I first got involved with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) back around 2004. Sometime in the following year, I made plans to spend a weekend at Powell House, the Quaker retreat center in upstate New York, between Albany and Massachusetts. I mentioned my plans to Andy, a member of my meeting. He said, “You’ll like it. Say hi to Liseli.”
That stopped me in my tracks. I don’t think I had heard that name in something like 35 years. I had briefly been friends with a girl named Liseli when I was about 14, and – goddamit! – she had been a Quaker!
My parents had been friends with a couple who were Quakers, and they invited our family to celebrate New Years at the meetinghouse, the same way Friends celebrate anything; potluck dinner and silent worship. I doubt if the prospect truly interested my parents, but we went anyway. That’s where I met Liseli. She was about my age, round-faced with long, straight, honey-blonde hair, brightly colored, flowing clothes, an incandescent smile, ready laugh, and spontaneity that was almost scary – she ran through the snow barefoot. I was charmed, but my brother was slain. We saw Liseli a few times after that, but as she lived several towns away, and we weren’t part of the meeting, we drifted apart.
Of course it was the same Liseli, now working at Powell House. I was looking for her the evening I arrived, and it wasn’t long before I found a round-faced woman with long, straight white hair and an incandescent smile. I was still charmed. (I met Liseli’s partner, Buffy, that same evening, and, unaware of their relationship, added her to my circle of friends.)
I have always looked forward to seeing Liseli and Buffy when I have gone to Powell House or gatherings of Friends.
Now Andy – remember Andy who asked me to say hi to Liseli? – is sick and in need of help. A large group of his friends are coming together this weekend to make his house accessible and livable for someone with increasing disability. Liseli and Buffy are coming down from upstate to help and to play a key organizing role. They will be guests in my home for the weekend, and my wife will finally meet them.
There is something so delicious in the ways people come together.