Category Archives: Hard-Core Quaker

Nighttime Drama: A Winged Quaker Home Invasion??

We had been thinking that our cat, Her Excellency Katherine (informally “Kitty”), was slowing down in her work of capture and bringing in prey. She has snagged mice, rats, voles, various birds, and even baby snakes.

Many of these captives have escaped alive, partly because Kitty is a good hunter but a clumsy killer, and often due to the skilled intervention by the Fair Wendy. She has become increasingly expert at steering the creatures out an open door, or snaring them in a red colander, clapping a cloth over it and taking them outside. The maneuvers are perhaps inelegant, but effective. I’ve even snatched up a few wriggling black snake hatchlings & tossed them into the garden.

Monday night though, Kitty burst in with something very much alive, quite eager to resist, bird-sized and winged. As it flapped above and around us, Kitty chased it through the kitchen & living room, and we two-legged residents sprang into action.

Perched on a coat, it was 3-4 inches long, as big as some birds.

Wendy grabbed her magic colander, and I followed, camera in hand.  When the prey landed on a coat hanging on a rack, I got a clear shot: it was a large moth, mostly gray.

Gray and determined. Soon it was back outside, leaving Kitty to wonder how another of the snacks she hoped to parade for us and maybe share, had somehow eluded her grasp. But as she calmed down, my attention turned to identifying the moth, the first such creature she had presented.

The Fair yet dauntless Wendy, magic colander in hand, prepares to make her moth-saving move.

Google helped, as did sites such as preserving-butterflies.org; and Moths of North Carolina. Their photos and taxonomies soon brought both similarity and a plain surprise:

Hello — meet the Quaker Moths.

No, I’m not making this up; and I had no earthly idea. In England, they’re mostly called Common Quakers, which I admit, frankly rubbed me the wrong way. But those are found mainly across the pond. In North America, more, er, common is the Distinct Quaker moth.  Indeed. Here is a list of the Quaker moths confirmed as sighted just in our own Durham County (there are 99 more, counties that is, in North Carolina).

Hmm. Gray Quaker moth? Intractable Quaker moth? If they were reincarnated upright with two legs, I’d say I distinctly recall being   on committees with them, or at least their karmic namesakes.

Was the moth that Kitty brought in one of those?

I’m not entirely sure. Bordered Gothics are another suspect, but they’re evidently not found in the USA.

If any reader is a moth aficionado and can help nail down this ID, we’d be grateful.

Personally, among non-bird flying things, I’m partial to butterflies; moths have often had a spectral, otherworldly aspect. But even with all the flowers in our now wild yard, butterflies have been very scarce this summer. And this particular visitation wasn’t expected by either us, or for that matter, the moth.

Similar, but “Not from ‘round here.”

If I were a fantasy writer, I’d now be spinning a plot about Quakers being snared by some shapeshifter wizard and turned into oversized moths, then conscripted into a bizarre crusade against the Border Gothics, which will turn out badly for all (a sort of Lepidopteral Game of furry Thrones), unless they can be rescued and returned to their normal form as flitting committee-goers.

Hmmmm. Needs some work. But it’s hardly less weird than what the cat dragged in.

Quaker Humor, Allegedly

 

Come to the Sunny Side

Daniel Trotter was a weighty Friend of his day, who often observed solemnly that “There is nothing but trouble this side of the grave.” 

One day at a Friend’s funeral, he stood to speak by the freshly dug mound, just as a curious sailor poked his head into the Quaker burial ground to see what was going on. Trotter was gazing down into the pit and said, characteristically, “There is nothing but trouble this side of the grave.”

“Well in that case,” called the sailor helpfully, “come on over to this side, there’s no trouble over here.”

Putting A President In His Place

The story goes that Herbert Hoover could be rather gruff in manner when he felt irritated.  At one private White House dinner he became piqued when one of his guests, a Quaker minister, responded to his request for a blessing by praying in a very low tone.

The exasperated president finally interrupted the prayer with a curt, “Louder, Fred–I can’t hear!”

Without looking up, the minister paused, then said, distinctly: “Herbert Hoover, I was not talking to thee.”

Preaching the Word

Our British correspondent Ben Vincent recalls an incident from his youth, in the early years of the last century. In his meeting it was then customary, when a Friend was exercised in vocal prayer, for the rest of the congregation to rise.

One First Day morning, a family coachman came in after meeting had started, sat down unnoticed on the back bench, and soon fell asleep. While dozing he began to slide off the bench, finally slipping right off and onto his knees with a bump, whereupon he was heard to exclaim, “Oh, Christ!”

At this, the entire meeting stood up.

Fortunately, the coachman was a well-versed Anglican, and after gathering his wits about him, he proceeded to recite one of the Collects from the Book of Common Prayer. His message impressed most Friends greatly, as they had never heard it before.

Pass the Seasoning

Upper Creek Monthly Meeting was once visited by a new young elder from Philadelphia.  The visitor preached eloquently at First Day worship–so eloquently that Lucretia, Upper Creek’s senior minister, suspected him of being infatuated with city notions and affectations, and in need of seasoning.

Her suspicions deepened when she heard the young elder declaiming after meeting to some of the male elders.

“Friends,” he asserted, “the truly wise are always in doubt. Only the foolish are sure of their case.”

Lucretia spoke up quietly. “Is thee sure of that?”

The young elder did not hesitate. “Yes,” he answered. “Absolutely.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Lucretia murmured.

—- From the collection, Quakers Are Funny, by Chuck Fager

 

 

The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

In 1848 Quaker farmer Jonathan Roberts moved his family south from New Jersey to a new farm in northern VA in 1848. He arrived with high hopes and even higher ideals.

The new spread adjoined George Washington’s Mt. Vernon plantation, already a historic site for the still-young nation. Yet with its distinguished lineage, the property brought its characteristic issues: the fields had been exploited to grow tobacco, which brought quick profits but depleted the soil; and the white owners had been corrupted by maintaining themselves and their culture on a system of enslaved labor and chronic indebtedness.

The more scarred the land became and the deeper in debt many planters sank, the more belligerent they had become in their system’s defense, threatening rebellion and war if it were at all disturbed or upset.

By acquiring land among them, Roberts intended to change all that: renew the soil and make it sustainably profitable; do so entirely with free labor; thereby they would show the slaveowners a way out of debt and the thrall of their brutal human commerce. This would undermine and banish the slavery system, not overnight, but by invincible example and thus without falling prey to the scourge of war. Continue reading The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

God Save Us from the Supreme Court Theocrats!

NOTE: Kennedy v. Bremerton is the short name for this case, but it would be better dubbed the “Blow Another Big Hole In the Freedom from Religion & the First Amendment!” Case.

As the respected SCOTUS blog noted,

Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district, took a different view. She called the decision “the greatest loss of religious freedom in our country in generations” and she warned that Kennedy’s supporters would “try to expand this dangerous precedent – further undermining everyone’s right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose.”

In a stinging dissent, justice Sotomayor wrote (and showed) that the bulldozer majority had “misconstrue[d]” — more plainly, falsified & lied about — the facts” of the case, depicting Kennedy’s prayers as “private and quiet” when the prayers had actually caused “severe disruption to school events.”

I’m not an atheist; in fact I’ll be attending worship in a couple of hours, in a very small, but doughty, minority sect (aka Quakers) and may well even pray there. Our group had to struggle & suffer to gain religious freedom, for ourselves and others, and that experience remains unforgotten. So whatever is columnist Pamela Paul’s faith or unfaith, (her private business), I nod in gratitude as she spotlights some of the many ominous implications of this precedent, especially for those associated with minority faiths, or the steadily growing population of “Nones.” Added up, to paraphrase a stanza from The Music Man,  they spell

Trouble with a Capital T,

And that rhymes with P

And that stands for

Pushing private prayer on a progressively more p*ssed off public.

New York Times For This Supreme Court, Justice Isn’t Blind. Faith Is.

Opinion Columnist

Imagine your boss fervently proclaiming his religious beliefs at the end of a companywide meeting, inviting everyone on the team who shares those beliefs to join in. You’re surrounded by colleagues and other higher-ups. Everyone is watching to see who participates and who holds back, knowing that whatever each of you does could make or break your job and even your career, whether you share his convictions or not. But hey, totally up to you!

That’s what Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant coach in Kitsap County, Wash., did with his team — only he did it with public-school students at a high-school football game. When the superintendent made clear that by actively inviting players to join him at the 50-yard line for postgame Christian prayers, he was violating school policy and, by the way, the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, Kennedy took to the media, turning a small town’s school sporting event into a three-ring circus and ugly social media sideshow, with students effectively forced to perform or suffer the consequences.

Naming the single worst decision of the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2021-22 term is a tough call. But the one that best captures the majority’s brazen efforts to inflict its political and religious agenda on the rest of the country may well be Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which ruled that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the field. Overturning precedent and in a cynical elision of fact, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, affirmed Kennedy’s assertion that his proselytizing on government property during a public-school function was “private,” “personal” and “quiet.”

It was nothing of the kind. In easily observable fact, Kennedy’s religious display was public, vocal and coercive, as demonstrated by testimony from football players and other community members and by video and photographs of the coach surrounded by crowds of people on bent knee. According to an amicus brief filed by one of Kennedy’s football players and seven other members of the community on behalf of the school district, participation in Kennedy’s prayers was “expected.” Students were explicitly encouraged by him to ask the other teams’ coaches and players to join in, something Kennedy himself boasted about.

Another Holiday Story: Playing the Lottery

Playing the Lottery

Winter 1969, Boston. I was driving a cab at night, while attending Harvard Divinity School. I had run through some scholarship and loan money, and needed cash. But I also thought it would be a good experience for a wannabe writer.

When I turned my cab onto St. James Street downtown and saw the kid in front of the Greyhound Bus depot signaling for a taxi, I knew my time had come.

It was nighttime in Boston, the winter of 1969. Cold. Icy. I was a Harvard graduate student with a pregnant wife. We needed money, and the cab companies always needed drivers. The cabs were junk heaps, the pay was lousy, the darkened city was a jungle. But the jobs were there, and so was I. And so, at that moment, was the kid, turning up the collar of a thin jacket against the bitter wind.

It was only about two-thirds of a block from the corner to the bus station, but in the few seconds it took to drive that distance, I went through a whole internal dialogue, something like this:

Go ahead, pick him up.

I don’t want to. Continue reading Another Holiday Story: Playing the Lottery