October 10, 2011

Shaking It Up

So my wife and I used the last of our groupons for the year. We're fortunate that she acquired so many earlier this year because with our current financial hardships, none of this would have been possible.

A year ago for my birthday, I drove up to the North Country. I had the day off and I wanted to go up to the mountains so that's what I did. I stopped at Canterbury, New Hampshire. There's a shaker village there. Don't know what the shakers are? They're like quakers but awesomer.

I didn't know they were awesomer at the time, but as our groupon (actually I think it was NH Daily Deals), we got a reduced admission and got to take the tour (which normally costs $17 per person). So that's what we did over the weekend. We headed up to Canterbury and took the guided tour, which is one of the better guided tours I've ever been on. And it was there that we learned about the shakers.

Dude! Dood! I've never experienced Christians like these. Truly, I was moved, and I'm not even Christian! Civil equality, feminism, hard work, scientific advancement, all in the 18th century! Don't think about all that being part of a religious sect back then, do you? They invented the clothes pin, the washing machine, the circular saw, the dorothy cloak, the rotating oven, and the flat broom. And most of those were invented by women! They boiled the sheets of the sick every day, changed clothes every day, and considered all labor equal and important in the eyes of god. So while they fell into typical gender roles in terms of work, that was more a matter of upper body strength and there was no difference between working in the laundry and plowing the fields. They were all fine work to be cherished.

The method invented for drying clothes in the winter was AWESOME! And really, the method for tracking everything in a proto-socialist society (you only owned your toothbrush and your comb) was super awesome. Everything (from a spoon to your short) had a demarcation. Each building had a letter and each room/drawer/cupboard had a number. So if someone found your missing shirt under a bench, you would return to your room and find your shirt laundered and pressed and in your shirt drawer because it had D.14.7 embroidered in it which means that shirt is stored in the 7th drawer of the 14th room in the Dwelling house.

DOOD!

It's actually pretty sad that there are only three shakers left in America (in Maine). The New Hampshire village has been turned into a museum, and I'm glad it was. I would have hated to miss out on learning about these people. I will absolutely use some of this stuff somewhere in a story.

(Also, Ken Burns did a documentary on them, if you want to learn more and can't make it out to one of the villages-turned-museum.)

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