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Amtrekking

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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.”

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Jane Eyre, 2011

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About Julie

Bishop of the church and religious order ICCO in The YOKE, based in Iowa City. Former Anglican parish priest, shepherd for ten years, artist, and writer.

4 responses to “Amtrekking

  1. Nikki ⋅

    I love your “matter-of-fact” way of writing – mind you, it IS also how you speak. You manage to put a perfect image in my mind, layer by layer, whether it be sheep herding or clothing. God Bless, Sister!

  2. Anna Moranz ⋅

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but what you wrote about all the layers (“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.”) piqued my interest.

    I’m wondering, is the wearing of such large amounts of clothing a “plain” – ie, simplicity – thing, or is it more of a self expression – ie, “art” – thing ?

    • magdalenaperks ⋅

      The goal to be achieved isn’t some simplified way of dressing, or it would be all jeans and t-shirts. It is a hedge against the world, a modesty against vanity. Certainly for some of my goth friends, particularly the girls who choose lolita style dressing, it is an art, and self-expression. Long skirts require underskirts to hang properly; many blouses and dress bodices are too-form fitting for modesty. Aprons, shawls and petticoats are the monastery wall.

      It takes me mere minutes to dress, since I know exactly what I am going to wear.

  3. Margaret

    Yes, best not to fly dressed as you are, I think they like putting religious women through the body scanner. It happens regularly to some Orthodox nuns I know and last time I went through JFK in a grey-blue shirt over a black dress with a headscarf (to the ignorant eye I might have been a nun or I might have been Plain) I was too. I found it very distressing, mostly because I suspected they were doing it to ‘get at’ Christ.

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