Sharon's Peace Pilgrimage

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Heart of the Heartland

This morning I returned from a whirlwind (LITERALLY!!) visit to Kansas City, Kansas where, in one 24-hour, period I experienced tornado warnings, tornado watches, lightening storms, flash floods, snow, freezing winds, and, oh yes, balmy spring sunshine. It all started with a last-second aborted landing at the Kansas City, Missouri airport to avoid collision with a plane that was taking off! Yikes!! That should have been a clue.

The purpose of my visit was several speaking events at Kansas City Kansas Community College's celebration of Women's History Month, arranged by Karalin Alsdurf, Executive Director of the college's Leavenworth campus and Melanie Jackson-Scott of the college's Intercultural Center.

Generations of Women Moving History Forward was the theme for the Women's History Month events. Five remarkable women from the community were being honored for their contribution to the greater good of society. I got to meet them all:

Karen Hernandez, who with her husband Gene, hosted me in their home filled with artifacts honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and peaceful others (it was in their basement that I hoveredin abject terror my first night waiting to be swirled to death by a fast-approaching tornado); Sally Hatcher and Carolyn Walden, who restore and preserve historical sites; Connie Thao, a small-business owner and president of the National Hmong Alliance of Women's Ministries; and Phyllis Bass, an 80-plus bundle of goodness and joy who is the Director of the Richard Allen Cultural Center, a museum of African American History and a tutoring center for the community's youth. She told me all about the Buffalo Soldiers and the underground railroad.

At an elegant luncheon on the Kansas City campus where the women were honored, most thanked God and acknowledged their husbands for the role they played in their achievements. It was touching and tender and altogether genuine. I realized in listening to them that Heartland doesn't refer just to the center of the country, it depicts the open-hearted, warm-hearted heartfulness of the people who live there. It gives me hope.

Thank you Kansas!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spontaneous wave of heartful intention

Dear friends of The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering,

Something amazing is happening!!! Here's what I know from a few of the emails I've received in the past week:

1. Deb Ballam, Associate Provost for Women's Policy Initiatives at Ohio State University and a group of women from Columbus, Ohio were so inspired by The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering they created a website (translated into 15 languages!), a YouTube video, and 20,000 postcards and are blanketing the globe -- literally! -- with a message asking women and men to stand in their local parks at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- Mother's Day. See

2. Teena Booth, a television screenwriter who works in Hollywood and lives in Arizona had the same idea at the same time and created a website inspired by the Grandmother story, asking people to stand at 1 o'clock on Mother's Day. Please see her most compelling website at

3. Linda Merryman, a convener of the Millionth Circle Initiative inspired by Jean Shinoda Bolen's book, linked up the two women and made sure news of the Mother's Day event made it onto the Millionth Circle website. Linda emailed this morning to say already she's gotten word that Millionth Circle will host a Gather The Women of South Florida Mother's Day event. (See Linda's poignant letter about standing in Ashland to help save the world at

4. Justine Willis Toms, co-founder and co-president of New Dimensions World Broadcasting, whose weekly in-depth interviews are heard on National Public Radio, will announce Deb and Teena's events in the March New Dimensions Newsletter and will call for people to stand at 1 o'clock on Mother's Day (

5. A woman from British Columbia who was representative to the 5th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations and is part of a grassroots grandmothers-to-grandmothers campaign to help women in Africa, wrote to say she and a woman from India are organizing a Great Silent Grandmother Gathering on the steps of the Parliament Building in Victoria, B.C.

Please tell your friends and groups. And please consider standing, if only for a few minutes, at 1 o'clock on Mother's Day, May 13, 2007. Maybe, just maybe, this spontaneous wave of heartful intention will be the tipping point.

With love and hope.

He that forgives wins the first laurel

My friend Nancy and I drove from Ashland to Redding yesterday, over Siskiyou Summit which had hours earlier been closed to traffic because of a blizzard. More snow was predicted and I have to get to Sacramento to fly to Kansas City tomorrow for a long-planned speaking event. We squeeked through between storms.

Last night, in the lounge of the Holiday Inn, Nancy gave me my Christmas present (yes, I know it's the end of February, but things have been a tad hectic). It is glorious. And perfect. A quote by George Fox (Quaker, 1624-1691) calligraphed by Ashland's Diane Amaratico on ivory-colored art paper. I want to share it with you.

"A good end cannot sanctify evil means nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it. It is as great a presumption to send our passions upon God's errands as it is to palliate them with God's name...We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive or gain by love and information. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us.

"Let us then try what love will do, for if men did once see we love them we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue...but love gains, and he that forgives first wins the laurel." George Fox

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Let there be peace on earth...

"He got it right," Nancy said as she read the article in today's Daily Tidings. She was talking about the reporter who interviewed us two days running about why we are standing in the park. A woman at Starbuck's told me we were on the front page. I asked Nancy to read the story and tell me if it was okay. (I can't bear to listen to myself on radio interviews or read articles where I'm quoted.) "It's good," she said. She was smiling. "He really got it."

* * *

Linda Merryman, who stood with us in the park for the first time yesterday, afterwards wrote the following Letter to the Editor of the Daily Tidings. She gave me permission to reprint it here.

I go this morning a little before 8 to join "The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering" in Lithia Park. Like the book by that title, it's mostly women and a few men. It's cool and the sun is starting to warm the dew covered grass. I have come to stand peacefully and in silence. It's not easy. A siren is shrieking as I enter the park. It pulls my mind to the idea of all the places sirens are going off around the world right now, where fires are blazing and people are suffering. I am immediately in my head aware of why I'm here. There are so many fellow human beings being murdered right now by the violent acts of some other human beings who have found a way to go to war. I am standing in silence for those being killed. I am standing in silence for those killing. I am standing for the ones who made the weapons, and the ones who sold the weapons, and the ones who bought the weapons, and the ones who made money off the deal. I am standing in silence for the ones who are shopping or sunbathing or yachting off the money made from the sale of the weapons. I am standing for all the soldiers decked out in matching outfits whose adrenalin is surging as they wait poised to defend their own life and possibly take someone else's. I am standing for their Mothers and Fathers who are trying to live their life today, but part of their thinking is always on their soldier aching for their return to "home". I have only been standing 5 minutes and I have been anything but silent in my mind. I have been with all these places and people around the globe. I have not been standing in silence in peace. I've not done what I came here to do. I begin, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..." just that first line of the song. It becomes my mantra, silently over and over calming my thoughts. Pulling them in from what I always feel on some level.... the fighting that is happening, the suffering. My mind jumps to the barbarism that human beings are experiencing at Guantanamo Bay. I see the images of the torture by "our side/the good guys" those pictures I can never forget. There I am no longer doing what I came here to do...."Let there be peace...." I get myself back on track. Gradually the beauty of the morning is my experience. Other people just standing very quietly. Dear precious not on fire, not filled with armored humvees, blessed thank you thank you Ashland is coming alive. People in trucks are driving around with tools to do their day's work. The birds or chirping and flying in and out of the three big trees and one small one. A runner with a beautifully fit body comes by in his light blue baggy running shorts and no shirt. He stops for a drink of water at a fountain I've never noticed. Then he disappears behind a door that says 13. I notice above it a rainbow colored peace sign. Very shortly he reappears in regular shorts with his cell phone and wallet and still no shirt and walks now up the street. Noticing. I don't let my mind follow him past the corner. Soon a woman in navy long pants, wearing a shirt, comes out of the door, goes around the corner, and begins to sweep. Lucky human beings not at war. Not in fear. Not carrying weapons. It's been 20 minutes. My mantra continues, "Let there be ...." Finally now I get very still. I expand out from Lithia Park and loose the sense of my physical form. I just am.... now..... standing..... peacefully in silence. Gratitude. My eyes closed, the warmth of the sun on my face makes an orange red color that is me. Wow 8:30 already. I must go, but just a few more minutes. This feels so good. I look over at the standing ones. A couple have gone now. Someone else has come. The rest stand still. They are a chorus of silence. Mostly they are wearing blue, beige, and brown as though it were planned. My eye catches off to their left a contrast in color. The sparkling white Sculpture of the headless statesman. He stands proudly immortalized in his stuffed suit and shirt. Honored right here in Lithia Park for moving ahead at all cost, whatever it takes to be secure and safe and right and doing it all without a head. The statesman of our time. My eyes go back quickly to the silent chorus of human beings all with heads. Wow, now I notice they also have hearts. There they are simply standing. Because they can. Because they must. Because something must be done. Our leaders, long feared to be heartless, now have no heads. Quick get the mantra going before you forget why you're here..."Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blessed are the peacemakers

I got an email last night from my friend Chris, who with her husband Jack, just returned from four weeks in China where they used the Grandmother book to teach English to Chinese children. (Buffety blustery??? I cannot even imagine it!) This isn't the first time Chris and Jack have done extraordinary things. There were trips to Somalia...their careers with the U.S. government abroad...their commitment to the church...Chris's healing work. They devote their lives to making peace. To being peace. And this morning they stood with us in Lithia Park. At this point I would start a new paragraph, but something's up with and it is not letting me start new paragraphs. Bear with me.
A lot of new people joined us this morning. Susan, who parked her bicycle and helmet by the ornamental maple tree. Linda, who stood in the park with Jean Shinoda Bolen and some of the Millionth Circle conveners last April. And beautiful, welcome others I didn't know. It was chilly this morning. Most of us weren't dressed for it. Some stood stoically in the shade, while others of us followed sunspots across the lawn. At 9 o'clock we joined hands (in the sun) and sang. Peace is flowing like a river. And it was. Wilma said what we're doing is like taking an aspirin. You don't have to tell an aspirin where the pain is -- it knows just where to go. We don't have to tell the loving energy we send out into the world where to go -- it knows where it's needed most. Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Peace is flowing like a river...

"Peace is flowing like a river...flowing out from you and me...flowing out into the desert...setting all the people free." My friend Cathy Burgess who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland taught me that song. She and her friend Peter bought a hundred copies of the grandmother story when it was just a little booklet.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

And then there were ten...

One by one they came. First Nancy who had been standing alone at a park in Palo Alto. Then Marta whose quiet, steady support has been a mainstay of the Grandmother book project. Elizabeth, our P.R. maven who sent out over a thousand emails to women around the country. Jean and Kay, with big smiles on their adorable faces. Little Wilma, who at 79, can stand longer and stronger than the rest of us put together. Kate, a mediation attorney/professional photographer, who has been taking the photos you see on this blog so is never in the pictures herself! Then Grandma Ginny in a bright Hawaiian shirt. And Ellen who brought a chair in case her ankles didn't hold out, accompanied by her friend Ron -- a brave and stalwart gentleman -- whose pastor told him about women standing in Lithia park to save the world. "My mother would know just what to do," his pastor Pam said when talking about the warring factions. "She'd sit everybody down and say 'I don't care who started it -- it's got to stop.'" And the people said Amen.

Right on cue, Jason P. Mason, a reporter for the local newspaper, showed up to interview us. Actually, he's nothing like Jason P. Mason! His name is Bob and he'll be back tomorrow with a photographer. We're hoping some members of the Ashland Peace Choir (returned last night from a wonderously successful singing tour of Japan) will be joining us.

And so it continues. Two hours -- 7:30 to 9:30 each morning. The big grassy area in Lithia Park. A blessed way to start the day. Join us -- in spirit or in person.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not speaking. Not looking at squirrels. Not munching on coconut candy...

"Ryan Reilly was clearing off the window table at the cafe when he saw them: the two grandmothers standing smack in the middle of the park's big grassy area. The only difference was, they were holding umbrellas instead of wearing sun hats.

"Well, that would have been the only difference, if it weren't for the other one. This time, standing with the grandmothers were Erma Beans, Madeline Swivet, Leslie Plunkett and his very own mother!"

I was startled awake at 5:50 this morning by the loudest, longest thunder roll I've ever heard. Then the rain. Gobs and buckets and sheets and torrents of rain! WAY too much rain to expect grandmothers to show up in Lithia Park's big grassy area to save the world. And yet they did. Erma, Madeline, Leslie and Mrs. Reilly were there, with big smiles and big umbrellas. The exact number as in the story. The exact weather conditions. The exact umbrellas. And there we stood. Grateful and amazed.

An elementary school principal from Santa Rosa, CA who just returned from Lebanon, Israel and Jordan wired flowers addressed to the grandmothers in Lithia Park. Friends in other towns are standing at 7:30. I had 51 emails from listeners who heard the New Dimensions interview ( More to come.