The Keys to the City

I was walking with Juan down into the valley of La Paz. Not really walking, my feet sideways picked nimbly between stones and holes. It was a valley, with the descent so steep in this city 10,000 feet above the sea that I was breathless. Nevertheless I was happy to hike instead of drive cramped in a mini-van with 12 passengers. This Friday the city was awake. La Paz with a million people, was clear of fumes and noisy engines. Bus unions all over Bolivia had called a transportation strike on Feb. 25th. Una huelga firme. A total strike. Schools were closed. The streets were a river of people getting to work. Juan and I edged down the curving roads to the Quaker Education (BQE) office. I wasn't about to stay grounded at home, because I hoped to see Pablo at the office. Juan and I both enjoy our work with copy-of-bolivia-feb-090Friends. The air buzzed with novelty. The cost of living was climbing and the bus fare of 1 boliviano (15 cents) too low. The unions were asking to raise the fare from 15 to 25 cents. The unions made a strong chess move today. How would Bolivians resolve this major problem? People seemed riled up and resolute. I was excited. As a Quaker I was impressed to see people using economic pressure, not military might, to voice their dissent. Bolivians felt empowered and were acting on it.

Juan lives in Villa Harmonia and it takes 25 minutes by bus, and 45minutes by foot. Juan is BQE's business manager with dark eyes behind boxy glasses. Juan exudes the Bolivian delight in conversation. I soaked in every word while pouring out my best Spanish. We chatted about his house (many houses near his street are built on dangerous precipices; the torrential rains (the summer even had several hailstorms); the new Education Law (adding the teaching of native tongues and diversity); the closing of 2 Quaker schools (some of BQE scholarships students spoke with determination to reopen Emma Camaday school). There was so much to understand how a nonindustrial country raises the bar in its schools.

We reached a circular plaza near Plaza Comacho. Juan suddenly pointed out a crowd of men, mostly in dark pants, standing in the street. Two vans flanked them on one side. "There's one of the large unions." Juan explained. I watched a large man in a jean jacket pull off his belt. The shouts were pitched higher, "Si, si se puede. Adelante." Why are they yelling go ahead? What was the crowd was urging? Then the crack of a belt smacking the back of pant legs. "The busdrivers who got caught transporting today are being punished for busting the strike." I was confused and remembered how Quakers always travel in pairs. Well, I needed Juan now. I understood that the beating was shaming the busdriver and was more symbolic than painful. Still I was unnerved by the primitive public flogging. Juan's presence was assuring, "That's not the way the church changes behavior." I saw that we shared a lot. As Quakers we don't hit miscreants. In working at BQE we share the value of reaching agreement, or persuading someone to change. Quakers keep their belts on.

Juan expertly guided me through the bridges and plazas of La Paz. We reached Plaza Eguino, just 2 blocks from our BQE office. Juan smiled as I sucked in the misty air.
"I know where I am. There's the statue of our patron. She looks like Athena." I said in staccato Spanish. Eguino loomed 30 feet over the vendors, tourists, and children.
Juan looked me in the eye. "She's not Athena. Vicenta deEguino was a real heroine of LaPaz, who fought for Bolivia's liberation from Spain. Her weapon was her elocution. She did fight, and even used her living room to store ammunition back in the 1800s. When captains sank in retreat, this lady rode on her horse and spoke in the native tongue, Aymara to the people. Eguino animated peasants to lay down their despair and keep fighting for their rights. She sacrificed her class privilege, enduring many hardships with the rank and file. When Bolivar, flush with victory, entered laPaz she greeted him at the gates. No words were necessary as she lifted higher than a sword the keys to the city. She handed them over to the Liberator with a flourish and the jingle of keys was heard over the crowd." copy-of-plaza-117
Juan gave a nod to the statue of Equino as he steered me around a woman selling avocados on the road. There was no fear in the streets as people bargained; some children played with dolls; teens sold DVDs (only $2 and pirated).

I met with Pablo in one room while Juan opened his laptop in the adjacent room. Pablo studies at the university agronomy and business. He wants to combine selling healthy foods while helping the Quaker youth. He doesn't want his career to intrude on mentoring his younger brothers from the rural area of Sorata. Juan leaned into our room. He grinned and added, "Pablo, just don't let your brothers become bus drivers."
"Yea. They might get hurt."

I told Pablo about witnessing the whipping of busdrivers. Pablo's response was insightful. "How do we encourage change? Managers need to understand why a busdriver would ignore the strike." Pablo, like many Quakers saw the whole picture. Universities also have angry students who can't pay tuition.

Juan explains that one student last year only had 80 cents spending money a day. He could eat a meal at the cafe (no McDonalds in Bolivia) with enough money to return home, or he could pay for a notebook. He put his studies first. To save money he ended up walking hours home on an empty stomach. This year he was accepted for a BQE scholarship and is studying engineering. BQE students don't even know the word lazy. Now he doesn't have to choose. He can eat and buy school supplies. I could see why Juan was proud of working for the Quaker scholarship program. Juan works hard so 20 year old Quakers can emerge from poverty. This poverty has haunted the Aymaras since the Spanish conquest. Pablo has a dream including meaningful work and helping his generation.

As we closed that day, I sent bouquets of thanks to our Creator. I sighed imagining the steep hike before getting any supper. Suddenly in the air I seemed to hear the stamping foot of a horse. was it the altitude or did my heart flutter? I saw the lady, our patron Equino as a beacon here at BQE. Juan heaved shoulderpack under his arm. Equino like Juan and Pablo threw all their weight into the struggle. We stepped onto Illampu Street and the cacophony of evening sounds greeted us. And I distinctively heard the jingle of city keys.

Does Isaiah's prophecy include Paying for War?

safia2010webOver 7,000 people camped at the SOA watch at Ft Benning in November. 7,000 people trying to create a new social agenda. 7,000 people who are responsible patriots wanting to do their part. 7,000 people of all ages and backgrounds, Colombian mothers; drop-out artists; Rastafarian SEIU workers; college age engineers and 80 year old radical nuns. 7,000 people and 6,000 of them are willing to pay war taxes. How do we persuade them that the 3 billion dollars that we willing give to the Pentagon to spend for weapons and war making is optional? How do we increase the level of risk in the peace movement? How can all these people dedicate hundreds of hours to peacemaking every month and then pay $300 dollars a month into the federal budget military items? Don't they know that NcNamara said, Let them protest as much as they want, as long as they pay their taxes." I know drastic changes will come to us in 2011. How can we prepare ourselves? Can we listen to a new way?


Will someday split you open,

Even if your life is now a cage,

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,

Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain

You hold the title to.

Love will surely bust you wide open

Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy.

Even if your mind is now

A spoiled mule.

A life-giving radiance will come,

The Friend's gratuity will come-

O look again within yourself,

For I know you were once the elegant host

To all the marvels in creation.

From a sacred crevice in your body

A bow rises each night

And shoots your soul into God.

By the Sufi, Hafiz  1300s

Most of my friends know that global warming is here; our lifestyle is pummeling the earth with lots of sewage. Many of us would like to change if we knew it would help. A Quaker told me, "We don't mind changing, we just don't want to be changed." In other words we all see change as part of the plan, but could we just change a little please? And is there any way I could be in charge of the type of change?

inflationadjusteddefensespe1Defense Spending 1962-2015 (inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars)
This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons, pensions to military retirees and families, interest on debt incurred in past wars, or financing of foreign arms sales. Neither does it include defense spending in the Department of Homeland Security, or counter-terrorism spending by the FBI.

I'm not convinced that refusing to pay for war is the best strategy. I like paying for WIC, housing and subways. I like federal initiatives for alternative energy. But I won't pay for a federal budget at this point. Our country is already in financial vicissitudes, so how can we rebuild it? I don't pay taxes but I give money to good causes. You do pay taxes and want your money to go for peace. We aren't far apart. I will stay part of society but I cross the fence and refuse to join that which is more destructive than constructive. Now with 2011 and human-caused natural disasters, I ask: what way can we radically work for peace and refused to participate in war? MLK asked us to conquer "the giant triplets or racism, materialism and militarism" to pursue the path to justice.

Total Federal Funds 2009: $2,650 billion
MILITARY: 54% and $1,449 billion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1,210 billion


Current military" includes Dept. of Defense ($653 billion), the military portion from other departments ($150 billion), an additional $162 billion "Past military" represents veterans' benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.

Is it Open Sky or Empty Nest?

Aunt Sue sees the Light
Aunt Sue sees the Light

Raising children is so much a fabric of our society, but nobody knows how to do it. Now that my sons are in college what have I learned? After 22 years total of raising kids, it becomes 2nd nature to check to see whether everyone’s tucked in beds at night and whether textbooks (ahem, I mean laptops) are ready for school. Parenting not only grows on you, the children as hulking adolescents make me grow. When the kids skiddle off to college or to practice yoga in Mumbai, is the empty nest a syndrome inevitable? Of course saying goodbye causes some sadness. Is it the lonely nest or  the open sky? Am I bereft or liberated?

So physically the children are gone and don’t need care. How best can parents navigate the new canopy without having kids on the brain? There’s so many subtle changes. It’s the ways you have to shift how much food to buy; how many trips to the soccer field, how many violin recitals to make way for. But it’s more insipid than that. The empty next is a psychological state. It’s not buying the food, but the jolt to our memory that we need eggs or cereal and it’s urgent. Then I realize the kids aren’t there for 7 am breakfast. I didn’t forget to pick them up at the shopping mall. So we slowly turn off the panic button to reestablish calm. Sometimes I’ve woken from a deep sleep past midnight to ask whether E. came home only to remember he’s living in Pennsylvania. I often realize that I have let my desires and skills atrophy. Guinea hens need practice to explore outside their territory. This mother hen needs to let go of her pecking. Where the wing spuds are it’s a chance to grow strong eagle wings.

Certainly I fell into some habits in the name of childrearing that I now have to reevaluate. For 20 years I wouldn’t leave the home without thinking about an emergency stash of food. I had Cheerios when they were toddlers and later energy bars. I was so thankful for plastic. Plastic bags are handy for more than scooping Dog poop. Also trash bags, hand wipes. Plastic cups didn’t shatter on the ground. I succumbed a bit to the fast foods, but after one Chuckie cheese party, I’d had enough hi cholesterol cheese. I moved from having a cardboard book available to asking the teens did they remember everything. I was the freshman when I first got to college who lost their dorm key 3 times a semester. Now I’m the harpy who asks, Did you remember a waterbottle, your cellphone? Did you forget your driver’s license? I can recite a litany of the 7 most probable items to forget before going to camp.


What else changes? A new baby is an instant alarm clock. Except the alarm goes off every 2 hours at night. Many night I only got 6 hours of sleep and usually interrupted. Isn’t that part of the Abu Garib torture strategy? I get delirious when sleep deprived and can’t remember what happened 3 hours ago. Our family was generous in sharing germs. I forget who had the sniffles last night, often kids are incubators for passing infections. Do I remember the last time I drank? I was too busy doing laundry and taking the kids out to the park. I’m sure that I peed that afternoon, but it was quick and dirty

. I poured everyone some juice but didn’t have time to drink mine.

Mostly there’s a reorientation of your brain when you are raising children. Really. The hard wiring is changed. It’s connection. You learn with each peanut butter cracker about love. You learn forgiveness. Yielding. A strength you never knew you had.

Oh, love Truth and its testimony, whether its witness be to you or against you. Love it, that into my Mother’s home you all may come, and into the chamber of Her that conceived me, where you may embrace and be embraced…Love is god’s name; Love is god’s nature, Love is god’s life.

Sarah Blackborow 1681

We Will Not Export Killing

So we aren’t such a just society. My childhood dreams have been drained to a trickle. I remember singing with gusto at 9 years old,

You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag

and forever in peace may you wave.

You’re the emblem of, the land we love,

The home of the free and the brave.

Our country is a militaristic society bent on destruction. Oil drills flatten wildlife in our bays; road kills deer and teens play with Uzis.The richest Americans evade taxes. Morals seem the least concern.

But I am determined to find a just path. I am American, I am a humanist and I will ask for a world justice from the US which will make my country proud. It’s an oxymoron but it’s true. If we citizens support justice for all citizens we will be prouder Americans. I’m also a Quaker listening to a deeper Voice as to how Friends live in justice. So I was excited to share the SOA Watch on Nov 21 with 7,000 people at the gates of Fort Benning, GA. I am on a quest this year learning how to build community where sisters/brothers have justice in the center.

I went with Mary Reagan, a former Maryknoll worker in Brazil who now educates people in Somerville around housing rights. The two of us joined several others in the movement to stop war by not paying for war. Most of you know that I’ve been a war tax resister for 25 years. I went to either find out how war tax resistance (WTR) can be more acceptable or how to find another way to stop feeding the demon of endless war. At Fort Benning were bushels of convinced peaceniks but only a few resist war taxes. Why?

It was the gathering of the religious and leftist community. It was a great people to be gathered’ (as Jorge Fox said); it was musicians and artists changing the world; it was collectives and college students. It was inspired because 30 years ago Maryknoll sisters were murdered in El Salvador (by those trained at SOA). Father Roy Bourgeois, a founder of SOA Watch came out this year in favor of women priests, which the Pope didn’t swallow well. And many Latinos were taking leadership, because the SOA is training assassins to work in Latin America. It was all day Friday and Saturday with a culminating prayer procession on Sunday. Some people were arrested, some were interested in WTR, many clusters of groups sang music or braided hair. College students came from all over the mid-west. Workshops on nonviolence were everywhere.

I learned in 2 hours that the left, talking about immigration it twists us and gets us to think of illegal people. Instead of immigration, I ask this community to discuss Migration. Because everyone of us through our lives or our parents’ lives has a migration. We need to tell our white, middle-class stories of migrating from college back home or of our grandmother’s migration from country to city. If we just talk over and over about Mexicans migration across the border, then we think of it as tragedy or hardship, add their story to the hardship in our own lives. I migrated to Chad for 2 years to teach English with Peace Corps. I learned of lots of groups collaborating with Central Americans like FOR, WRL, CPT, AFSC, and Emma’s Revolution.

Our time ended with a beautiful solemn dance on Sunday at 10 am. In the prayer procession, led by veterans in uniform, people held up thousands of crosses; 10 coffins were carried by pallbearers, all with names of Columbians, Guatemalans, etc. of all ages. We walked in a huge circle while names and ages were sung from loud speakers. It was a call and response. After each name was offered in song we in the prayer sang back, Presente! Then after 2 hours we put the crosses on the military’s fence with other messages. I was, being a tender heart, in tears.

So why go to the SOA Watch? The Watch is not another anti-war rally. It is the ultimate. It states that the war machine is wrong. It also has more leadership from Latinos than most Justice with Peace events. In 2000 there was 17,000-20,000 attending and thousands of arrests. The Southern Command, responsible for insuring US national interests from Mexico to Chili. More than thrusting our dominance through NAFTA/CAFTA is also the US teaching the military elite in other countries different ways to kill. They train Guatemalans, Columbians, etc. on how to most effectively subdue a people, usurp cooperative government styles and cause military takeovers. They teach coup d’états-- they are responsible for the recent ousting of Zelayain Honduras in 2009. Two military generals Vasquez and Suarez were trained at the SOA.; SOA acolytes are directly responsible for assassinating S. Allende and V. Jara in Chili; and of many others.

In 2001 the SOA reconnoitered and by act of congress became the WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Security) and has trained 60,000 Latinos a year. President Correa in Ecuador, October 2010 had an attempt on his life and the military branch had some connections with the SOA training. Why an attempt to depose this leftist leaning Correa? One clue is that in 2009 he successfully closed of a US air base in 2009. The Ecuadoran government is fully recuperating our sovereignty over the Manta base," said the Ecuador government.

So we place ourselves at Fort Benning where we stand for helping our neighbors. It’s more than just a shout-out bashing the military. It was listening to stories of the victims. We want to offer art, music and cooperation. We are standing against the SOA. OK, truth is that the annual weekend is an anti-war event. However it is religious, lots of music around creating a just world, art and puppets make pageantry, and the solemn procession or the memorial service. It’s high energy, based in Spirit of Truth, and has a Latino element spread throughout.

It was a combination of Spiritual practice, Latin culture and political will. The different groups were colleges, art collectives doing Alterna Ts, huge murals, large number of religious groups like Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Mercy, Maryknolls, Catholic Worker movement. Lots of trade groups with Salvador painted boxes, and Guatemalan colorful crafts. So 26 people got arrested in the streets. They broke the city code, and were released from bail with a stiff price. This is the first time the SOA organizers had offered a coordinated way to make a statement about the SOA and put their lives on the line to break a civil code, not the federal laws. So many got arrested blocking the street leading to the base.

It was a memory that recommits me to work this entire year to stop injustice. Con el poder de dios. Aleluja!

To learn


Prisoners Practicing Peace Part I

mp9004389201I go into prison several times a year to offer nonviolent strategies. The Alternative to Violence program (AVP) is a successful program with a simple concept. If you practice self-respect and treat others as if you expect their best behaviors, you can live without forcing your way on others. If you examine how to act respectfully in tough situations, then you can cultivate nonviolence skills in your own life. If you believe a power to transform violence exists, then you practice ways to make it happen. Have you seen the fury of a nor 'easterner pummel the rocky NE coast? Then the next day see how the land swept by storm illuminates emerald meadows? Violence shifts to nonviolence all the time.

I wonder why would a person shoot a close friend? I wonder how tempers fly off the handle? Why would I slap my 2 year old for spilling mango juice? Have you ever seen the like? Furious actions and words cause damage. Why do we shut our doors on the homeless person who comes looking for money? Why do we fail students who read in Arabic or Spanish and can't read English? Is the system at fault or the individual who doesn't fit?

Providing shelter, food and language is part of our humanity and us building a land of peace. In the US, land of the free, health, jobs and education is plummeting to an all-time low. I'm trying to live humanly, so I sprout a few tender shoots in prison. Starting with prisoners seems like starting with those who are losers. But they are eager to learn because of the serious mistakes they made. "My first crime was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. We were selling drugs. I didn't shoot anyone. Now, 20 years later , I've been here four times. I don't know why I keep coming back."

Any of us who have let anger, punishment and revenge rule our minds need this workshop. Anyone who wants to voice more understanding than put downs. I take some responsibility for a world of woe. I live often by disregarding others, and not lifting up others.

Before I went into Concord prison last Friday, I had a play date with a friend, , Kali is adopted and now 7 years old. She has bright eyes framed in trim black braids. I tell her not to snap a rubber band at me and a scowl dances on her forehead. She walks with me from the bus and we talk about nature's amazing ways. I show her where Monarch butterflies lay their eggs. Wind showers red leaves around us.

water-drops1"If you catch a falling leaf, your wish comes true." Kali tells me. She and I run foolishly around the parking lot, darting and twisting to catch a leaf. We come close, my hand bats at the yellow leaf, but it slips away. I watch for cars. Kali laughs. As nimble as she is, Kali couldn't snatch the leaf. Another golden leaf returns to the earth. I decide to count my blessings and let the leaves tumble at will.

Prisoners are people first, their crimes are such a tiny part of their lives. In prison the guys live in a cell block. On their unit they describe their criminal exploits and how they survived on the streets. Many were inducted into committing crimes as young teens, many sold drugs or made some quick cash because that was the best way to stay alive. Rarely do they talk about the sadness and loss in their lives. Anger and dominant behaviors get lauded and reinforced. I meet guys in super maximum prison who have tattoo tears on their cheeks. Each teardrop signifies someone that they killed. The indigo tear is a tragedy and a badge.

Doing a workshop on Nonviolence with convicted felons is difficult and ultimately rewarding. It's like walking in the woods with moonlight to guide you. You have to adjust your pupils and irises to see. All 7 senses are needed. It's personally challenging; it's absorbing; it's funny (I can end up in stitches); it exposes hypocrisies; it's touching as bullies show their softside. A 24-year old guy told me, "I've been locked up off and on for 12 years since I was eleven years old. I just what to grow up. All that I ever learned is in prison."

In prison there's a code. The following is what inmates tell me:

"Live with honor. Die with dignity."

"Don't be a slave from cradle to the grave."

"Anger with no outlet is a slop bucket."

"Are you sure you want to cut in front of me? Don't be too quick. Because I'll take you down. Then I'll go in the Hole' (solitary) and you'll go to the hospital."

"Don't snitch." The code of conduct is not outlandish.

The inmates see how unbending punishment squeezes them on the inside. Part of no snitching builds a shield between the men and their enforcers, "Don't see, don't tell, don't stand out." They unite together. This passivity among inmates not getting involved in any way with their enforcers is reinforced. "Shhh. Don't tell mama or we'll all get a whipping. It's hard to keep your dignity if you decide to hide the truth from those who have power over you.

The AVP workshop has genuineness and opportunity to admit our weaknesses. After the AVP workshop many men come up to me and say, "I really appreciate it. The whole time we were in the workshop, I didn't think about being behind bars. I could forget about the sh- - out there."

"Yeah. I don't see how it works, but I'll try it."

" It's somethin' different to hear the stories of walking away. You all are being real."

leavesAs an AVP leader I see apathy turn to questioning. I see guys move from hands crossed in front of the chest to open hands cuffing each other. I see grim faces turn to grins. Teaching peace is elusive. It's done face to face, one relationship at a time. Next week I'll visit with Kali again.

Maybe we'll catch a falling leaf this time.

Nature can be very forgiving.

Elections and Zealous Angels

The trees are candle flames flickering in the wind. The wind doesn't howl, but it's brisk, sharp. The leaves dive, pause and with a sudden updraft a bouquet of color is tossed upward. It's Halloween. A hallowed time. A time suspended. Oct 31 is a sacred day on the wheel of the solar calendar. It is exactly half way between the end of summer (Sept 21) and the first day of winter (Dec 21). October 31 is the New Year for those of the Wiccan faith. Instead of black cats and frosty nights we have flaming trees this year. Ah, the weird joys of global warming.

And within the cloister of the trees and the vaulted blue, I feel a shimmer of fear in the air. It's not just the gathering cold weather. We, are a people gone awry. Do you feel it? We listen to belligerent political shoot-him-dead duals; we buy fruits and broccoli packed in plastic; we are proud of driving Priuses 100 miles, when we need to be hopping a hybrid bus. Humans are on a runaway train and its picking up speed. In the US we are in the first car. We have chest thumping, hate language, teens bullying, suicides after your private life is on the internet. Will we let the train carry us over the cliff?

Angels as bright lights
Angels as bright lights

Where is hope? -it's not in Obama or any giddy wins on election day. Where is reliable hope?

"So All friends be faithful, ... be zealous for...truth," says our Quaker prophet. Mary Waite writes to friends in 1679 heedless to the fear and chaos of 17th century England with its insurrections and moral ineptitude. Quakers were a movement and called themselves Publishers of Truth.

Mary Waite says, [the Lord] will deliver thee out of every unclean way and polluted path. ...the day of the Lord is at hand, in which he will arise in ... strength, to plead the cause of his suffering seed." Geepers and OMG.

Can we buy into this reality? Yes, I can open my heart to the possibility that a Holy Spirit is at work. Just barely. Any victims of poverty and war are the suffering seed. I weep and cry out for the injustices. If I step out of my chronic denial and realize that my consumption of oil is ruining the planet, I mourn. I see pictures of oil coated egrets from Louisiana coast, I mourn. I met a friend having coffee who just lost her job, I mourn. This decade is an era of sorrow. And I have gone to 7 or 8 funerals this year already. There are funerals for 21 year olds in Mattapan and 15 year olds in Boston, and suicides in Wellesley. I cry and beg that our hearts of stone can be broken open.

I will plow this field of sorrow until Spirit shows me a way to transform the systemic violence. How do I plead the cause of my suffering? The suffering of those killed? The suffering of our planet? Mary Waite says, "fear the Lord and obey his voice in thee, and he will deliver thee out of every unclean way and polluted path." May it be true. I often know what is the moral thing to do, and the voice isn't a booming megaphone. God's message comes in many forms, the wind, the miners trapped in Chili far underground, a oil drill gushing, the shimmering trees.

Looking out
Looking out

No one wins by manufacturing guns, amassing oil tanks or shooting others down. In 2010 there are many war lords bent on spilling blood. Combine this with the conglomerate way all humankind is pilfering to the point of strangling the earth, our home. Ahh, we can see heaven on earth. Hope is in the damp winds. The birch trees offer licks of yellow that do acrobatics across the lawn. The plum tree usually drops its leaves weeks earlier, by early October. Today its leaves are an especially deep shade of peach, luminous sails shaped like almonds. The maples are sorted mandarin/gold colors. The trees with buttressed branches rustle with pale green, lava yellow and fiery orange. Maple trees are everywhere: some are tiny squirrel flags of trees, and others large square-masted brigades towering over the plebeian plants.

... the weary travelers are refreshed, the feeble knees are strengthened, the broken spirit bound up, and the wounded soul hath oil poured on (Luke 10:34 the wounded soul is the Samaritan); who can but rejoice and be exceeding glad? for he hath put a new song in our mouths, he hath given his people beauty for ashes....Speak truth, Mary Waite. Give hope.

To Love a Mockingbird

Who is my enemy?

Trees are so green. Still. I love the lingering days mid-October, the temperature drops one degree lower each day. Slowly, so slowly the dahlias and sunflowers descend into a frosted land. Summer grips us tighter this year. Its talons hold on fiercely even as its fire fades. Do I love summer more than I fear winter? Once Bar St. John said that she harbored a hate towards mockingbirds. How very absurd. I was baffled beyond belief that Bar would say that. This clear woman was loved by Quakers. She played the harp and loved the world until the butterflies ate out of her hand. Could she even harbor a drop of hate. She detested mockingbirds because they were pilfering off others. She begrudged their chasing off smaller songbirds. She thought their sound was obnoxious, copying other birds without singing their own song.

She said, "I realized that my dislike was not changing the mockingbird at all. Humans have little effect on the cares of this bird. We aren't that important. So any hate that I have prevents me from loving." One morning she woke up happy to be back in her own bed. She heard a familiar cacophony. Barb had been visiting a sick person out of town. It was a symphony of beauty. She knew the birdsong of cardinals and mourning doves and the twittering of sparrows. She heard the mockingbird. And she blessed it and welcomed it. Imitating the song of others could be useful. Music composers borrowed a phrase of music often and added their own style to it. Bar was sure mockingbirds were loved by God. The birds were on earth for a purpose and her hate was only corrosive to herself.

Was Bar, a seer, giving me instruction in that preposterous task to love your enemy?' Wasn't she talking about the mundane? Changing your attitude about an annoying bird is like shaking off a creepy fear of a dark room. Or how we get used to the clicking of the electric heater. Or deciding that we can mop up a child's vomit and it won't kill us. Or is changing an old assumption about mockingbirds as pests rather sublime? I mean, think about it. This is not a simple task. Hate comes in many shrouds and we need to unveil them. I hate the Tea Party movement. I hate the military generals who derail world peace. I hate garbage, I hate pale green, I hate sleet in November. You get the picture. But what good does any of that feeling do? Anger is energizing: and hate? Hate is destructive.

Loving your best friend is as hard as loving your enemy. It's just when I consider loving someone who has hurt me, I slam into my sense of personal integrity. Such love often unloosens my grip of self-preservation. I spend more time licking my wounds than pouring a drink for my enemy. I spend more time hesitating and building my case than walking over to the other side. Xenophobia is so limiting. It's so inside the box. It's so retro. Fear of mockingbirds, or of another person is worse than retro. Fear is so Jurassic Age; it's at least 2 millennium old.

Yes, the mockingbird has a song that I can learn to love. I can only surmise how Jesus went about ‘loving your enemy.' I can only imagine what that Quaker lioness Margaret Fell meant when she claims, "We [Friends] do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, and that war against the soul." (letter to King Charles 1660). I'm guessing that Fell is saying that when I participate in war on the outside, my soul is also at war. Isn't the US in a state of endless war? I am a small mammal, trying to learn heavenly ways. We Quakers sign onto a peace testimony but our practice flounders. Quakers commit to peace, and the path is muddy with hidden sand traps. I've dedicated my life to learning how to treat others with respect. That is a stepping stone to loving others. Have I learned how to treat others? Golly. I'm as good at making peace as a cat swimming against the tide.

And I laugh at Colbert's March to Keep Fear alive at the Washington Monument on Oct 30th. but I don't have anything against the Rally to Restore Sanity. Does Jon Stewart want to clean out the destructive forces in our political ruckus? Doesn't he want to create an attitude change to political mockingbirds? Humor does open doors for peace to happen.

I love Bar St. John even though she died 10 years ago. Love will conquer fear. I will dwell in the house of love with friends. I will work on the seeds of hate inside me. And when I am called I'll venture into loving my enemies. We are all called to do this. I just hope I only have to do it until I can a full-time job. Like I can't love my enemies all the time, can I? Maybe just every election day.