Someday soon, I will indubitably walk into a lovely local establishment and when asked for my name, say “Josh Yoder, that’s Y-o-d-e-r,” only to be met with a funny look. “Oops,” I will surely say to myself, “I am in Goshen now.”
At home in Tucson, Ariz., a city of approximately one million, I grew up attending the only Mennonite church (population: 40-90, with the higher numbers representing winters when people visit us to escape the cold elsewhere.) Needless to say, in the vast and diverse social reality that is Tucson, I was in a minority and I often did spell out my last name. I also learned and practiced a basic stump speech to explain myself to my peers, consisting of the following points:
No matter how much you want to think I’m Amish, I’m not.
No, my personal ancestors did not take over the city of Munster and run around in said city naked; our story has more to it than what you learned about Anabaptists in your European History class.
I don’t drive because of a personal choice, not because my religion prohibits it.
Now that I am finally living and studying here in the “city on the go” (thank you, Goshen Chamber of Commerce), it is a relief to know that I need not worry about describing my background to everyone I meet. My attentions, understandably, have shifted to nobler academic pursuits: most importantly, how to comprehend and conquer this cruel thing called winter, that apparently lies just around the corner. Frankly, it felt like winter to me the first time it hit 50 in the evening. I have been graciously informed by many of you thoughtful, caring types that winter will be “beyond my most terrible imagination,” although not in those exact words.
Nevertheless, I am learning to appreciate the dramatic change of landscape that the seasons create here. Biking down 8th Street, the crunch of dry maple leaves under my tires is a sensory delight. A foray down the Pumpkinvine trail proves rejuvenating when I sit for a few minutes in silence, letting the leaves swirl down around me. Nature has preserved its words for me, but writes in a different language. So if you see me collecting leaves, or scanning the sky when a flock of honking geese passes overhead, I hope you’ll understand my quirky fascinations. You might have the same reaction at your first sight of a Saguaro.