The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. I’ve often felt like a bride, or perhaps a wedding planner, but with about a dozen weddings to organize instead of just one! I’ve been to five states and talked to more than 700 people, signing more than 330 books along the way. Thrilling! The best part about being on a book tour is re-connecting with people and places one has loved across a lifetime.
Today’s guest turns out, serendipitously, to be one of those people. And her places mirror many of my own.
The winner of the 100 Day Challenge was Mary Lou Weaver Houser, who submitted the winning entry #413 as selected by my mother using a random number generator online on September 19, Launch Day.
Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World launched at Lititz Mennonite Church. Mary Lou was able to attend. Thus the photo above.
And now, here is Mary Lou, in her own words in answer to some questions.
Q: Describe yourself. In relation to place, stage in life, passions, etc.
One word might describe my past 69 years: hospitality—to this amazing planet, to the stranger, to bio-diversity, and to the creativity of my own inner and outer landscape.
As I meet regularly with spiritual direction clients of various faith traditions, I watch, up-close, the evolving of a new way of being. We are learning an intimate sort of hospitality that helps us to be gracious with ourselves, others, and the world with deepening regard and mutuality.
Since marriage in 1965, it has been the privilege of our family to share intentional living on an ancestral homestead in Lancaster County with more than one hundred others at Herrbrook Farm. For 23 of those years, hundreds of people have retreated to our rustic cottage there . . . opening me to the convivial hospitality described by Daniel Homan: a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion either to turn away or to turn inward and disconnect from others.
From the Farm to the City:
After 47 years on the farm, our dream of retiring in Lancaster City near our church where walkability and another form of intentional community are possible is now a reality. With an open door, alley potlucks and porch parties build relationships and provide multiple ways of engaging. And creating a community native-plant garden for urban bio-diversity at the Wolf Museum of Music and Art around the corner from our house is surprising me with another form of hospitality.
2. What prompted you to enter the 100 Day Challenge?
As one who relishes story and a sense of place, I have been enjoying Shirley’s passionate pursuit of her family’s collective memories. During the recent years, we have compared our personal quests in the memoir-writing process and our intense feeling for historical landscape.
Creating my own “Bone of my Bone” art series , which came eight years after the publication of my family history, A Weaver’s Source Book, took me to a much deeper place of understanding family and church systems. These bamboo and mixed-media assemblages, as a three-part memoir, integrate my ancestral story with the spirituality of living/dying.
3. What was your New Beginning?
What does one do with all those archival files of invaluable information? The boxes came along with me into the city to await a time when I could thoughtfully determine their destiny. I needed to clear out the past before I could make way for what is to come. The day I had the courage to tackle those felt like a “new beginning.” So I entered Shirley’s 100 Day challenge and charted my New Beginning.
5. Tell us about your own Home Place?
My art-making story-images rise from Collegeville (PA) hayfields by the Rittenhouse Creek, from hard benches holding squirming children of every hue at First Mennonite Mission in Norristown, from lively classrooms at Christopher Dock High School and Eastern Mennonite University, to the past 48 years spent in the bosom of Lancaster Mennonite settlements where Rod and I have shared sacred ancestral acreage at Herrbrook Farm, a place of hospitality and healing.
This geography truly is my Home Place. When I am connected to the earth-based spirituality of my Anabaptist gardening foremothers, my art-making simply is, as Teilhard de Chardin describes it, the “boiling up of life.”
6. What have you done/do you plan to do with your prizes?
Shirley’s generous gifts will be savored for a long time! Although Rod and I shared the Bird-in-Hand shoofly pie with guests immediately after the Blush launch, the canned goods, Herald Press books, and overnight-stay in the Hershey homestead (now Forgotten Seasons Bed & Breakfast) will provide future delight. Each of these has its own particular association with my childhood.
Thank you, Shirley!
What questions do you have for Mary Lou? What is your Home Place like? It doesn’t have to be a farm. I’d love to hear how you relate to your own memories of home.