Synchronicity, and a persistent unexpected patron

Hi there, internauts; it’s been a while.  It’s full on summer now where I live, replete with the requisite heat waves, wildfires, power outages and the usual diluvian catastrophes.

Not all is chaos, though.  I mentioned a few posts back that the boy and I moved to a new place on Halloween night, and we’re settling into our home quite nicely, enjoying getting to know it some more with each new season.  We have a lovely, sprawling container garden taking over the back yard with squash, cucumbers, melons, beans, peas, radishes, potatoes, umpteen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, wonderberries, gooseberries, broccoli, greens, and as many herbs as I could comfortably fit into a giant round raised bed in the front.  The boy’s application of biodynamic agricultural techniques and square foot/companion planting plus organic compost tea have resulted in a surprisingly productive first attempt at urban farming.  Farm your yards!

The 2012 shift is shaking up plans and lives right and left.  Six of my closest group of eight friends are quitting their jobs and moving, with three returning to school for new fields of study, myself included.  Throughout the thrillingly disruptive process of breaking out of my cocoon for a new form, though, I’ve been surprised to notice a certain recurring element, and am taking comfort in the idea that this synchronicity is a sign that I am moving in the right direction.  This post is dedicated to that figure.

If any of you listen to the tremendous podcast Standing Stone and Garden Gate, you may have heard Brendan’s segment on the philosopher Hypatia back in 2010.  I had heard of Hypatia previously, but Brendan’s thoughtful and thorough exploration renewed my interest, and I found myself thinking more and more of this renowned mathematician as a sort of personal ideal and historical role model.  Her death, in my mind, made of her a martyr for the values of universal access to intellectual pursuits and freedom from the confinements of socially imposed gender roles.  Her position as the last librarian of the great library at Alexandria spoke to my devotion to the preservation and fostering of knowledge, and my undying love for ancient Egypt.

While reading about Hypatia, I started looking more closely at her relationship to the supposedly contemporary Christian Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a reputed student at that same great library, a formidable opponent in theological debate, patron figure for philosophers and libraries, and martyr from her desire to remain an unwed scholar.  The parallels between them, and the only much later appearance of stories of Catherine point to her being a Christian adoption/appropriation of Hypatia’s story.  Even the terrible wheel, the instrument of torture designed for Catherine personally by her persecutor, in descriptions eerily resembles the astrolabe created by Hypatia as an instrument for precisely measuring the movement of the stars and planets.

The more I learned, it was beginning to feel as though each detail of their lives was written as a personal appeal to my interests.  Catherine was enormously popular during the middle ages in France, particularly as she was one of two saints who  appeared to the young Joan of Arc, and at whose shrine Joan found her sword (be still my heart).  Even at Catherine’s execution, milk instead of blood flowed out of her wound.  (More on my ties to milk in a later post, perhaps.)  I started to suspect I was being deliberately led on when I looked at images of the traditional rings given to pilgrims at her shrine on Mount Sinai and saw that they are inscribed with my initials and that of the boy, surrounded by a heart.

All this led me here.  One night, the boy and I on impulse agreed to attend a late dinner out with some friends, although out of my usual custom for a weekday evening.  At this dinner, I was seated next to an acquaintance who randomly asked if we knew anyone looking for a place to live.  His parents owned a duplex on the other side of town, and they were looking to move someone in within the month.

The boy and I out of curiosity looked over the pictures on his phone, and found ourselves looking at what suddenly felt like “our home.”  We had been casually talking about moving for a while, but had not started looking in earnest.  We were no longer under a lease.  The landlords wanted someone who would be interested in gardening – we wanted a space to garden.  The house was blocks from the boy’s studio, and closer to our jobs.

The only hitch was that I had been planning to apply to a graduate program out of state for that next year, and the owners were looking for long term residents.  We had to make a decision that night.

I went straight home, and made one last effort to see if there might be a suitable program locally, but my hopes were not high.  I knew of only one in the entire state, and it did have the accreditation I insisted on.  But!  I discovered much to my surprise that the local program had earned the accreditation only months before, and I would never have thought to look again if it weren’t for this sudden opportunity.

What next?  We paid the deposit.  We discovered more and more things to love about this place.  We left on good terms with our former landlords.  I applied for the nearby program.

I picked up a book I had forgotten about, found again while unpacking from our move.  I had purchased it on a whim years and years ago, simply because the description on the back was alluringly unintelligible.  It had been shuffled unread onto donate piles time and again, but always held back at the last.  I got caught up in the story instantly.  I found myself cackling a bit with delighted disbelief when, several chapters in, the narration inexplicably launched into a several-page digression about the life of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

The next morning I received my acceptance letter to the library and information science program at the University of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Where does that leave us?  In 17 days, I will be quitting the job I have held for six years that has no relation to my interests.  I will be escaping the cubicle to pursue my love of learning, and my love of helping others to learn.  I will be paying homage to Hypatia and Saint Catherine, who guided me here with expert and persistent ways.  And I will continue to stumble across the clues I didn’t know I was searching for on this ridiculous coincidence scavenger hunt that is my life.

Welcome to the next chapter, a digression on the lives of Hypatia and St. Catherine and this budding new librarian under their patronage.


P.S. While at a medieval studies conference this spring, shortly after I received my acceptance letter, I came across a new translation of the Life of St. Catherine.  More on that conference and a book review soon, I expect.  *g*