Personal note from Jesse Quinn Harker to Benjamina Bayless


Happy birthday, belated once again.  A late gift is like celebrating all over again!  The book was featured on NPR and sounds like an accurate description of the photog’s life.  Tell me how it is and we can figure out where she was wrong.




Personal Notes of Mina Bayless

A desert faith is not a compromising one.  The land is hard, makes the people harder & leads them to tolerate less in the name of their God.  I think that’s why you never fit in.  But for a while there, you tried.

Sunday school was segregated by gender.  Women gathered in the rear meeting rooms while the men were allowed to meet in the chapel.  There was one time while the older women were preparing the class, the sound of men singing suddenly rang through the walls.  The song was old; I can’t remember the title but it was the one about Idumea.  (I was obsessed with that word for so long, that’s how I remember.)

The women all sat quietly while the men (you among them) sang three verses.  Afterward, in the silence, one of the sisters felt moved to say that the overheard song was proof “we women were so loved.”  That memory makes me angry now because I can’t shake her & ask her what she meant.  The song was not meant for us but for God.  You didn’t sing it at our request.  Was eavesdropping on someone’s worship a secondhand gift?  Some sort of weird benefit of proximity?  “Hear them.  They don’t sing like that during service, but listen now.  We are so loved,” she said.

I remember at the time trying to pick out your voice, wondering if you knew I was in the next room listening.  Were you thinking about me as you gave your work to someone else?