Slow Down, We Move too Fast Now

The story goes that in agricultural times and even in times before industrialization. We lived slower lives. Yes, we might have worked from dusk to dawn during growing seasons, but there were whole periods of time when we could rest, and spend time with friends and family. Without as many distractions, stories were a way to pass time and pass along culture and history. Slow times leave spaces in between. That space is Peace.

And chores were often communal. Women put up food together and made candles, clothes, and baskets. Men gathered in crops and raised barns. Children herded the grazing animals to their seasonal grazing lands. Repairs were often shared. Again, stories were shared. Traveling laborers, such as spinsters (yes, that’s where that word came from) visited one farm after another, plying their trade for cash and bringing along tales from other places. The Peace of others became our Peace as the yarn and the stories were spun and we were woven into the stories.

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Throngs of Angels Singing and Bells Wildly Ringing

As a child, I cherished memories of candle-lit churches smelling of greens, filled with choirs and organ music and the pealing of the bells.

It’s odd, reflecting back, that so many beloved memories are of celebrations of sound that paid homage to the story. As soon as days become shorter and nights grow colder, my heart opens, waiting, waiting, waiting for proclamations and celebrations of Peace on Earth. 

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The Animals at Midwinter

Many traditions tell stories about how, in the deep of MidWinter, if we listen closely, we can hear the animals talking.

As a child, when I heard about this, I believed, hoping against hope, they would say something special to me — just me. Ah, the self-centeredness of childhood and the deep trusting faith. I believed, because I wanted to, that there was only one special night when they would call our names, rather than there being only one special night when we would deign to listen.

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“The Dark, Sacred Night”*

On the first of December, in my little town, we celebrated the December sky and the encroaching Dark. Working with Fact, Story, and Music, we discovered stars, watched a grandfather assume the responsibility of being a revolving earth while a little one embodied the Sun with so much dignity and finesse. We learned how to find the North Star and wondered if it would help us find our way home. We heard the Gong whisper the night sounds of winter as together, we formed a tree and became a connected living entity that slowly transformed into a festival of lights.

The glittering sky was, in that moment, all the holiday we needed and everyone was invited.

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Locating Myself in Nature Through the Seasons’ Turnings

“Outdoorsy” is not an adjective I’d use to describe myself. And yet… Some of my most cherished memories are of being outside in Nature.

Perhaps we’ve conflated the notion of the outdoors with the activities of outdoors — suggesting that being out of doors impliess doing rather than, at least some of the time, being. 

The other day, I had to do a writing exercise that entailed listing 100 favorite memories. It was remarkable how many of them took place outdoors. There were a couple memories of running in the rain and cross-country skiing, now long in my past. But my list also included plenty of times writing on the beach or on the lip of a canyon, recollections of reading under a tree or alongside a creek. And oh! Outdoors winter hot-chocolate!

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This Turbulent World

A friend of mine once had a bumper sticker on her car that read “Where am I going, and why am I in a handbasket?”*

Sometimes, if I’m living in my fear, I look at the world and think that it’s all too much, that so many things are monumentally wrong, there’s nothing I can do or we can do to make a difference. There’s so much war; there’s so much fear; there’s so much hate. 

I get it. There is so much that is wrong right now. The planet is damaged. The hatred is visceral and ugly. The divisions seem overwhelming. And they are. But I strive every day to remember, that this is not all there is. Those involved in this behavior are not the only people in this world. They’re just loud, because anger can be loud.

But you know what else can be loud? Joy. Delight. Possibility. Ecstasy. 

Both fear and joy are contagious, but only one is what we want to foster. And we are the ones who remember that Joy is possible. Central to Peacemaking is the notion that of Possibility. Peace is a heartfelt yes! Hatred is a sneering no. But no is not a final answer unless we allow it to be. 

Now is the time to make different choices. Now, in this moment, is the time time to climb out of that handbasket and turn ourselves around. There are others around who will help us carry that handbasket. Others still who will help us fill that handbasket with things like hope, encouragement and love, that can help others on their journey with us. 

Today I saw an ad from the World Central Kitchen. Jose Andreas, who started WCK, told us starkly that winter is coming and with it an unparalleled humanitarian disaster in Ukraine. But here was his hope: If we start anticipating now, we can handle the need. It is so easy simply to shake our heads at the magnitude of the need. It is helpful to contribute what we can and ask others to be helpful with us. My twenty-five dollars added to your twenty-five dollars added to all our neighbors’ gifts can add to governmental aid and turn it into Love that feeds hungry children. And if not the WCK, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were recently devastated by a hurricane. People there need help. (WCK is there as well) When I was writing this, Hurricane Ian was bearing in on the Western Florida Coast at 155 mph. And if you’re reading at some other time, another extreme weather situation or natural disaster is threatening.

It can be overwhelming. How do we find the stamina? Let us turn our heads and hearts every day, toward the Beautiful and the True. Get out in Nature and absorb the grandeur — or simply look out the window. Notice Love where it shows up. Revel in it. Tina Turner famously asked in a song, “What’s Love got to do, got to do with it?” The answer is everything. Love has to do with everything that is Peace and Peacemaking.

Where are you heading, handbasket in hand? Who has come forward to share the weight of the basket? Whom have you asked for support? What small and glorious possibility to move from fear to Peace have you envisioned? 

I’ve envisioned us walking toward Peace, handbaskets heaped with what is needed, reveling in the delight of the Journey we share. Share the bounty. Throw back your head and laugh. Peace lies in that direction.

Salaam, Shalom, Peace. Blessed be.

*For those of you who don’t know, there’s an old phrase about going to hell in a handbasket.