Pastorale

Her name is Sarah.  She is an Amish woman who looks somewhere between the ages of 40 and 50.  She is somewhat overweight, but not extremely so.  She is wearing a dark purple dress under a white apron.  Her head is covered with a kerchief rather than one of the starched white coverings one would expect.  It is informal, “at home” wear, not at all standard for a situation in which she is meeting with someone who is not Amish.  Under the kerchief is a bundle of hair that would easily reach her waist if it were not carefully bound up with an undiscernible number of pins.

Sarah is presumably played by someone with a name other than Sarah, but I do not recognize her.  I wonder if she really is an Amish woman, as opposed to someone playing an Amish woman.

I’m played by Gellar (another Sarah, but that’s not my name here).

Sarah and I are sitting on the front porch of an austere but comfortable-looking farmhouse.  We occupy matching wooden rocking chairs.  I look to the Northeast, and can see grazing sheep in the distance.  Sarah is knitting.

“Are you married, Sarah?”

She nods matter-of-factly.  “Yes, I am.  My husband’s name is Amos.”

“You have children, then?”

“Eight.  Three boys and five girls.  But I had my two oldest girls with my first husband, John.  He died.”  She stops knitting for a moment and looks out at the sheep.  “Our buggy was hit by a drunk driver.  I was hardly scratched, but he died.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It was very sad, but God is in charge.  Amos is a very good man.”

I consider clearing my throat, then realize that this has become something of a trope, like the closing of eyes.  “I hope you’ll excuse me for being blunt.  I assume, since you are Amish, that you represent us as specifically Anabaptist?”

Sarah resumes knitting.  “So far as I know, that’s right.”

“Why Amish?  Why not a Mennonite?”

She looks at me directly for the first time.  “I think it’s because I am more of a challenge this way.”  She looks back down at her knitting.  “I hate to think that I would be seen as threatening to anyone, but it seems like that may be the point.”

I nod and think for a while.  “And you are not a drone.”

“No, I am really one of us.”

“That you have not been here before is…  I guess it’s a bit surprising when I think about it.”  It occurs to me that I’m avoiding her eyes by looking at the yarn in the basket beside her chair.

“All of us are always here, you know.  But attention is so oppressively finite.  Since the blog began, the concentration on Bible Guy/Bruce has kept some of us hiding behind you.”  She looks up at me again.  “…some of us who you might think of as ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ aspects, or maybe ‘theological.’  None of those words will do, but neither will any others.”  She speaks with a recognizably “Pennsylvania Dutch” accent, which to me underscores the strangeness of the words to which she is referring.

I look out at the sheep again, and rise from my chair.  “Do conversations always have to be while sitting?  Can we move?  Nietzsche wrote something about thoughts reached while walking.”

Sarah gently places her knitting needles atop the basket, and brushes off her lap as she stands.  “We can walk if you’d like.  But the movement called writing has more to do with reaching the thoughts that arise here.”

“I would like to see those sheep at closer range.”

“They will still be sheep.”  She apparently means this seriously, but she leads me down the steps from the porch, and across the yard toward the barn and the field beyond.  She stops and turns suddenly.  “You left Bruce’s Bible on the porch.  Did you mean to do that?”

I look back and see it lying in my chair.  “I didn’t remember that I had it.  Yeah, it’s OK if we leave it there.”

She is looking at me with concern.  “Only if you are sure.”

I hesitate another moment, but begin to walk again.  “I’m sure.  As you said, all of us are always here.”

She walks beside me, and we say nothing more as we pass the corner of the barn and start along the fence that will lead us to where the sheep are grazing.

About halfway there, she speaks again.  “If Bruce were here, the presence of his Bible would serve to emphasize that I do not carry one.”

I have to smile at that.  “You frame that hypothetically, as if it does not have this impact for me.  But of course, that is why Bruce loaned it to me.”

We walk in silence for a while before I go on.

“That point would not require this scenario.  It would be the same if you were Roman Catholic, no?”

She thinks about that a bit, and then nods.  “I supposed that’s true.  Either way, the concern is about where the authority is besides the text and its reader, narrowly conceived.”  I shake my head.  She notices and responds.  “You find it funny that I use the particular words I do, with my accent.  Yet you know better than most others that being Amish does not entail the sort of ‘noble savage’ ignorance that is often expected.”

I can only nod and continue walking.  At length, we reach a corner of the fence that is closest to a large cluster of the grazing sheep.

“We are here, and they are still sheep.”  She glances back toward the farmhouse.   “I gather we must watch them for a while now, because the blogger is realizing that she has not properly accompanied us yet.  It has taken her longer to consider your Nietzsche reference, and we need to let her catch up.”

“We still refer to the blogger as ‘she’?”

“Apparently so.  I’m not sure whether it matters.  The one who is neither man nor woman will presumably address such things eventually.”

We watch the sheep, who seem not to care about any of this.

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