While posed in the conventional style of early 20th-century photographs, the picture reveals a great deal about Shaker life.
First, although they belonged to a religious community, Shakers were permitted time for personal reflection and study. The very nature of their faith dictated the need for quiet introspection. The creative wellspring of solitude transformed mechanics like Elder Delmer into painters and farmers like Brother Stephen Gowen (1868-1932) into poets.
Br. Stephen sent the following to Sister Mildred Barker:
Live for those who love you,
For those whose hearts are true,
For the heaven that smiles above you,
And the good that you can do.
Second, the contents of Elder Delmer's desk indicate that much time was also spent attending to business. As the number of Brothers at Sabbathday Lake decreased, the burdens of operating the farm and mill fell increasingly to Elder Delmer.
Undoubtedly, a portion of each day was spent at this very desk recording daily events in diaries, which he faithfully kept until a few weeks before his death in 1961.
Original photo taken in Elder Delmer's room, Dwelling House, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village.
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