is why goths are attracted to expressions of dress from centuries past.

Most of the goths I know/have known are artists, writers and musicians. I wonder how many clergy I’ve known were secretly or perhaps subconsciously goth.

Beloved Reverend Mother

When I left the North – the ground was brown. There were still icy barriers of snow. And as I traveled south, things got greener. I traveled relatively slowly, like a good Plain woman, by bus and train. Buds, then leaves, then flowers. Dandelions gone to seed. And as I went west by Amtrak, and farther south, into the land where chicken fried steak is accompanied by country gravy, and jello is a side dish, the landscape became lush. Corn was pointing heavenward out of the fields.

I was out of famiilar territory, past the granite croppings of New England granite and maple trees unfurling little buntings of pale green.

Iowa is a robust place. It is full of robust people, enthusiastically driving and shopping and working.

There were adventures on the way for the black-bonneted goth-gone-Plain woman on a mission.