Thursday, August 29, 2002

It's already sweatshirt weather here in the Endless Mountains! Front porch sitting now requires that, since we are not ready to give up that favorite place to be. It's also great sleeping weather!

It's now dark at 6:00 a.m. My early morning activity today was disposing of our paper trash in the burn barrel. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that a scout group organizes a recycling day each month and it is practically right next to our house.

I wonder if anyone else in town has noticed that there is a horse hitch missing. There were three in town--one in front of the fire company, one next to the bulk food store, and one at the sidewalk in front of the ATM (honest!). These are used by the significant Amish community when they come to town. I don't know if the Amish actually use the ATM, but their buggies were regularly hitched there when they came to town. The sidewalk was recently replaced, and the horse hitch is not there. I can't seem to find anyone who knows how (or why) that happened--or anyone who cares.

It bothers me. I just finished reading Lies My Teacher Told Me which showed how the history we know and pay attention to is (partial, hero-ified) Euro-American history. The consequences of that to all groups (including the dominant group) are significant and heartbreaking. I have noticed that the Amish here are often the "invisible" people; that is, they are not considered to be part of the community. And sometimes they are the "other" people; that is, they are talked about disparagingly ("They don't take care of their horses" etc.). There are some ways that people openly affirm the Amish. The opening of the Amish store has been applauded, and lots of people use the store on a very regular basis. Our church has offered financial support to some Amish families when they have faced crises. However, most of the ways that Amish "come up" in conversation reminds me of the way the dominant culture generally refers stereotypically of blacks, Native Americans and welfare mothers. I have been unpleasantly surprised to discover this.

It's just a horse hitch, but something has been erased from the picture here. I'm not sure that I want to let it disappear without notice.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

My computer crashed again last week and had to go to the Gateway Country Store (again). It's still not healthy, just working. The store is 47 miles away and it takes an hour and 15 minutes on mostly windy 2-lane roads. On the way back from picking up the computer yesterday, I got a drive-through donut from the new Krispy Kreme place in Clark's Summit.

On Sunday evening, Amy & I had just finished watching a movie on TV when I got a phone call saying that there was a window open (no screens) at the Parish House, which is the church office building across the street from our house and the LeRaysville church. I thought I would just run across the street to close it. So I grabbed my keys and didn't bother to change from sweatpants and night shirt, but just threw on some flip flops and headed out across the yard. It was getting dark, but I could tell that there were several people hanging out in the rocking chairs on the porch. People from the community frequently gather there, and I couldn't tell if it was some of the local teenagers or some of the residents of the multi-family unit that is next door. So I went back in the house and changed into an actual T-shirt before going back across the street.

The "rockers" turned out to be three wonderful women from the church who were talking and laughing together out there. I ended up sitting with them for another hour or so, and it was so much fun to just sit there and laugh and talk and watch the stars come out and wave at the people driving by. The weather was perfect and so was the company. We finally realized how long we had been there when Amy came over to find out what had happened to me. Spending a Sunday evening that way was so unexpectedly WONDERFUL!

That experience is pretty typical of how lives interconnect here. No one is anonymous. When people say that "everyone is related to everyone here," it is not an exaggeration. If you count the marriage ties, at least 95% of the community is actually, literally related. In the mornings, the Parish House (where my office is located) is buzzing with people and activity. There are always voluteers from the church who answer the phone and take care of whatever needs to be taken care of there. Meanwhile, the phone rings and people show up there on a regular basis to do a project, to share a story, to drop off or pick up something or someone, to bring some cookies or something delicious, or to update the prayer list on the wipe-off board. I rarely stay sequestered back in my own office in the mornings. Even when I go back there, I always end up out in the part where the big oak table and the kitchen and the people are.

Today, the office staff was called into duty to help with a certain woodchuck problem in the neighborhood. I am not at liberty to divulge their role or the details of today's exciting installment of Operation Woodchuck Be-Gone, but let's just say that it was a success. Woodchucks, I have discovered, are incredibly destructive (dig under houses, dig up gardens, make dangerous holes in fields) and it is an understatement to say they are universally despised here. They are pretty ugly, too.

Tonight's supper is omelets (thanks to the sweet person who brought in eggs today) and some delicious turkey bacon from the Amish store across the street.