Posts

Missing mass

I like to go mass each Sunday and when in Budapest, do so religiously. Even when I travel I try to find a Catholic church and do my duty. But on occasion this proves impossible. Last Sunday, the only churches for miles were Southern Baptist, save for two others that were Methodist. I could have gone to either yet neither appealed without someone alongside me to explain what was going on.

The Church tells me that on occasions such as this, I should devote some time to prayer and reflection. Have my own mass, as it were. I prefer to find a substitute – a cemetery.

Regular readers will know that I have a fondness for cemeteries and coincidentally, there are a lot of dead people in Kentucky. Take the graveyard at the Hill Grove Missionary Baptist Church where the graves are adorned with mussel shells (a practice that has since been discouraged).

IMG_4677 (800x600)

IMG_4684 (800x600)Each grave is carpeted in green felt on top of which the shells are arranged. It used to be that the graves were decorated on major holidays but now, in this particular cemetery, the adornment is year round. It’s a blaze of colour and interestingly, while many of the tombstones were old and nearly illegible, the graves were all well-tended. I would imagine that even if those interred had no living relatives in the area, someone would make sure that the grave was kept. That’s the Kentucky way. Pride in appearance is noticeable even in how manicured the front yards are and I’d imagine that stepping out of line with the weed-whacker or failing to trim those hedges would bring down the wrath of the neighbourhood. Brings a whole new meaning to keeping up with the Joneses.

IMG_4679 (800x589) (2)

Further up the roIMG_4828 (800x600)ad a little sits the Little Hope Cemetery. I had to laugh, if somewhat irreverently, at that one. Perhaps Great Hope might have been more appropriate, given that residents are facing eternal life. What struck me about this one was that it’s the first time I’ve seen tombstones so clearly label the family. Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, each one has its tag. Most peculiar.

IMG_4839 (800x600)IMG_4836 (800x600)Add this to the great age some of the residents lived to, given that life back in the 1800s wasn’t nearly as conducive to longevity. One tombstone even wrote out the specifics of the life that had been lived: 59 years, 9 mths, 29 days.

Another successful Sunday. The holy souls were prayed for; more than a few should have been released from purgatory. And my duties were discharged.

IMG_4833 (600x800)

 

 

 

 

Bonnetts, buggies, and shakers

When driving through parts of Kentucky, it’s not deer you need to keep an eye on but the Amish and their buggies. One of the Anabaptist denominations (which also includes Mennonites and Hutterites) the Amish are a breakaway group formed in 1693 by Jakob Amman, who figured that the Swiss Mennonites weren’t nearly as strict as they should be in their shunning of society.

IMG_4815 (800x600)The Amish began to emigrate to the USA in the eighteenth century and have since split into ‘new order’ and ‘old order’, the former accepting social change and technology, the latter holding fast to traditional ways. What stands them apart from Protestantism is the idea of adult baptism. Young people get to spend a year with ‘the English’ before deciding whether or not to join the Amish community through baptism. What stands them apart from American society at large is a reluctance to be forward, self-promoting, or to assert oneself in any way.Their group norms is largely at odds with the individualism that is central to American culture.

They don’t have churches but  instead rotate between families who open their homes and barns to the local congregation (generally of a house-able size of 75).They don’t play musical instruments (considered worldly and vain) but they do sing but in unison, though never in harmony.

IMG_4809 (600x800)Everyday life is governed by the Ordnung, an unwritten code of behaviour which is largely interpreted and enforced by the Bishop. It covers everything from child bearing to what they wear, from how they work to how they spend their weekends.

Not ones to sit idly by when someone breaks the rules, the Amish are known for their practice of shunning: An Amish person may be shunned for a variety of offenses, ranging from major moral offenses to using improper technology. In accordance with the teachings of Jakob Amman, an Amish person in good standing may not buy from, sell to, eat with or sleep with a shunned person, even if the person is one’s spouse or close relative.

IMG_4806 (800x600)For the Old order, The use of electricity is a no-no. It’s seen as the main connection to the outside world, a world full of temptation. They do have washing-machines and other ‘white goods’ that are run on propane, though. And one way to spot an Amish house is to find a plain house, painted in white, with a barn, and no electricity lines.

The list of rules would appear endless. Men must grow beards when they marry but should never have a mustache. All clothes are made at home, with no zippers. The women never cut their hair and jewelry of any kind is forbidden. There’s little problem taking photos of how they live but they don’t like photos being taken of themselves, believing that photos are graven images and thus violate the second commandment. On this note, their dolls are traditionally faceless. Set apart from the rest of the country, the Amish don’t vote or serve in the military. They don’t have social security or other types of insurance. And any sports they play are for enjoyment – competitive spirits should be kept at bay. An interesting way of life.

IMG_4861 (800x600)But not nearly as interesting perhaps as the Shakers. We went to see the Shaker museum at South Union and I am still reeling a little at what those lads got up to… or didn’t, as the case may be.

Known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, referred to as the shakers because of their ecstatic dancing,  they were celibate: they did not marry or bear children so one has to wonder who they lasted for 200 years and are still going today (one small community left in Maine). In something reminiscent of Jesus calling on his disciples to leave all their worldly goods and follow him, the Shakers left it all behind – family, property, and money –  to join ‘holy families‘  where men and women lived as brother and sister, where all property was held in common, and where each participated in the rigorous daily task of transforming the earth into heaven.

IMG_4863 (800x600)Founded by an illiterate English factory worker named Ann Lee, Mother Lee send eight pilgrims to America in 1774 to spread her gospel in the New World.  Her followers believed her to be the second coming of Christ. In 1787, coinciding with the signing of the American Constitution, Shaker women were officially bestowed with equal rights. Before the emancipation of the South, the Shakers freed their slaves and bought others out.  Their inventions are still in use today: the clothespin and the circular saw…. and they were, apparently, the first to put seeds into printed paper packets to sell! Way ahead of their time,the New Hampshire Shakers had rigged up electricity in their village while the state capital building was still burning gas.

Amazing what you learn when you visit Kentucky.

2013 Grateful 29

Thursday, after an unexpected stopover in Washington DC, I called a mate in Ireland in an attempt to track down another mate in DC. I found both. The conversation was simple. ‘Hi, it’s Mary. Am in DC. Need to cadge a couch for two.’ The reply was simpler. ‘Sure. Here’s the address.’ That it had been five years since we’d last hooked up was irrelevant. That it had been more than a year since we’d spoken didn’t matter. It was as if it had been yesterday and we were simply picking up from where we’d left off. That night I met some of NQ’s mates, he met mine, and new friendships were forged.

Fast forward a few hours and we’re in Kentucky enjoying the hospitality of another mate whom I’ve not seen since 2001. We’re in pretty regular e-mail contact so inviting myself to stay wasn’t an issue. When the airports contrived to keep us away, RB said that he’d wondered whether the universe was trying to tell us to stick to e-mail or whether it was deliberately creating a difficult path to paradise. Suffice to say that we’ve arrived – in paradise. Tired, cranky, but otherwise unscathed.

IMG_4662 (800x600)RB’s house sits on 32 acres and overlooks Nolin Lake in Kentucky. He designed it himself, under the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, and has unpacked his bottom drawer to great effect. The place is stunning. More than 300 square metres of light, air, views and a fantastic array of Alaskana are replete with the good taste, style, and elegance that so epitomise the man himself.

IMG_4664 (600x800)With columns painted to look like marble, and floors that actually are, the place is a work of love and attention to detail that encapsulates a lifetime of memories. It’s one of the most comfortable spaces I’ve ever been in and were it not for the slow Internet connection and the fact that opinionated women don’t do well in Kentucky, I’d move in tomorrow 🙂

There are houses and there are homes. There is interior design that looks like it has been designed and then there’s that wonderful piecing together of single items that just connect, each one working towards creating a feeling of togetherness. A little like life, methinks, and the variety of friendships that make up a circle of friends and reflect a life well lived.

IMG_4667 (596x800)The place is a joy of discovery, a veritable treasure hunt of perspective and taste. My favourite? The powder room. I can see a whole new use for statues now. I could even get attached to the bears.

IMG_4670 (800x592)Our homes reflect so much of who we are and what we like; how we live, and how we have lived. Opening them to others to enjoy, too, is a pleasure I know well. I never give much thought to how friends abroad might live until I get there. I never try to imagine what their places look like until I arrive. And then, it somehow all seems to fit. No two are ever the same. They might share elements that reflect a common past – in my case, both RB and I share Alaska and our respective collections reflects our length of residence. We both have a fondness for chobi carpets, too. And we even have a thing about hall space and galleries. But his space is very much his, as mine is very much mine.

IMG_4669 (800x591)This week was often difficult, trying, and downright annoying. It had ups and downs that were poles apart and the ensuing highs and lows kept the adrenaline running. As it draws to a close and I finally get to sip a mint julep on a rocker on the porch overlooking an expanse of water, in the company of good friends, I am truly grateful for the friendships I have made in my travels; for those people who have come into my life for whatever reason … and stayed. I am truly blessed.

IMG_4736 (800x600)

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52