Archive for May 5th, 2013


Yeah, I thought the title would get your attention.

Unfortunately, my thighs aren’t quivering with lust or because they’re having a good time.   Same thing with my ankles and feet.  Happily my abs and arms aren’t too bad, which means they’re in good shape.

See, this morning (Sunday) I went to a rec center and took my first barre class.  I thought I’d do fine.  After all, I stay in pretty good Layla shape and when I was young I had ten years of ballet, so I know my way around a barre.

This was so not like my ballet classes.

Oh, I could do the exercises.  They were pretty much  a combination of ballet, pilates, and Callanetics.  But before now I never had to do certain movements FIVE HUNDRED TIMES!

I’m not really kidding.  Each movement was done over and over and over, and just when you think you’re done and you’re sweating like a fiend, the evil instructor calls out, “Last twenty times!”

TWENTY MORE?  ARE YOU NUTS?  MY LEGS ARE ALREADY LIKE VIBRATING JELLO!

At least I made it through the class, and I vow to keep up these exercises on my own until my legs and behind are like iron and I’m ready to take another barre class.  Maybe I’ll even go to those classes kinda regularly.  Masochist that I am.

Now for a completely different topic:

As some of you know, in The Compass Master I give an historical account of how two ancient epistles are kept hidden and safe by different people over the centuries.  At one point in the 16th century the protectors  include the pivotal character Sister Roswitha, who was not a nun but a deaconess and canoness in Germany.

“This meant she lived in a community of women that was not a convent and did  not have strict rules, where women took no vows of chastity and might be widows or could leave to marry or stay to work as teachers.”

Well, I thought that such female-only communities faded away centuries ago.  I was wrong.  This last week The Economist had an obituary of Marcella Pattyn, “the world’s last Beguine,” which pretty much means a canoness.

As The Economist explains, these veiled women lived in Beguinages, communities of hundreds or even thousands that sprang up spontaneously in the Low Countries from the early 13th century and on.  They led lives of prayer and service but could leave when they wanted, made their own rules, and lived without male guidance.  They were “encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade.”  They lived in a “state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men.”

And — damn it! — the Beguines were often persecuted by their own Catholic clergy, then by Protestants who almost destroyed them, and their property was confiscated in the French Revolution.  Somehow, they survived.  But now Sister Marcella has died, “And then there were none.”

A sad passing to a fascinating way of life.

So when you’ve done your own writing and researching, have you uncovered facts that surprised you?  Come across an intriguing  mystery?  I’d love to hear about it.