Sunday, March 9, 2008

Two Years On

I've been neglecting this space again.

Since everyone who reads this seems to read my livejournal as well, I'm not going to bother trying to fill in what's been going on since last I posted (I'm considering just folding this blog into my lj, but I keep telling myself I'll start posting here more, so I never actually do it). It's too long a gap to cover in one post anyway.

Today is the anniversary of Tom Fox's death. They say two years is how long you need to get over a death, but I really don't know if I'm 'over' Tom's death or not. I went over to his blog and re-read all of the kind and wonderful comments people left on his last entry. It was like watching ripples spread outward on the surface of a pond. It reminded me that the light he shined in the dark still lives on after him in the lives he touched and the young people he did so much for before he left for Iraq.

I am thankful for the things I learned from him, and for the kindness, patience, and trust he showed the Young Friends of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. He was a good man, and I'm glad that I had the chance to know him.

I don't know if that qualifies as being 'over it,' but it's probably as close as I'll ever come.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sorry about the mess...

I switched to a truncated feed because my posts over here are really long. I wanted to spare the f-lists of those of you subscribed to the lj feed. Well, either the feed or lj decided to freak out and repost a bunch of really old posts-- I'm sorry about that. This is partially a test-post to make sure it doesn't happen again. If it does, or if partial feeds are annoying people, let me know and I'll switch back to full feeds.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Independent Study Progress Post 1: The Polonaise (1770s)

My first costume for this project is a Robe a Polonaise-- a style of dress popular during the 1770s-- the 'Georgian period,' or the time of the American Revolution. Examples can be found here, here, and here.

What was going on in the Quaker World during the 1770s: Many American Quakers, especially the followers of John Woolman, were engaged in the struggle against slavery. As such, many Friends avoided slave-dependent goods such as cotton and indigo (the most common blue dye at the time). Quakers of this period built their clothes to last, believing it ostentatious to throw away perfectly good clothing when the fashions changed. They'd make high-quality garments and wear them until they wore out-- hence the myth that they were intentionally behind the fashions.

Right now, I've got my pieces up on my dress form for fit adjustments:

The Character It's Made For: My vision of the woman who would wear this dress is that she was upper middle-class, and so had access to the latest in fashion and the best in fabric. She had this dress made sometime around 1775, and chose a polonaise specifically because it would help her achieve the popular silhouette of the era without resorting to a hoop skirt or 'pocket panniers,' which she viewed as ostentatious. The rich brocade of her skirt (not pictured) speaks to her wealth, but it's the same color as her overdress-- an elegant brown that doesn't call undue attention to itself.

A Few Notes:

The Fabric: Since fit adjustments are done inside-out, you actually don't see much of the right side of the fabric. It's a slightly lighter shade of brown and not at all shiny. The fabric itself is an old ultrasuede/microfiber that's been kicking around in my closet for years. It looks and drapes like a silk or silk-blend-- exactly the kind of fabric a wealthy Quaker of the day would make her wardrobe out of.

The Shape: With all the pleats, darts, and tailoring on this dress, hanging it inside-out doesn't give a very good indication of how it will look. All of the shaping done to make the dress poof out in the back is currently making it poof in. Also, the neckline hasn't been cut yet. The white line in the pictures gives a good idea of where it will fall.

About Those Darts: I'm actually making my polonaise from an 1870s pattern-- it's a hundred years out of the time it's meant to portray. The darts and princess seams are anachronistic to the Revolutionary War period. From the example pictures linked above, you can see the conical silhouette fashionable during the 1770s period. Since my rib cage hasn't been deformed by years of corsetry and I don't have stays that will help me fake it, a 1770s polonaise would look pretty weird on me--it would bunch and wrinkle. Rather than make a completely inaccurate garment, I chose to make one that's accurate to the Victorian era--my period of specialty-- so that I can re-use it after this project is finished. In the meantime, it will be dressed up with eighteenth century touches that will help hide this underlying discrepancy.

I'll be posting more pictures as the dress progresses. I may re-use it even within the presentation, bringing it out for both the 1770s and, re-dressed, for the 1870s. I haven't worked out what other pieces I'll be making for the presentation, but I want to do at least one man's outfit as well-- possibly two, depending on time and resources. I'll be staying away from the Quaker 'quietist' period, because this project is about the ways they used their clothes in their struggles to change the world-- not how they used them to set themselves apart.

Annalee's Independent Study, explained

I'm doing an independent study this semester on the history of Quaker dress-- specifically, Quakers and Social Change: A History in Costume. Quakers of the past, much like Quakers today, shopped with their consciences, and avoided contributing to industries that committed human rights abuses, or otherwise supported practices inconsistent with Quaker principles. I'll be documenting this tendency through extant documents and photographs, and also creating examples of Quaker clothing from various periods in history. In so doing, I hope to dispel some of the 'plain dress myths' popular among modern Quakers (we all looked like puritans, we didn't wear buckles or buttons, we only wore grey or black, we intentionally stayed a decade behind the fashions of the day, etc) and to demonstrate how much modern-day Quakers have in common with the Quakers of the past.

I've started working on the costume examples already. Tomorrow I'll have progress pictures of my first one: a brown polonaise for the American Revolutionary War period. For now, I just wanted to explain what's going on so that I can refer back to this post later when posting progress pictures and other research. Don't expect much by way of citation in the costume progress posts-- I'm simply not that organized. When I'm done with the written portion of the project, I'll post chunks of it, along with the bibliography. But do watch this space for costume nerding over the coming weeks, because there will be a lot of it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prayer, Forgiveness, and Judgement

It's common practice among unprogrammed Friends in my part of the world to set aside time at the end of weekly services during which people can ask the meeting to 'hold them (or a loved one) in the light,' which is Quaker-jargon for 'pray for them.' Most of these requests are exactly the sort you would expect. They're for people who are seriously ill or going through difficult times. Occasionally they're for strangers a Friend encountered only in passing.

But recently, I've noticed a trend that rather disturbs me. Some people are using that time to simply vent about people they're upset with. They usually start by asking Friends to hold them and another person in the light, because they're engaged in a conflict. But then they go on to describe the conflict in a way that makes it painfully clear that they are not holding the other party in the light at all. The unspoken meaning behind their words is "I'm angry at this person, and I want you to join me in passing judgement on them."

I used to dismiss this sort of thing as a mild annoyance and try my best to hold the requester in the light. But the more I think about it, the more my feelings shift from annoyance to concern.

I think of the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman: "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone," he said. It's a story--one that was apparantly added to the bible sometime during the middle ages, actually-- that gives the same message that Jesus spelled out quite clearly in the Lord's Prayer when he said "Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who sin against us." It's a quid-ro-quo: to be forgiven, we must ourselves forgive.

Perhaps these Friends are struggling to do that, and it's merely not coming out in their words. Or perhaps they believe that by going through the motions of asking for prayers, they're fulfilling their religious obligations on the issue. But when they make these back-handed requests for prayers, it feels like they're asking the Meeting, through silence, to condone behavior that's directly contrary to Quaker teachings. Like they're seeking our silent approval; a group of people who will say 'well, of course you're in the right in this conflict.' And Quakerism is not a faith about 'going through the motions.' It's a faith about being accountable to the divine guidance of God.

As I labor with this issue in my own heart, I find myself struggling to discern God's will for me in this issue. I know in my heart that if I were repeatedly doing something inconsistant with my witness, I would want my faith community to bring that to my attention-- if they could do so in a spirit of love and concern and not in judgement. But is it my place to raise this concern with them? Can I do so in a spirit of love and concern, or am I myself passing unfair judgements?

These are issues I'm seeking clarity on. If this message I have for them is indeed ministry from God, then I pray for the courage to give it, and the grace to do so in a manner that is consistant with Christ's teachings of forgiveness and love. If this is nothing more than an unfounded concern of mine, I pray for the wisdom to recognize that, and the grace to let it go.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Incident of the Orangemen in the District

Northern Ireland has made an incredible amount of progress over the last few years, but they still have a handful of ongoing issues to resolve. One of those issues is parades.

There are long-running social organizations in Northern Ireland, such as the Orange Order and the Ancient order of the Hibernians, whose membership is rooted entirely in either the Protestant or the Catholic community. During Marching Season, which is set to begin fairly soon, some of these organizations participate in parades through their local communities and into large urban centres. The Orangemen are especially known for this.

The marchers insist that these parades are just a celebration and an expression of their cultural heritage. But when the march route takes them through neighborhoods where many or all of the residents belong to the other cultural tradition, it can cause tension. Certain unkind words can get exchanged. Also certain unkind bricks, bottles, and paintballs.

To prevent this sort of secterian trouble, all parades--routes, numbers, decorations, etc-- have to be cleared by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission. One of their cheif tasks is arbitrating disputes between marching organizations and neighborhood associations.

Now, as Northern Ireland gears up for another marching season, marchers and neighborhoods are at the negotiating tables again. A longstanding conflict in Drumcree is about to go to mediation, where there's a chance the various parties can come to an agreement without the Parades Commission having to arbitrate.

Would that we could be so concilatory on this side of the pond. Washington DC's annual FolkLife festival begins today, and Northern Ireland is one of the three focuses of this year's festivities. Dancers, cooks, artisans and historians from all over Ulster have been invited across the pond to share their culture and traditions with the residents and visitors of our nation's capital.

Among the visitors are representetives from the Orange Order, who are going to be running a display. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York objects. He wrote a letter to the Smithsonian (the event's sponsor) asking them to ban the Orangemen because they're 'well known for violently anti-Catholic rhetoric and actions.'

Now, I hold no illusions about the Orangemen. I'm not one of those people who holds them entirely blameless for the problems that have happened during their marches. I know they're not merely victims of big, mean, Brit-hating Nationalists who are trying to oppress their cultural expression. But neither do I believe that they're all loyalist paramilitaries in disguise who are trying to chase the Catholic population out of Ulster.

Banning them from the folklife festival would only help to enforce Irish America's preconceptions about Northern Ireland-- that the nationalists are Always Right and the unionists are Always Wrong, and that the Republic of Ireland has a manifest destiny to control the entire island.

The Smithsonian seems to be ignoring Engel's objection. Good for them. I believe they should give the Orangemen a chance to show DC what they do and why they do it. Let them engage in--gasp!--dialogue. The ocean between America and Northern Ireland has allowed a great many uninformed opinions about the Irish Question to flourish here. The militant/pro-IRA rhetoric faded somewhat in the wake of 9/11, but people so distant from the violence and strife the conflict has bred have no business romanticizing it.

If the point of the Folklife festival is education, then it's absolutely imperetive that the Orangemen, Ulster-Scots, and unionism as a whole be represented. Irish/Nationalist and Gaelic traditions are deeply rooted into Irish American culture. We stand to learn a lot more from those in Northern Ireland whose stories we don't hear than we do from those whose stories we've allowed to inform our biases.

I'm going to go to the celtic music concerts. I'm going to go watch the Gaelic Football display, stop by the Irish Language table, and watch the textiles artist embroider an Irish dance costume. But I also intend to make a point of visiting the Orange Order's display and check out the Rugby demonstration. The Smithsonian Institution is bringing this even to us for free, and I mean to take full advantage of all it has to offer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hey, Someone Left the Mic On...

I've been neglecting this space since the end of my Northern Ireland adventure; mostly because I know the vast majority of my miniscule readership picked up this feed because they wanted to hear about NI, and, well, I'm back.

But I feel like I can still make use of this space. It feels flat-out wierd to post religious thoughts of any substantce on my livejournal, and the vast majority of my lj readers aren't interested in international politics. I could see this space becoming a replacement for my 'outlook' filter on LJ-- a place to discuss my faith journey, my ongoing studies in intercommunity conflict, and how the two relate. I could use it to reflect on international news concerning Northern Ireland and other areas of interest to peace research.

I don't know how many people would actually be interested in reading that sort of thing, but I'm also not sure it matters. It seems to me that if I want to write it, there's nothing wrong with just writing it for myself. Since I vastly prefer typing to writing by hand, a blog is a very convenient way to keep things organized. And since there's nothing about what I'm planning to write that I would mind other people seeing, I see no reason not to keep it public, so that on the off chance that someone is interested, they can see it.

Perhaps that is, as one friend described blogs with little to no readership, shouting pompously into the void. But this isn't livejournal, where mutual readership is expected and people are reluctant to unsubscribe from journals they're not reading for fear of hurting someone's feelings or causing drama. If people don't want to read A Speaking Life now that I'm home from Northern Ireland, I' not going to take it personally. It's a blog with a fairly narrow focus that's not likely to draw a large number of readers.

So, to anyone who's still picking up this feed: I'm going to start using this space again. If you're interested in international conflict, peace research, and the faith journey of a Christian Quaker, you can look forward to post about exactly those subjects in the future. If you're not interested in these things, you may want to unsubscribe from the feed so it doesn't clutter up your feed reader.


ETA: Chose a new template that's less with the ugly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

On the road again.

I packed this morning, then went into my placement and said goodbye. I'm really sad to be leaving-- the weather's been beautiful, and I well and truly loved my placement. But I'm really looking forward to seeing Derry again. As Bilbo says, the road goes ever ever on. It's time for me to go on with it.

I've got one more quasi-errand to run now, and then it's off to pick up my luggage and get on the bus to L/Derry. I actually managed to fit everything into my backpack and my new bag, with the exception of one pair of shoes and one jumper/sweater; both of which I donated to a hospice shop on my way to my placement. That's a laudable accomplishment, believe me (the packing, not the donating).

The Spanish teacher I've been working with asked me when I'm coming back. "I don't know," I told her, "but hopefully soon. Maybe gradschool." It seems my gradschool search is expanding unbidden beyond the confines of Canada and the lower 48. I can't bring myself to say goodbye to this place, though. I cannot imagine not returning.

Monday, April 30, 2007

End of Term

Well, today ended my academic obligations for the semester. Everything's turned in, all classes are done with, and my last mandatory day at placement is over. I'll be going back tomorrow anyway, but I don't technically have to be there tomorrow-- I'm just going because it's awesome.

I'll be spending the next week enjoying my time here as much as possible-- chances are I'll be traveling somewhere cool next weekend just for the giggles of it-- before my return to the states.

I doubt this will be my last post about it though. I kinda want to do some kind of nifty wrap-up of the experience (as if that's even possible). I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this blog after I get home. I might integrate all of the posts into my lj archives and then just let this go defunct, but who knows? Maybe I'll find a use for it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Last class- meeting the UUP

So today we met a representetive from the Ulster Unionist Party. We were supposed to meet a Sinner (that's totally not how it's spelled, is it? I'm going to leave it that way anyway) too, but he chickened out or something and didn't show.

It was good to meet the UUP guy, though. The UUP foams at the mouth a lot less than the DUP does-- about several things, but mostly about Sinn Fein. Their approach to unionism, as today's speaker put it, is unionism with a small u-- they believe that remaining a part of the UK is the best thing for all of Northern Ireland, including its Catholic population. Unlike the DUP, they don't give the impression that they're still fighting for dominance. They know they've got a diverse population, and they want to represent the interests of all of it.

But today was our very last class-- my very last time seeing our programme director until next September. I'm leaving in less than two weeks. I wish I wasn't still up to my ears in paper rewriting (this is me on break right now) so that I could actually focus a bit on the time I have left.