It seems very strange to be writing this entry from further north than Putney, VT. I will not be trying to rap up this whole thing right now, just an update on some of what else happened in Georgia and how I got north. After some time back home, I want to print out the whole of this blog and sit with it before writing any summary.
Friday, November 13, Atlanta, I visited Open Door, a community modeled on the Catholic Worker houses, though it was started by Protestants. I’ve wanted to visit there for years. Open Door is devoted to serving the homeless, incarcerated and formerly and their families and people on death row. They serve meals, offer showers, free health clinics, clothing exchange and other services. While visiting, I met a man who had been serving a life sentence in prison but was released because he got cancer and the prison system didn’t want to have to pay for his treatment. Later, I was stuffing envelopes when the doorbell rang. Someone had arrived with a pretty serious cut on his leg. He was invited in, offered a shower and clean clothes then given a Marta card (for the bus or subway) and encouraged to go to the ER to get the cut tended to. After he left they were saying they rarely give out Marta cards, just can’t afford it, but were glad they had a few for emergencies. I also mentioned that I was staying at the home of Bert Skellie and everyone knew of him and spoke highly of him as a loyal volunteer.
On Saturday, I walked most of the day with the Ninpponzan Myohoji Buddhists from the Atlanta DoJo and others. We walked to various sites downtown, including the Martin Luther King Center, one part of Georgia Tech where we heard about the difficulties of undocumented students and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) headquarters which had no sign of any sort on the building or the closed iron gate, really creepy. One of the people on the walk was Anton Flores, who is the principle organizer of the action to close down Stewart Detention Center and many related programs in support of undocumented immigrants. Anton spoke with us at various sites around Atlanta, explaining the effects of policies that effect immigrant families. Just the day before he had helped get a woman released from jail who is probably facing deportation. Now he is trying to reunite her with her children who have been taken into foster care. At one point, walking along a street, I was talking with Anton and asked him if he knows Bert Skellie. Just as I was asking we passed a group of men who were hanging out on the street. One of them called out ‘Bert Skellie?’ and came over extending his hand. ‘If you’re a friend of Bert’s,’ he said, ‘then you’re a friend of mine!’ After the walk, we returned to the dojo for tea and snacks and then I walked back to East Lake Commons. All together it was about fifteen miles, good to get in a substantial walk again. A smaller group walked, starting the next day, from Atlanta to Lumpkin and Columbus. I would’ve walked with them but I wanted to be at Koinonia instead.
Sunday I attended Atlanta Friends Meeting to worship there for the second time. This was the only meeting in all my travels that I was able to attend worship twice. It felt really special to be there long enough to establish deeper connections and attend a variety of functions.
Monday I rested and got ready to leave. One night, I forget which, I went with Sarah to a meeting of the group she helped form called Ending the New Jim Crow. This is a coalition of various church groups working on addressing racism. The group meets once a month and has guest speakers. This month the guests were from a group called ‘Solutions not Punishment’. Like BLACK LIVES MATTER, this group was founded by young, trans, people of color. I was impressed by their candidness, the intense issues they deal with – like police treatment of citizens, racial profiling, prostitution – and by their warmth and friendliness.
I left Atlanta on Tuesday, November 16. Got a ride from Juan Allende, a member of Atlanta Meeting and a wonderful new F/friend/acquaintance. As we drove south we talked about many things, too much to fully explain here, but suffice it to say he has had a amazing life and I feel very blessed to have shared that little bit of time with him. Yes, he is from Chile and apparently the son of Salvador Allende, though I didn’t realize it when I traveled with him. Juan had always wanted to visit Koinonia so when I announced at meeting that I was looking for a ride there, he came right over and volunteered. It was just another of the long string of miracles I experienced on this trip.
We arrived at Koinonia just in time to get lunch, the main meal of the day. As always we were warmly welcomed and we came in right before the daily scripture reading and prayers. I recognized Amanda and Bren right away and later found others who’d been there in 2011. After lunch I gave Juan a little tour and then he left. I settled into my room in the new guest house, a very simple and lovely space. Other guests who were already there were from the Bruderhoff communities, four young men and a married couple, who had come to help with the pecan harvest. Next morning I woke to their early singing as they greeted the day. After breakfast, we went to the chapel for worship. Then I got to see Norris and Kathleen and some others I remembered from before.
I worked that morning at Plant One, the noisy indoor/outdoor plant where the pecans first come in from the orchards. We pulled sticks out when the nuts came down through the hopper and rolled them down onto the first conveyor belt. From there, they went inside where we pulled out the nuts that were cracked or had worm holes. It is loud, dusty work. Later, I found my waxy ear plugs that made the work much easier.
By lunchtime more people had arrived and even more came in the next few days. Many of the new folks, like me, came specifically to attend the events over the coming weekend but some were also there to help with the harvest. One couple who stayed in the same house I was in, had traveled all the way from Colorado. Her family of Japanese descent had been in a determent camp during WWII and were released with the help of a Quaker family who sponsored them. It was a poignant reminder of the intolerance so prevalent today and how we are never too far from it. Several times recently I’ve heard people joking about how absurd it is to think that Donald Trump could be considered electable. I’ve started responding that I remember feeling that way about Ronald Reagan. It’s scary to me how fear can so easily galvanize people in to hatred.
A group of folks, including some from Open Door, moved into one of the cabins and were working on the puppets for SOA Watch. They call themselves the Puppetistas. They kept apart from the community, eating together and working on the puppets day and night. I spent an afternoon and part of an evening with them, painting fifteen big bunches of cardboard bananas. It was fun but a little disconcerting to be in this little hippy, artsy enclave.
One night we gathered on the porch of our house, sang Christmas carols then ate ice cream. The next night, the last before the Bruderhoff folk left, we went to Bren’s house to play games (Apples to Apples). Then, in the morning, we were back in the chapel worshipping and getting ready to work all day in the pecan plant.
Some people said they couldn’t imagine working all the time doing such boring, repetitive labor. I sensed that in some of the people who seemed to be there only for the pay (along with the volunteers). But others, I could tell, were there in part because they appreciated the spirit of the place. As tiring as the work could be, it was obvious that for some, Koinonia is a sacred enterprise. For those who have lived there all their lives, that has to make a difference.
At the end of my last day, I asked Kathleen about cleaning in the back part of Plant Three where we sorted the shelled nuts. I swept and when we were done, she came back to check on me. Everyone else had left. She was so tired and I asked if she’d get to rest some over the weekend. She said she would and I said ‘Oh, good.’ Just simple talk at the end of a week of hard work but she was grateful for the caring and we put our arms around each other. I told her I would miss being in this place of so much love. Looking back on that moment, I realize how much I cherish being in this community where caring is so much more important than anything else.
In those last hours at Koinonia I realized I could come back again without walking all the way, without stopping at all sorts of other places. I could get there in two or three days. That thought encouraged me to think of returning another year to spend a few weeks working. It made it easier to leave.
Stewart Detention Center, in Lumpkin and Fort Benning, in Columbus are a short drive from each other and Lumpkin is closer to Koinonia, in Americus which is the furthest south of the three.
In the 70s, 80s and 90s the very white Peace Movement agonized over it’s lack of cultural diversity. A few extremely patient, tolerant people of color hung in there and conversely, a few of us more radical whites braved the brash and often hostile ranks of first the Black Panthers, then the American Indian Movement and later some other groups that insisted on inclusion at whatever cost. Today I hear Tracy Chapman’s words, ‘finally the tables are starting to turn.’ The movement now really seems to be about ending oppression. It feels to me like we white people are welcome to help but it’s not our movement and it feels right and good. Maybe part of White Privilege is the privilege to be of service.
The anthem for my journey is Pat Humphries’ (Emma’s Revolution) song, ‘Keep On Movin’ Forward’ which we sang at a song workshop in Columbus, GA, during SOA Watch. Pat and Sandy have been singing at SOA Watch for years. They also sang with Peter and Annie in three of the Rise Again concerts which I was sad to miss. Pat said when she first wrote the song it said ‘keep on walkin’ forward’ but some friends in the disabilities movement suggested she make it more accessible and it worked really well.
I don’t know how much more I need to say about the actions. There’s plenty of info online for those who want to know more about what it was about. It was a wonderful end to an epic journey. I walked with the Buddhists again from the tiny village of Lumpkin to the gates of Stewart Detention Center and back (just 3 miles total) and again at the gates of Fort Benning in the Sunday vigil which was probly about a half mile. It’s strange to be done with the walk. I do plan to walk as much as possible wherever I am but the intention built into the trip made walking as transportation something special. I’m sad that it’s over but equally happy to be done and heading home.
I got a ride Sunday night to Atlanta with two others who walked with the Buddhists. We stopped at the dojo for tea before going to the train station. I realized later that I wished I had asked Father Roy to sign my travel minute. I was, after all, worshipping with him during the vigil. And I wish, too, I’d asked Denise (from the Atlanta dojo) since I was in worship with them as we walked.
On the train ride to Penn Station I sat with Nancy, who I’ve walked with a couple of other times. She said for her that walking with the Buddhists was not ministry. I’m clear that for me it is, ecumenical worship in the best and deepest sense. I will always cherish the memories of that experience.
I spent a couple of hours in Penn Station. It was jammed with travelers and police, guards and military. It reminded me of being in Isreal, like a police state. I left there grieving for our culture.
I got to Boston Monday night (11/23) and stayed with Holly Baldwin at Beacon Hill Friends House. It felt so good to be there after the frenzy of NYC. Next morning I got the train to Brunswick, Maine, where I met my family and headed north for Thanksgiving. I finally got back to VT after visiting with other friends and traveling by bus and train to Brattleboro.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, I want to take some time to re-acclimate and then write some more reflections on the whole trip. Till then, blessings to all who have taken the time to follow my travels. Your interest and caring have been an integral part of this journey and I am immensely grateful.
Honoring MLK at the King Center with the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists in Atlanta
Walking and talking with Anton Flores on the streets of Atlanta
Sunset at Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA
Norris offers welcome and prayers at lunch in the Koinonia dining room
Plant 3 where shelled pecans are sorted into halves, pieces and rejects
The couple from Colorado who came for SOA Watch
Had to stop in Plains where we sampled peanut ice cream!
We gathered in the tiny town of Lumpkin, Georgia and marched to Stewart Detention Center
Not sure how many we were but it was over a thousand for sure – all ages, all colors, singing and chanting.
At the gates of Stewart we called out to the detainees inside.
The Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning. This photo was from 2011 because I didn’t get a good one of the procession this year. The musicians called out the names of those who have been killed by military trained at SOA, while people processed, holding up the crosses and chanting ‘presenté’. (Father Roy is in the blue shirt)
This was the singing workshop in Columbus.
Sandy (standing) and Pat (leaning down) Emma’s Revolution!
The bananas that I painted for the Puppetistas. They were the Bad Guys, stealing the land from the people.
At the end of the procession we stuck our crosses into the fence by the gate.
The Puppetistas ended the day’s events with a pageant
Friday, November 13, 2015
UPDATE FROM ATLANTA
Some of this already feels like ancient history!
Nov. 1 – Last part of South Carolina – Yesterday I took a local bus from Mauldin to downtown Greenville and walked the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Furman University where I met my host Kevin McMurtrey, a recent immigrant from Illinois. This is the second brand new house I’ve stayed in. The last was in Philly, oddly with another Kevin (Taylor) and Jeff Beckett. That was when they were actually moving and I dog sat for their anxious pooch while they packed up their stuff.
Nov. 2 – I stayed with Kevin and his wife Kath (or is it Cath?) Sat. PM and went to meeting with them. Their meeting is really small and we happened to have an unusually good turnout, including a potluck lunch which was great. In the afternoon Kevin set me up with a mini marathon of the first few episodes of Indian Summers on TV, fed me yummy pizza and salad and at 10 pm took me to the train station in downtown Greenville. Alas, they tore down the big old one and put in a sterile (umm not quite but pretty clean) ugly one with plastic chairs and florescent lights. I snoozed and read and got on the train at 4:45 am. When I arrived in Atlanta it was pouring rain. I took a bus and a subway to downtown, dodged in and out of a Dunkin Donuts, the library, where they wouldn’t let me in cuz I have a sleeping bag, and finally a Starbucks in a fancy office building where Sarah Walton came and picked me up (see more about Sarah below).
Nov. 3. Thinking of you all this am as I lounge around Atlanta Friends Meetinghouse where I am staying at the moment. Will shift over to a cohousing community nearby, tomorrow I think. This is the biggest, bustlingest meeting I’ve probly ever visited. They have two simultaneous meetings for worship on First Day, one little one for a quieter feel and the big one that’s usually around 125-150! During the week they have a big preschool program with lots of kids. They also have Bible study, Adult Religiuos Ed., First Day School for kids of all ages AND my host, Erica Schoon, who is Friend In Res. and an office manager, Jonah, who is working on lots of programs and projects. Erica also works at Koinonia Farm doing various things inc. running the Peacebuilders Camp.
For you Putney folks, Jonah is Sadie Forsythe’s next door neighbor. When we were talking I said I wasn’t even going to bother Sadie and Chris knowing how hectic their lives are right now and mentioned that Ellen (Sadie’s mom) is a neighbor in Putney and on my support committee. Jonah piped up and said, “Ya, and she’s here right now visiting. In fact, her car’s parked in front of my house!’ Ellen and I have talked on the phone but don’t know if it will work to see each other.
So far I have sat in a bit of a meeting about the Koinonia Peacebuilders camp, attended worship at Emory University with Ashley Wilcox (who I know thru the Lyman Fund), gone to Bible study (twice -led it the second week) and Adult Religious Ed., the big First Day worship (yes, over 100 people), worship at East Lake Commons (twice) Thursday at noon and attended the End the New Jim Crow group (ecumenical). Sarah Walton and I have met twice doing NEYM RSEJC (see more below) work and we had a conference call with RESJC. Lots of great Quaker stuff.
I was just thinking I wish I could sometime have a reunion of all my new and old friends. There are so many of you who would love to meet the others. Maybe a series – Philly and north, DC and VA and NC,SC and GA. Still it would be fun to mix it up, too. Would really love to have everyone come to VT!
I’m in Atlanta area for 12 days so I have had lots of time to do some cool stuff here, inc. opportunities for worship and meeting folks.
Nov. 10 Oh dear, time is flying by. I’ve been in Atlanta (actually, mostly in Decatur) for a whole week and not posted a thing. It’s been raining practically non-stop so you’d think I could’ve found time to write. We did see a bit of sun a few days ago and everyone exclaimed with joy but minutes later the clouds blew in again. Amazingly, I have walked quite a bit here and gotten pretty wet in some of the process. Some of it has been warm rain, though yesterday it turned relatively chilly.
People like to tease me about being a tough Yankee. I wiggle my toes at them and proclaim my Darn Tough socks, which are amazing. Hundreds of miles and they barely show it. I have written to the company endorsing my cherished sock companions on this journey. If I haven’t already said so, I also wrote to Teva to thank them for my sandals as well. They are just beginning to show signs of wear on the bottom, too. OK, so much for the product advertisement segment of my blog entry.
I promised way back in South Carolina that I’d say more about Greer and Greenville. Though I spent only a few days there, I had a wonderful time with two non-Quaker host families and got to stay with a Quaker family from the Greenville meeting also as mentioned above. Way back when I first started telling people about my walk, a former student, Charlie Heidhorne who lives now with his wife and two kiddos at the South of Monadnock community (formerly The Meeting School) put me in touch with his aunt who lives in Greer. For months, Lauren was my one anchor south of Greensboro, NC. I stayed two nights at her and her husband Ken’s house and walked most of the way there, having spent two nights before at a Days Inn waiting out the rain which I already wrote about. Back when I was in Connecticut, a friend said ‘Oh, I have a cousin in South Carolina. Maybe you could stay with her.’ Turned out that Lucy and Marshall live in Mauldin, also not far from Greenville, and I was able to walk all the way, door to door, from Lauren’s to Lucy’s. That was an adventure in walking through middle America. When I was walking I got disoriented by the streets around a big shopping center and Interstate 85 (or maybe 385 not sure). I was trying to figure out where I was using the map on my phone and checking the street signs when two police cars pulled up. It was actually pretty amusing because I was so out of place with my bright orange vest, back pack and other bags. I imagine they were expecting to find a really wacko homeless person and I launched into my rap about walking all the way from Hartford, CT. One of them asked ‘Does your family know where you are?’ I laughed and said, ‘yes, they think I’m crazy, but they know what I’m doing. In fact, I just talked with my son yesterday.’ They even took my driver’s license and ran a check on me while I had a great talk with the other one about my hosts and what an amazing journey it’s been. What a joy it was to get back off onto the smaller roads and eventually find Lucy walking with her dog up the street to greet me. It was sobering, too, realizing that I am so privileged to be able to walk places where others would easily get arrested just because I’m white, articulate and relatively sane and healthy. It may be funny to us but many, many people are not so fortunate.
One of the many things I am loving about this journey is that I am fulfilling a long time goal of ‘getting to know the south’. Those of you who live here can now chortle. But seriously, when I asked for contacts down this way many people just said, ‘I don’t really know anyone in the south.’ I could stay here for years and I’d probably still have tons to learn. It’s true, too, that many people living here now are transplants from elsewhere, so I would have to say I’ve met very few people who’ve lived here their whole lives. There’s definitely homogenization that makes things look and feel eerily familiar at times. Yesterday, in Publix, I saw a display that had Vermont something (cheese? apple butter?) front and center. I moved on and looked for local produce. Tomorrow I have a date to go have lunch at the Farmers Market.
I’ve been staying at East Lake Commons (ELC) cohousing community and will be here till Friday or early Sat. AM when I will walk with the Atlanta Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists (same order as the Leverett, MA group I have mostly walked with). I have an offer from someone in Atlanta Meeting for a ride to Koinonia after that.
Lots to say about ELC. It’s a pretty good sized village of single family homes, duplexes and apartments. They have a nice common space with laundry, kitchen, dining room with fireplace and couches at one end and some guest spaces. I stayed two nights with Kathy and Austin (AFM members) and enjoyed visiting and talking with them. We have a number of places and people in common as they have lived many other places but they’ve been here a long time, too, so have lots of stories to share. I’m now staying in the lovely home of Bert and Karen Skellie who are traveling out west and are happy to have me in their space. I, in turn, am delighted to have this place to enjoy and work out of. My primary host is Sarah Walton, a Human Rights lawyer from Maine, sojourning in Atlanta, working with incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people and their families. Sarah serves with me on the New England Yearly Meeting Racial Social and Economic Justice Committee (RSEJC). Sarah has a background working with police officers, has written a training manual for police and is currently working on a proposal for a plan to eliminate racial profiling through training, education and community dialogue. I’m excited and honored to be learning this work with her and hope to carry it home. Sarah lived in Harmony, Maine, very near where I lived in Wellington, two weensie little Maine towns in what is officially known as ‘non-corridor hinterland’. That’s where I’m headed for Thanksgiving when I leave Georgia.
East Lake Commons (ELC) cohousing in Decatur, GA (greater Atlanta area)
Another view of ELC
A tree flowering in NOVEMBER!
And Iris in bloom!
Lucy Allen and Marshall Goers in Mauldin, SC
Greenville, SC, Friends sharing potluck after worship
Atlanta Friends Meeting
Worship at Emory Univ. with Ashley Wilcox and one of her professors
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Late October – beginning of November
North Carolina is wide and deep (tho not much in geographic distance north to south). Putney Friends may remember me using both terms in worship. I got a ride to Greensboro from someone visiting Lynchburg, VA, quickly immersing myself in the life of Guilford College and parts of the surrounding Quaker community. I would’ve had to stay for weeks to get full exposure to all the Quaker meetings and a full sense of the college. I stayed with former Meeting School student Libby Stillwell (formerly Liz) who I saw mostly late at night. She is getting ready to graduate in January so working and taking classes all day and night. I also visited with Layla Rafoui (formerly Hannah) also former TMS student who will graduate in May. Layla gave me a tour of parts of the campus. Then I hooked up with Greg Woods, Wess Daniels and Deborah Shaw who are staff for the Friends Center at the college and run the QLSP (Quaker Leadership Scholars Program). Deborah is the director.
I went to a potluck and meeting for worship at Wess’ house one night and a QLSP meeting for business the next night. At the latter I got to visit with my former housemate, pastor and f/Friend Philip Raines. Philip and I graduated together from Earlham School of Religion (ESR) in 2001. He went on to pastor at least one non-Quaker church and several meetings, inc. Durham Friends Meeting in Maine while I was still a member there (tho I wasn’t living in ME at the time). Now he’s pastor of the meeting in Winston-Salem. I also saw Betsy Blake at the potluck who I know from the Lyman Fund. It was great to see both of them cuz I had hoped to and it was great that it worked to see them that night.
The day after the QLSP meeting Deborah was driving down to a gathering of Quakes in Davidson, NC, and so I hitched a ride with them and walked most of the rest of the way to Charlotte. Just outside Charlotte I got a ride with Ruth Moeller, a member of Charlotte MM and a friend of a friend (see below).
In contacting people around Greensboro, I found a former F/friend from Earlham School of Religion, Sara Vandengrift Stratton. Sara lived in a collective house with CJ Bredlinger, Elizabeth Lyzenga (Waterman) and others.
Sara now lives in Charlotte, NC, right near the SC border. From Davidson I walked most of the way to Charlotte. A friend of Sarah’s, Ruth Moeller picked me up along my route when it was too far to walk all the way. I stayed one night with Sarah then the next night with Ruth after attending Charlotte Meeting and spending the rest of the day with her. Ruth took me to a great restaurant, I think it was called Crepe Café, in an old neighborhood and then downtown to the historical museum. We walked around the streets and then hung out in a hotel lobby while I checked emails.
Next day, Ruth and I drove to King’s Mountain National Park, just over the boarder into South Carolina, left her car there and walked about six or seven miles out to the main road where we met up with Sara and her daughter, Katey, then drove back to pick up Ruth’s car. It was great to have another chance to walk with someone. That’s been rare and Ruth was great at introducing me to rural SC.
After dropping Ruth off, Sara and Katey and I went on to Duncan, SC where they dropped me off at a Day’s Inn Motel. I needed an extra place to stay for a night before going on to my next host in Greer so the motel worked well. Next day it was cold and raining really hard so I postponed my walk and stayed one more night. It worked really well. I had been having a hard time with allergies to some pollen in the air so I slept a lot, watched a bunch of TV and got caught up some with emails. I also found an awesome little Mexican restaurant two doors down and had a fabulous supper the first night. It wasn’t terribly expensive but really delicious. The motel had a good breakfast and I had some other food with me so I did pretty well over all.
I also had a great talk with the folks who ran the motel. I told them about my travels and tho they were really interested, they also were really worried for me. It was wonderful to share some stories with them to help them understand the spirit that has carried me and all the wonderful people who have helped make it possible. I’m realizing that the experience is very different now. Being close to Georgia when I tell people about walking, the emphasis is on the fact that I’ve been on the road since the beginning of August and the end is in sight!
South Carolina! For months I have wondered if it would make any sense to spend any time here. I had only two contacts in this state and only one south of Greensboro, NC. As it has happened, over and over, things just fell into place and moved me along.
When I walked the next day I crossed Interstate 85 another really busy street and walked onto back roads into Greer. Just as I was turning onto Freeman Farm Rd. a woman stopped to ask if I needed help. She’s one of many but she asked to take a photo with me and friended me on Facebook. She also handed me a $10 – what an angel!
It’s been wonderful to find myself in rural areas. I really am a country girl at heart.
More on Greer and Greenville next round.
Burnt out cellar hole and chimney by roadside. Note the Confederate flag. Ruth said, ‘Now you know you’re in South Carolina.’
The way water fountains used to be in Charlotte, NC (these in a museum)
Same museum – a lunch counter like the ones where sit-ins were held
Modern day Charlotte
My host Ruth Moeller and I walking in South Carolina at Kings Mountain National Park.
Guilford College Quaker Leadership Scholars Program.
Libby Stillwell (Jackie’s niece) and friend whose name I lost. Libby hosted me in Greensboro, NC
A super yummy brunch of cheesy grits, sausage and the best ever brussel sprouts in Charlotte, NC
Old rugged crosses with a bench to rest my weary bones and offer prayers of gratitude.
My friend at the Days Inn desk
My friend Kelly who I met out on the road
A gushing stream. SC has seen too much rain, even inland.
An old metal barn.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Finally another update. I am now in Lynchburg after several days in the country just east of Route 29 (see below).
Arrived in Lynchburg in time to attend Lynchburg Meeting (indulged), a tiny vibrant group, under the care of Roanoke MM. Visiting a small meeting can have a huge impact. I had been in touch with Heidi Koring, the convenor, and another person, Jackie who lives just north, in hopes of staying with her. But my host in Lynchburg, Nancy Beront, college friend of Sadelle Wiltshire, offered to pick me up north of the city. I got to walk part of the day and meet her on a really pretty side road so that worked out well.
I had several days of piecing together hospitality in and just south of Charlottesville. My last host in C’ville was a friend of a friend of someone who hosted me way back in NY state! Unfortunately, I had to turn down a couple of recent offers because it didn’t make geographic sense. Wish I had more time.
Another realization is that I am getting weary. I love meeting all these wonderful new people but I miss friends and family and the comfort of being in familiar territory. I came down with a cold the other day so I’ve been sleeping more than usual. Walking still feels really good but my energy is down a bit.
Part of what I struggle with in understanding and explaining my ministry is the universality and inclusivity of it. One thing became clear in the past few days. The Doctrine of Discovery, the Papal edits of the 1400s justifying the subjugation and annihilation of indigenous peoples, was the EXACT same system, the same definition of Christianity that justified/called for slavery of African people. John Woolman’s writings make that very clear. The exploitation of natural resources and of other species is also justified the same way. It really is all connected.
When people ask ‘why are you walking?’ I say ‘I’m walking with a concern for the earth and all it’s beings, including you.’ In saying that, I intend to honor John Woolman’s approach. Woolman was very intentional in making all those connections, perhaps especially the inclusive aspect of concern for the slaveholder as well as the slave. I think when I can, I need to be able to articulate clearly and concisely what I mean by this. It is what Woolman and others say about ‘taking away the occasion for war.’ It is that BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as any lives matter, more than others right now, because the movement needs support and because they have been so intentionally and consistently disregarded. This is not to say that other lives don’t matter, too. When I met with the working party on Racism at Stony Brook in Baltimore, people were saying they thought the message should be BLACK LIVES MATTER, TOO. I think it’s good to hold the line on BLACK LIVES MATTER as a definitive statement of the need for redress. It means for me that no matter how simply I live I will always be privileged and with that privilege comes responsibility, the ABILITY to respond effectively to injustice. I carry that response ability and I need to use it as best I can. I need to find ways to effectively express it and live into it so it can resonate with each person I meet. For me prayer and direct connection to the divine are completely entwined with this. I cannot do this alone. For some, it is obvious and easy to discuss. For others, ‘God talk’ shuts them down immediately. Same with talk of social justice. And there are levels that work and don’t work for each of us. I pray for the ability to be sensitive to each person’s needs. I try to meet each person where she/he is and engage meaningfully to whatever extent possible.
I’m also backtracking and adding a photo from way back in Reston,VA. Thought I had it already but it didn’t get in and I want you all to meet my friend, Jessica Wallach. I met Jessica when I stayed at Jonathan and Melanie Snipes’ farm in Morrisville, PA. (See Aug. 26). It was a wonderful coincidence that she and her husband, Levi and daughter Zia, were visiting there the same time I was. They invited me to stay with them in Reston and it was a perfect connection that allowed me to walk, starting from just south of DC, to attend Herndon Friends Meeting and make a bunch of connections for hosts further south. I AM SO, SO GRATEFUL!
Hosts in Charlottesville – Ted Seidlecki and Aron Teel and their long-time friend Alice, who they know as Gramma cuz she helped raise their two sons. Alice is 91 years old!
Friends Meeting in Lynchburg (indulged).
Tom and Ruth (Toots) Klippstein, SERVAS hosts and Woofers Amaan and Eddie at Springtree community in Scottsville .
Springtree early morning before the frost (next day). Reminded me of Anais Mitchell’s song ‘Shenandoah’ that I’ve had in my head since visiting the Valley.
Sunder Wells, another 90+ year old! Sunder is a friend of a friend of one of my hosts, Alice Coloumbe, way back in NY state.
Oh, Shenandoah! Seen from Skyline Drive.
Bonfire cookout in Mt. Sydney, near Staunton, VA, in the Shenandoah Valley
Carol’s kitty, checking emails.
Carol playing ‘Shenandoah’ for me on the bagpipes! Awesome.
This is Jessica Wallach, who I met in PA and who made so much of my trip possible.
Priscilla Chamlee, Herndon MM, who first contacted me from her boat on Chesapeake Bay!
My first glimpse of the mountains, walking from Warrenton.
A real back road! First one since north of Philly.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Springtree community. Scottsville, VA. Even in its heyday Springtree was small by most commune standards, fifteen adults and fifteen children. Now it is down to two couples, only one of whom was there when I visited, Tom and Ruth (Toots) Klippstein, along with a pair of Woofers from Long Island, on their way, after two weeks, to another small family farm in NC. I found them thru SERVAS.
What a joy to spend a good chunk of time weeding a hotbed and an asparagus patch. I found myself longing to be back in VT gardening and eating fresh picked produce. I had three helpings of Brussels sprouts at dinner.
Woke up in the night to coyotes yipping and squealing. They often sound as if they are a big pack when it might be just two or three making all that racket.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Oh, Shenandoah! For as long as I can remember I’ve sung and dreamed about this place. When Miriam Honsaker put me in touch with her friend Carol I jumped at the chance to visit. Yes, it’s off my route, far enough that I had to accept offers to be transported by car. But this is a very special opportunity and I’m immensely grateful.
In Madison, on the east side of the mountains, I first heard coyotes! Now I feel at home again, back in the country. I stayed with Peg Clifton, friend of Anne Moore (Northampton MM), recently retired from years at the Library of Congress. Madison is real farm country. I walked up her back road between pastures of mostly Angus cattle. She met me part way to her house from Warrenton where I had stayed with Priscilla and Don Chamlee, members of Herndon Meeting. Don and Priscilla are very involved with Habitat for Humanity. It was great to have that connection to Kononia (where Habitat began) and to see the great work they are doing.
Peg and I drove down the Skyline to Elkton, VA
These bee samples are part of a study being conducted nationally. My host in Madison, Peg Clifton, is studying to be a Master Naturalist. As part of her volunteer work, she collects these bees in the same sight along the Skyline each month, then mounts, labels them and sends them to be identified and displayed.
Peg Clifton’s back yard boarders on farm land just east of the mountains. This is where I first heard coyotes.
Early morning worship in Remington, VA, with Bonnie Stockslager, convened of Farquier Friends (indulged)
Monday, October 5, 2015
I’m sending this from a Starbucks in Gainesville, VA, on my way to Warrenton. I don’t know why I thought I’d be in the country but this is a huge shopping mall with tons of cars and people and stores. I’m about to start walking again along a busy highway. Blessings to you all.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
October? Can it really be October? I am in Manassas, VA, spending the weekend with a friend of Kate Kerman (Monadnock QM), Charlotte Boynton, whose son and daughter both went to The Meeting School. It feels great to have walked here, almost all the way from DC. I did take the Metro part of the way from DC to Reston but I walked about 8 miles that day from Spring Hill to Reston, after about 5 in the city, walked to Herndon meeting and back the next day (another eight miles), 15 the next day to Clifton and another 8 or so to Manassas. Fairfax Co. gets the sidewalk prize! I walked almost the entire way on sidewalks or a paved trail they call the Greenway. I also walked on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W & OD) in Reston and Herndon – an intense, paved, two lane bike path with lots of bikers zooming by. They even have a separate parallel trail for horses.
I know I’m in VA cuz there are horses. One of my hosts, Selena, has two horses. And I saw a fox cross the trail, too!
Yesterday it started seriously raining. After talking to Charlotte, I decided to stay in Manassas for the whole weekend. It rained really hard Friday, and parts of Saturday, too. One of my next hosts’ road is flooded so it doesn’t make sense to move on till the weather gets better.
There is a little feel of autumn in the air but it’s nothing like New England. The days are getting shorter but there’s no real nip to it yet.
There’s a gap here in central VA with few Quakers and Quaker Meetings. The closest meeting to Manassas is Langley Hill which is northeast. There are a couple of Indulged Meetings, more like worship groups, but then no more monthly meetings till Charlottesville.
Went to Langley Hill Meeting today and, as is often the case, met several people who know Putney. There was a yummy potluck lunch so I got to visit with a bunch of folks. Tomorrow the forecast is for sun again and I hope to be walking most of the day.
Love these little asters I know as ‘calico’ aster and one chicory blossom. A little cheer along the roadside.
This was one of the paved trails along the road near Clifton, VA. That was a day I got very WET!
My host Selena in Clifton and her two horses.
The horses weren’t quite as happy to see me but they did eat carrots I gave them. Manassas is still all about the Civil War. These cars are at Battlefield Ford (see license plate) and just a little way from here was RebYank Rd. I kid you not! This is Charlotte Boynton.
Friday, September 18, 2015
I’m starting to feel down right settled in the DC area but will soon be moving on. My visit here has been so wonderful and challenging as well. I was thinking today that you all must be almost as tired of hearing words like ‘amazing’ and ‘awesome’ as you are of seeing my face in all the selfies.
I actually know my way around DC pretty well now. I’ve walked a lot and ridden the Metro a lot, too. This is a BIG CITY! My initial statement still holds true to my experience here. I’ve been in some simple, almost humble parts of town and I’ve been in some of the power places as well. Like so many other places in this nation, our Capitol reflects the huge diversity and disparity of our culture.
Friday Sept. 25. Last Friday evening ( a week ago!) I walked from the Lincoln Memorial up to Foggy Bottom Metro station, past the State Dept. There was some event about to happen there and numerous police cars were surrounding the building with lights flashing and guards stationed at every entrance. On the sidewalk I passed a number of people, couples mostly, dressed in finery, including dress military uniforms – very impressive. But as I passed them, I reminded myself of all that I know and cherish in Quaker principle. We are all children of God, all with a piece of the Truth, all with goodness and faults. I was a bit relieved when I got to the subway stop and was back with ‘the people’.
During my time here I’ve met tons of people and done some formal visits, too. Though I feel fairly comfortable in somewhat formal situations, I’m really best one-on-one or one-on-two with random people I meet or, of course, with friends I already know and love.
Here’s a list of planned visits, followed by a list of a few spontaneous encounters:
Lobbying at Peter Welch’s office
Visit to the Nat’l museum of the Native American
Attending Meeting for worship at Friends Meeting of Washington
Visit to FCNL headquarters (see photos) – I love FCNL! The staff are wonderful, the building is amazing GREEN, the work they do is the best. This is exactly what they teach us not to say! To be effective in lobbying you need to be specific and avoid expletives. See their website and better yet, come to DC for a workshop.
Volunteering for set up and attending the Interfaith Service and Vigil prior to the Moral Action on Climate Change – many volunteers so set up was a breeze. Good UU folks hosting the event.
Moral Action on Climate Change at the Mall Thursday AM during the Pope’s address to Congress – disappointing turn out at the companion rally. Tons of people were watching the Pope, not so many at the rally further down the Mall. I left early because I was so exhausted, felt guilty. But I did connect with Quakes from all over – Atlanta, VA, Maryland, PA and even Mary Gilbert from Arlington, MA, the only other NEYM person there. I think there might’ve been Friends from other places, too, but I’m not remembering. Sorry if I left you out.
Visit with a former college friend, Sharaine Ely, who I hadn’t seen in about 50 years!
Visit with former Meeting School student, Rose Mohan
Visit with Margaret Benefiel and Ken Haase (minus Margaret who is in Asia)
Encounter with a young self-identified mentally ill homeless man who was seeking some donations to get meds he said he desperately needed and had no $ for. I rarely give people money but I did give him the only cash I had, $10, and wished him well. Maybe he was putting me on, but if so, I thought he deserved something for his good acting skills.
A great conversation with a dad and his two little kids who were eating at a little café I went to on my way to the Weds. Vigil. His son had a Patriots sweatshirt on so I asked if they were from Boston and that got us going.
At the Interfaith service the choir sang some awesome gospel. A soloist was especially inspiring so I went up after, thanked her and told her about my pilgrimage. She was really excited and gave me a big hug.
All night vigil following the service and formal, interfaith part Weds. PM where I stayed awake pretty much all night, walking all over the place with two young activists, looking for a place to get something to eat. We talked with lots of people on the street asking directions. , We went to a Chinese restaurant that stayed open til 2AM. Had great conversations about all sorts of stuff. I got a fortune in my cookie that said be careful of dark places! So on the way back, we avoided a dark place that was probly a short cut to the park where the vigil was. There are tons of homeless people on the streets. They often sleep right on the sidewalk or on stairs. They just leave their stuff piled up and hope that nobody takes it. Later, back at the vigil site, we talked more and with a young man who is interning at Sojourn magazine.
Interacting with Rose Mohan’s next door neighbors, a mom and two little girls who all spoke English and Spanish interchangeably. Made me want to try again to learn Spanish.
Chatting with vendors at the Farmers’ Mkt in DuPont Circle – got some greens, some really expensive, really yummy cheese and lots of good wishes.
Trying to get to worship at William Penn House and arriving too late (got lost) but talking with Adrien, intern on duty, and then down stairs came Joan Broadfield, who I’d met at Pendle Hill and Liz Yeats! They were staying at WPH for an FCNL meeting. That was fun.
Guess I’ve been busy!
Outside the House Office Building where Peter Welch’s office is. Sorry, I don’t get a foto inside. I think I was a little nervous and I forgot to ask.
At the Botanical Gardens – two of my favorite plants that don’t grow in VT pomegranates and …
Olives (only no olives on this olive tree)
At the Farmers’ Mkt. they had free cups of yogurt and a sign that said LAST WEEK FOR PEACHES. Sigh.
There are two of these wampum belts in the Nat’l Museum but I couldn’t get a decent foto of both of them. In case you can’t read the writing, they were presented to William Penn, ca. 1682.
This is a beautiful little box, carved from a branch of the elm tree in Kensington, known as the Treaty Tree, where Penn supposedly signed the treaty with the Lanape.
Announcements following meeting for worship at Friends Meeting of Washington.
The subway system in DC is pretty impressive, a little confusing till you get the knack of it.
Visit to FCNL offices – hosted by new staffer Christine Ashley
Had a couple of nostalgic and very fun visits with my former college friend Sharaine Ely. After 50 years we still laughed and laughed.
Great gospel music at the interfaith service before the vigil Weds. PM 9/23
After the service a group of us walked 3 miles to the vigil
The Moral Action rally 9/24. Sorry the light wasn’t great for this. It was early AM in low sunlight. The Quaker banner was drawn up on site cause the other one got left behind by mistake. I was glad to offer my sign painting skills tho I haven’t done it for a long time and we only had one marker to work with.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Just came up on Ken and Margaret’s roof to write a letter. Huge banner on the tower at the basilica – Welcome Pope Francis. Love is our Mission.
Thursday, September 17,2015
This is the view from Ken and Margaret’s roof deck – the Basilica at Catholic University. Went twice to the Zoo, once in the afternoon and then early the next morning because I learned that is the best time to see many of the animals. How about ‘Selfie with elephant’?
I met up with former Meeting School student Rose Mohan and went with her to a group sing led by Ysaye Barnwell (Sweet Honey and the Rock). It was awesome. At the end, during announcements, I introduced myself and told about my walk. We had sung Venceremos and I said I’d see if we could sing it at Fort Benning. Got lots of cheers and clapping. After, I went to say Hi to Ysashe and she asked to give me a hug and said she be praying for me!
Rose and I at her apartment. She invited me to stay there while she’s in CO next week. I think I will and then maybe I will go to the Climate Change Rally with Pope Frances.
Pandas have to be the cutest critters on the planet. I spent about an hour watching this one and finally got this photo. What a wonderful early AM adventure.
Took this photo of flamingos for my granddaughter who really loves them. I have a hard time believing they are real. Even tho I see them move, I still think they’re plastic!
Wednesday, September 16,2015
Being in the Nation’s Capitol is a combination of awesome, humbling, horrifying, fun, sobering…. You name it!
I have walked a lot here. Through some lovely neighborhoods and some fairly sketchy ones. I’m sure I haven’t seen any of the worst.
Today I will leave the cozy, comfy space of Margaret Benefiel and Ken Haase’s town house (all four floors, inc. roof patio) to go visit Rose Mohan, former Meeting School student. We’re meeting up and going to a song group led by Ysaye Barnwell (Sweet Honey and the Rock)! I’m so excited to be doing this and with Rose.
Monday, September 14,2015
Amazingly, I have missed most of the rain that’s happened so far. What’s even more incredible is that I went back to PA, after going to Delaware! Mary, my host in Delaware, unbenounced to me, took me to Lancaster Co. overnight. I ended up spending an extra night with her friend Niki who is a member of Sadsbury Meeting. She took us to see the meetinghouse and to drive around the Amish countryside.
I wanted very much to walk in Amish country but it rained too much. Ironically, I was on my own that night and watched a documentary on TV called City Walk. It seems that maybe it will be in the cities that it will be easiest and safest to walk.
I ended up getting a ride to Wilmington, a city known for its violence, but I saw none. I stayed with a wonderful family who live downtown. Alas I didn’t get a photo of all three of them who were there – Sally O’Byrne, her husband Terry and her brother Scott. (There are pictures of Sally tho). Sally calls her family ‘urban homesteaders’ because they moved there in the midst of the ‘white flight’ twenty some years ago. They love the city and their diverse neighborhood. I walked from the Quaker Meetinghouse to their house, then with Sally that afternoon thru Brandywine Park and around thru a part of the city that is really popular right now with young adults. And I walked again the next morning to the train station to get a train to Baltimore. Before I left I went with Sally to a farm where we walked all around looking for plants, animals, insects, etc. in what’s called a ‘Bio-Blitz’. It was such fun. The rain held off till we got back indoors. And it held off again till I got in the train and when I got to Baltimore.
I stayed two nights with Francie Marbury’s cousins, Nancy and Luke and their friend Lisa. Their son Will teaches math at the Friends School here. Would’ve gone to talk with students but Monday the school is closed for Rosh Hashanah. Blessings of the New Year to all. I walked a lot in Baltimore, some recreational walking with Lisa, also to and from Meeting at Stony Run and down to the train station to get the train to DC.
Stony Run has two meetings for worship so I went to both and met many people who had connections to Putney and/or NH. Nancy and Luke also spend time I Maine so I had fun talking about that, too.
I went to a meeting of the Stony Run working group on racism and was blessed to meet the group and hear about all the work they are doing. Here’s a list of some of the things they are working on:
Reparations, distributing BLACK LIVES MATTER lawn or window signs with the specific intention of using them to start conversations with people, Round tables with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, conversations wherever possible about racism, Circle of Voices – JC Faulk, Debby Irving’s book and conference WAKING UP WHITE, a power point presentation on the riots and looting called AND NOBODY GOT MILK FOR THE BABIES (from a quote following the riots), SURJ, a discussion of BLACK LIVES MATTER – what is the message? Some people feel it should be BLACK LIVES MATTER, TOO. Discussions about diversity and privilege for faculty at a school, plans to work on and around MLK Day on moving Confederate statues and changing names of parks named for Confederates. They are also forming groups of people to go to a variety of court hearings as observers. This has been a very fruitful ministry in many ways.
The project that I was most moved by is the work of Debby Ramsey and others, under the name of UNIFIED EFFORTS, INC. They have a website and a Go Fund Me site. Debby talked about the plan to start a youth center right in the heart of the area where the riots happened. They had already started working on the building before the riots and now there is a lot of energy to make it happen. The building is in the same block where the CVS burned and it was not touched. Maybe by spreading the word about this work, I can help support it. Please, if you can, check this out online and consider sending a donation.
I’m finishing this update in DC. I arrived this afternoon and spent several hours walking – first, going the wrong way on Mass. Ave. then finding my bearings and walking to Margaret Benefiel and Ken Haase’s where I will stay several days. Unfortunately, I am missing Margaret as she is in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks. I did get to say hi to her on Skype.
I’m going to be seeing a bunch of folks in this area and I’m also going to be working hard on setting up the next leg of the journey. Each piece has felt like another stretch for me, getting further from home and further from people and places I know. One joy has been that I have connections of various sorts with most everyone who has hosted me. Another is that so many strangers turn out to be dear new friends.
It is such a joy to meet so many wonderful people and see so many places. Just wish I had more time with all of them and that I could take the time and find the connections to walk more. Someone said the other day that I should’ve planned to take two years for this trip!
Would you believe a rose garden with a bubbling fountain in Wilmington , Delaware?
Sally took me to the site of an old Quaker mill.
The Bio-Blitz was at a beautiful farm on the outskirts of Wilmington.
There was a whole field full of monarch butterflies, caterpillars, even a chrysalis, on and around milkweed plants.
Some of members of the Working Group on Racism from Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore
Francie’s cousins Nancy and Luke Marbury and their friend Lisa
This is the lovely porch right off the bedroom where I stayed at Nancy and Luke’s.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
These are photos from my time in Lancaster Co. PA
The CHRISTIANA RESISTANCE. (used to be called the Christiana Riot)
This MARKER shows the site, right near where I stayed, where William Parker and others fought off and killed Edward Gorsuch, Maryland slave owner, who attempted to reclaim four escaped slaves. Frederick Douglas claimed that this incident was the most significant one to defeat the Fugitive Slave Act.
The Sadsbury Meetinghouse in Christiana
Mary Petzak (from Delaware) and her friend Niki (sorry Niki, I can’t find your last name) who hosted me in Lancaster Co. for two unexpected wonderful days. I didn’t take any photos of the Amish people or buggies that we saw. Figure they get their pictures taken all the time and didn’t want to bother them again.
Friday, September 11, 2015
The Progressive Friends Meeting House where leading abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas and Lucretia Mott met and spoke.
The ancient White Oak tree at London Grove Meetinghouse
Thursday, September 10, 2015
I’m taking a much needed day to catch up on emails, etc.
SOUTH OF PENDLE HILL
I got slowed down a bit on my updates. Partly because of tech difficulties and because so much has been happening on my travels. Logistics continue to be an ongoing part of my witness – how to plan far enough ahead and not be a burden with too many last minute requests but still stay open to divine guidance and the spirit moving in unexpected ways. It certainly does, time and time again!
First, a bit about my stay with Marcelle and Terry mentioned in my last note. I actually got to walk from Pendle Hill to their house and from there to Willistown but hardly at all since then. The traffic was even worse than normal around Labor Day and the roads are not walker-friendly for the most part.
While at Marcelle and Terry’s I helped do some gardening and pruning in their back yard. It was very hot but wonderful to get out into the yard and discover what was lost in the weeds. They were happy and I was overjoyed to do the work.
The next day I walked 10 miles – A REAL DAY of WALKING! Marcelle walked a little way with me that morning. Thanks so much,Marcelle. There were some sketchy places for sure – no shoulders on either side, weeds and shrubs sticking out into the road, poison ivy, lots of traffic. But there were other places where there were good shoulders, even sidewalks occasionally or mowed areas with shade trees.
I had stopped early on and bought a sandwich and the cook at the restaurant, when she heard I was walking, came out to give me a hug and a blessing. I stopped further up at Middletown Meeting house, had my early lunch and a lovely nap on a bench in the shade.
Later, I came to a restaurant and stopped again. I got another sandwich and juice. Soon after, a woman driving by turned around and came back to ask if she could give me a ride. I managed to convince her that I really wanted to walk so she gave me a bottle of ice-cold water and stuck a $20 bill I my hand. After that, a man on a bicycle stopped and offered me more water and some cookies. Plus another couple stopped and offered me a ride, too.
I arrived in Willistown late afternoon. Cindy Kern and her husband Al, welcomed me to their condo. I had a wonderful visit with them, including worship at Goshen Meeting where I met several other Friends. They have a ‘meeting for learning’ before worship some weeks. They write questions down on pieces of paper and put them in a jar, then pull one out to discuss. The question this time was, ‘is there a spiritual purpose for pain?’ We had a wonderful discussion. Cindy is the one who contacted me offering to put me in touch with Sue Angry at Kendal (see the Kendall report). The framed picture is of Cindy and Sue taken awhile ago.
Cindy and Al gave me a ride to Kendal.
KENDAL AT LONGWOOD
Kendal at Longwood is the original Kendal Quaker retirement facility. There are now numerous others as many of you probably know.
I arrived there Sunday afternoon, 9/6. It was good to have a new focus because that day was my granddaughter Lily’s b’day and I was missing her a lot. I did get to call and wish her happy birthday but still …. I was greeted at Kendal by my host Susanna Davison. If any of you know Ann Moore from Northampton Meeting (or even if you don’t) please stop a moment and offer a prayer of thanks to her. She has put me in touch with many hosts, Susanna, among them. Susanna arranged for me to stay in the original farmhouse at Kendal and even to stay an extra night when people wanted me to do a talk one night. She hooked me up with numerous other people, fed me a couple of meals (others did, too), took me on walks, introduced me to trees, brought me to the pool for a swim and generally made me feel very at home.
I think I’ve mentioned that one of the many gifts of this journey has been contact with amazing elderly people. My visit at Kendal has continued and strengthened that theme. I met many wonderful people. Kendal is a beautiful facility. At first glance one would assume that it’s residents are all very well-off financially. Some certainly are, but not all. Several people mentioned to me that there are some who are subsidized in various ways and to differing degrees. What a blessing to everyone there that it is so and that those who can do support the place financially allowing it do such a wonderful job of providing for its residents. They also hire an amazing staff who were very friendly and helpful to me.
I met a number of residents who are or were significant activists. I wish I could tell you all of them but I’m sure I don’t know all their names. I can only mention a few.
Sue Angry – The reason I went to Kendal was because I got an email from Cindy Kern (who I’d never met) who said she thought I’d want to meet Sue Angry. Sue lived at Koinonia Farm in the early days, into the turbulent 50s. Her children were shot at while they played basketball behind their house. She and her family decided (along with the whole community) that they should leave for their own safety and the safety of everyone. I think that’s when Wally and Juanita Nelson decided to move to Koinonia, to support the community there.
When I talked with Sue last week she was pretty disoriented. She spoke over and over again about her memory loss. I gently assured her that we hadn’t met before but she kept forgetting and asking again. ‘Life is a mystery’ she kept saying. I asked her if she remembered Wally and Juanita. Her eyes lit up and a big smile came over her face. What a joy it was to meet her and be able to bring a few memories of Koinonia back to her. Indeed, ‘Life is a Mystery’
Joan Nicholson – I never met Joan before but she is for sure a kindred soul. We talked a number of times in the two days I was at Kendal. I told her about the Women’s Pentagon Action and spending time at Alderson Women’s Fed. Penitentiary. Joan spent two years there! She has a pile of signs that she hauls out and sticks in the ground by the entrance, creating her own solo vigil. Go Joan!
Ruth Stern – Ruth just happened to walk down the hall the night I was giving my talk at Kendal. Someone grabbed her and said ‘you need to come to this’. I was so glad. We had breakfast together the next morning and had a wonderful conversation. Ruth is the widow of Lee Stern who was one of the founders of AVP. She has her own story, too, but I don’t know enough of it to share it with you. She confessed that Kendal is a little too fancy for her, that she longs for more simplicity. I know what she means but I was certainly grateful for all the hospitality I received there.
Marcelle and Terry in their back yard
Cindy Kern and Sue Angry
Cindy and her husband Al. I’m getting to feel like quite the Queen of Selfies!
With Sue Angry at Kendall
The original farmhouse at Kendal where I stayed
Scrapple, eggs, home fries, fruit and tea for breakfast! Yum. If you’ve never had scrapple, it’s a Pennsylvania specialty. Sorry all you veggies. I bet it could be made with tempeh.
It’s been raining for hours and hours, sometimes quite heavily. Today we went to an Amish farm stand. Without any advanced notice, I got transported for two days to Lancaster Co. PA. Tomorrow I’ll go to Wilmington, DE, back on track AND, I hope, to where I can walk again. But today I am in Amish farm country and loving it. Everyone is relieved about the rain. It’s been so hot and dry. I ate a supper of Amish veggies – corn on the cob, zucchini, onions, sweet potatoes and Concord grapes for desert. Earlier I’d been eating luscious deep red tomatoes and delicious aged sheep cheese that I got at a farmer’s mkt. a little further north.
After I left Kendal on Tuesday, I spent a night with another two new f/Friends, Brenda and Tom Macaluso who live in an old house in Kennett Square. Tom runs an absolutely amazing bookstore also in Kennett Sq. Brenda gave me a tour of the area, inc. the Progressive Friends Meeting House where many of the most famous abolitionists gathered – Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott and others. We went to her meeting, London Grove, and saw the ancient White Oak that was there even before William Penn came to the colonies.
One of the most astonishing things I have seen on my trip thus far at Tom’s store was a small framed piece about 3×4″ – a fragment of a letter that John Woolman wrote in July 1772 to his wife from England shortly before he died in Oct. of that year. I held it in my hands and I photographed it. I know John Woolman would not want to idolize him but it’s so hard not to. I remember John Punshon saying somewhat in jest but also very seriously, not in these exact words, that Woolman ruined it all for the rest of us because he was so exquisitely perfect. I’m sure he would disagree.
I have a connection with Tom and Brenda that is very deep and wide. They and so many others have led me to believe that I will come back to visit again. I’ve told them I doubt I will walk tho.
MY TALK To residents of KENDAL at Longwood. Photo: Ian Whitlock.
Brenda and Tom Macaluso, Kennett Square, PA
Friday, September 4, 2015
Dear Friends – Today I will leave Chester, PA after visiting two days with Marcelle Martin and Terry Hanger.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
I’m now south of Pendle Hill, in Chester, PA for a couple of days, then on to a little town NW, Willistown, then Kennett Sq. where I hope to meet a woman in her 90s who lived at Koinonia Farm back in the 1950s. I also learned from Nick Roby (see entry from Philly) about a student in the early days of The Meeting School who went to Koinonia in 1964 and was involved in a shooting incident in a car right near the farm.
With all the shootings we hear about now, it’s really sad to think we haven’t progressed more beyond that kind of violence. As I was walking into Chester, I came to a place at the entrance to a park. There was a young African American couple there just getting out of a car. I said ‘hello’ but they didn’t respond so I just went on my way. They started down a wide trail to my left. I wasn’t sure which way to go but I chose the main road to give them space. As I walked up the hill on the road, a police car came down and turned toward where they were walking. For a moment I wondered, should I turn back, just in case it would be helpful for them to have someone else around? But it felt awkward, especialły because I look so obvious (and weird?) with my backpack and other bags. I didn’t want to make things worse for them by hanging around when it seemed like they were hoping for some privacy. I decided to go on but I’ll never know if that was the right decision.
Later, up the hill, I stopped to eat lunch at a park bench. There was a bunch of little trash there so after I finished eating, I took an extra plastic bag I had and cleaned up. Another young black man came along. I said ‘hello’ to him and we had a nice exchange about how hot it was. He told me that I could get more water over at a nearby building if I needed it. That brief encounter was so natural, easy and sweet I almost cried at the difference.
Earlier I had had a conversation with a runner who was lecturing me about being careful. He was saying not to make eye contact with people – like that was risky. It’s a risk I think I need to take. Obviously, it depends on the circumstances, but if I avoid connecting with people automatically out of fear, I will miss a lot of opportunities to be friendly, affirm others, and have the joy of sharing time with them.
I spent two days as well at Pendle Hill (more below).
Just have to say a few words first about these reports. They are usually done very early in the AM before daylight and are often hasty with little time to edit. I don’t always get all the names in and there’s tons more I could say. I apologize to anyone who might get short changed because of the need to get going quickly or sometimes because I’m having tech difficulties or other unusual factors. All my hosts have been awesome and I can’t thank them enough. I may have said this before but I will say it over and over, I AM NOT DOING THIS ALONE. Everyone is a part of this journey. If you are reading this, you are, too!
beware. They announce a train and then maybe another train pulls in first on the same track that’s going the other direction. I’ve learned now to watch for the name of the train and ask.
Then when I got to Wallingford I found Possum Hollow Road but it didn’t look like it went two ways and I went in the wrong direction AGAIN. Just one of those days. So I actually got a pretty decent walk in before reaching PH. What was sad was I asked several people for directions and only one out of five knew PH and where it was even though I was within a mile and a half of the campus.
I rested a lot, ate great food, talked with lots of people and got to worship two mornings. I gave a talk Tuesday night to 16 or 17 people. I even got to do a little harvesting of herbs in the garden. It was a special joy to spend time with Steve Chase. Many thanks to him for setting it all up. I also saw two Friends I hadn’t seen in many years – Beth Lawn who was at ESR with me and Tom Jenik who used to live in NH and was staff at PH for several years. His wife Barbara and I knew each other but weren’t sure from where, FGC Gathering, we think. Also Paula Palmer had just arrived for 10 weeks as Cadbury scholar to do research on Quaker Native American schools. If anyone has experience with that, she’d like to hear from you.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Can it be that August is gone?
I am spending my last night in Philly. The first was my ecumenical sojourn at Cranaleith – a Catholic spiritual retreat center in north Philadelphia, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Alas, I took no pictures there. It was a lovely, wooded site and a big old house with many rooms. I was with sister Maria and a young woman named Helen who was on silent retreat so we talked very little.
The next morning I took the Septa train into downtown where I met up with Jeffrey and walked with him to the row house he shared with his husband Kevin, their dog Coffee and two cats, Monster and Theo. it was good to walk again though it was only a little more than a mile. Friday morning we got up early. Coffee, Monster, Theo and I went to their brand new row house a few blocks away where we stayed till the movers packed up all the furniture, belongings, food – EVERYTHING! I literally dog-sat, pretty much all day, snuggling with Coffee to keep her calm and out of the way.
Coffee’s Dads, Jeff & Kevin on the roof with spectacular city view
Saturday I took the train again this time to Mt. Airy in West Philly. I met up with Nick Roby, a long-time F/friend who is an early alum of The Meeting School and principle archivist of TMS. We walked all afternoon in a park near his house and had a wonderful late lunch at Valley Green Inn after a swim in the stream along the carriage path. We talked and talked about the school and the history he is compiling.
Nick Roby and me swimming
Quiet, old Green Street Meeting
Today we went to worship at Green Street Meeting, founded in 1816. From the outside It looked very staid and quiet. But turned out it was fifth Sunday which for that meeting is a boisterous meeting of song and games. We were handed paper and pens and instructed to pass ‘love’ notes to each other (practice for school starting up again). Then we sang songs, hymns and even divided into groups to do rap versions of the George Fox song. There were lots of YAFs from QVS (Quaker Volunteer Service) who were really fun to be with. After worship I introduced myself and told them about my walk. A member of the meeting came up and told me he knew Peace Pilgrim. His mom used to sew her tunics for her!
Turns downright rowdy!
From meeting I went to brunch with Nick and his wife Margery. Then they insisted on driving me to my next stay just north of Drexel University. I’m staying tonight with Pat McBee and Brad Sheeks who some of you may know.
Here is my route on 3 maps. I hope people will look at them and think of people close to the line I drew. Some people have friends and family who are many miles from my route. While I’m very grateful for any contacts, people need to know that I can’t go far from my intended route but would welcome referrals from folks if they know other people closer to where I’m going. Sheilagwalk@gmail.com
Wednesday, August 27, 2015
This fawn was grazing along another tow path in Yardley, PA.
I never would’ve guessed that I’d find such beauty in NJ and Eastern PA.
When I got to the Delaware River I found this idyllic spot. After the geese got out, I went for a little wade in the water, children.
Then I turned and looked south. The Trenton skyline across the river is not quite so pretty.
This group of students was visiting from Philly. All together, they had over eighty kids there!
Susan, in the straw hat and pink shirt, graduated from The Meeting School. It’s a small world, our Quaker world. Half the people I meet know each other or are connected in some way.
Tuesday, August 26,2015
Stayed last night with Melanie and Jonathan Snipes at their awesome farm in Morrisville, PA, just north of Philly. Got to spend some time with this group of summer campers. Really fun. Melanie is right behind me in this photo.
They have a game they call Gaga Ball that they play in this wooden frame. They use a big beach ball and the kids bat it around with their hands, no kicking. If it bounces out of the frame or it hits you below your knees, you’re out. Last one in the circle wins.
It’s a big farm, lots of crop land, a big corn maze, hoop houses, compost, pasture for grazing, hay rides and a stream to go play in. Alas, I didn’t get to the stream.
This is Jonathan driving the tractor.
Monday, August 25, 2015
Hey folks! I’ve been out of WiFi service for a few days but the journey continues. This time it’s been the INFO HIGHWAY that’s been rocky, not the actual one.
I spent three nights with Margaret and Ted in Greenwich. Good rest, good food, great fellowship and gorgeous surroundings. They live in a little house on the grounds of the Audubon Center where Ted has worked for many years. He’s one of the most fun people I know to walk with. He knows every bird and a bunch of plants, too. But he was recovering from an intensive kids’ summer camp so we didn’t walk together this time.
Margaret and I worshipped at Purchase MM (NYYM) sorry, no photos, where she is clerk. Next day she was headed to Yonkers for 3days of AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project). Support committee take note: I SAID ‘NO’ to an invitation to join her! It wasn’t easy. This would’ve been a longed-for opportunity to work in a community of low-income, mostly Latina folks, exactly the kind of stretch from my comfort zone that I long for. But I’m focusing on walking now. Hope you give me a few Brownie points for staying on track.
Margaret dropped me off in White Plains and I walked from downtown over Battle Hill, steepest walk thus far, to Hartsdale where I stayed with Anne and Bob Wright, members of Scarsdale MM (NNYM). On my way, I found a branch of TD Bank. Stopped in to make a deposit and the bank teller, Vanessa, and branch manager were really excited when I told them about my walk. Vanessa asked if I’d mind taking a photo with her. Of course, I was thrilled! She says she wants to do a walk like this some time, too.
I had time at Anne and Bob’s to do some garden work and tho it took some persuading, they let me prune their yew hedge and clean up the path to their front door. It felt really good to give back like that. A couple of f/Friends from Scarsdale meeting came for supper and we had a wonderful, in-depth discussion about various aspects of my walk.
One question that came up was about me not carrying a sign and not being necessarily overt about going to the School of the Americas Watch vigil at Fort Benning. My decision has been to approach each person or group of people individually and choose what to say based on my sense of their interest and level of awareness about the concerns I hold. This holds true with Quakers and non-Quakes alike. In general, I find that I’m more likely to have good connections with people if I tread lightly. I try to ask questions about their interests and introduce topics depending, in part on their responses to whatever comes up in the initial contact.
My stay at Fellowship of Reconciliation was wonderful. We couldn’t get enough people together at the same time for a meeting but I did get to talk with lots of small groups and individuals during my two days there. One highlight was a canoe ride in the Hudson at sunset.
I worshipped this week with All Friends Regional Meeting, their equivalent to our Quarter, about thirty five people inc. a bunch of wonderful little children for business meeting, worship and picnic. Then on to NJ with someone who came from the south.
If you haven’t already, please send me your phone number or email address or contact me on Facebook. Putney Meeting website is the place to look for updates. I don’t have time to do a lot on Facebook, too.
Last story for now: Yesterday as I walked the last mile of about ten to my host in New Brunswick, NJ, a woman pulled over and asked where was I going. I told her I was almost there but she insisted on giving me a ride. With her lovely Carribean accent she said she realized if she didn’t stop to give me a ride she’d regret it for the rest of her life. We had a great short talk. She dropped me at my destination and gave me a bag of beautiful peaches. She said she works at an agency and someone brings lots of fruit and veggies to them. She said ‘God bless you’ and we said goodbye.
Thank you all for prayers and good wishes. I look at my prayer flag every night and think of you.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sunday went to worship and a picnic at Dover Randolph Meeting. Very old meeting house from 1750s. Maybe John Woolman worshipped here?
In NJ started walking on the tow path along a canal. Tons of turtles! Can you see them?
Was sad to lose my penny whistle then found it in the bottom of my bag. Yay!
Crossed the Hudson on a bus. No way to walk.
Some of the many people I met at FOR
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is located at Shadowcliff. A huge old mansion right on the river in Nyack, NY. I got to help weed the gardens.
Highlight of my time at FOR was a canoe trip on the river at sunset
Lots of wooded hilly roads
Walked one sidewalk with a couple of four-legged friends. If you look closely in the middle you may see this one.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Friends Rob and Sylvia of New Haven Meeting.
Crossing the bridge to downtown New Haven
A prime example of the challenges of walking around here. The sidewalk disappears!
My host in Westport, Dana Raphael.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
One of the surprises of this journey so far is that I have not walked as much as I had hoped or planned. Partly it is that the roads themselves are dangerous and difficult. People drive very fast and some pay very little attention to pedestrians. An example of the challenge is the foto of the sidewalk ending. What to do? It’s not safe to be in the road but the path is filled with rubble, tall weeds and discarded signs. Sometimes there’s no crossing light or button to push for crossing. Other times the button works but the light doesn’t so I have to guess when it’s safe (sort of!) to cross. It involves lots of observation and prayer and, some would say, lots of luck.
Some of my hosts, all wonderful, have been very helpful but not about walking, they want to drive me everywhere or get me on a train. It’s a challenge to know what’s the right choice.
In New Haven I stayed with a family I didn’t know but when we saw each other we immediately knew we’d seen each other numerous times at NEYM sessions. That was really fun. Rob and Tracy and Rob’s mom (in her 90s) were very welcoming AND they let me walk and helped me figure out the best route in and out of downtown New Haven. Part of the challenge is also recognizing that some people are not comfortable with being in and around neighborhoods that they don’t feel safe in. I want to respect that but I also don’t want to avoid contact with people just because they are low income, people of color or whatever. I am developing some strategies that allow me to stretch my comfort levels at the same time as I try to honor the recommendations of my hosts and others.
From New Haven I took the train to Bridgeport and was met by Maggie Stevenson (sorry no photo), a really interesting person who I thought I was staying with. Maggie is the step daughter of the famed Barnum of Barnum and Bailey Circus. She sure has some interesting stories. You’ll probably hear more about her later because she is driving down to SOA Watch and we may ride back together.
It turned out she had arranged to drive me to Westport to stay with Dana Raphael who is a really remarkable soul. Dana is an anthropologist who studied extensively with Margaret Mead. She is the person who, as far as I can tell, was primarily responsible for the success of the boycott against Nestles for marketing infant formula in third world countries. Her research on the importance of breast feeding for infant health was critical. She also is the person who defined the term ‘doula’.
On top of all that, her son worked as an intern for Jimmy Carter. In the bedroom where I stayed was his invitation to Carter’s inauguration. AND her mother danced with Isadora Duncan! All over the house there were fotos and drawings of ballet dancers. Dana, who is in her nineties, is still dancing! What an amazing woman, what a treat to meet and spend time with her.
After Westport I took the train again to Greenwich where I met my dear friends Ted Gilman and Margaret Lechner. Ted is a long time staff person for Audubon and Margaret is a friend from my days at Earlham School of Religion (ESR).
Margaret and I walked from downtown Greenwich to the Audubon Center north of town. Part of our walk was on fairly treacherous roads (people sure drive fast around here) but we left the road and walked several miles on wooded trails. At one spot we took a break by a stream. It was really hot and I couldn’t resist getting in. What bliss! The rest of the walk was much more comfortable. I was drip-drying all the way.
Sunday/First Day Margaret and I went to Purchase Meeting where I got to sit in on a meeting of their Peace and Social Witness Committee. After worship I visited with people informally and talked about my journey. I had considered walking back from meeting but it was already in the nineties so I rode back and was grateful that the house was blessedly cool even without air conditioning.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
I took my first day off from walking on Tuesday because the weather forecast was for thunderstorms all afternoon. It did pour rain in the morning but no thunder or lightening at all. So I could’ve walked and was a bit disappointed. But my friend Mary picked me up and drove me to her home in Oakville, west of my route. We had a wonderful visit, inc. a trip the next morning to White Flower Farm in Litchfield. When my mom was living she always gave me a gift certificate from there for my birthday. We’d have fun pouring over the catalogue together. I always wanted to see the place so it was a dream come true to go. Gorgeous display beds. After we went to a lovely café for lunch and to a nearby lake for a quick swim. A real treat. Then Mary took me to within about three miles of my hosts in Hamden so I had a good short walk into Hamden.
Philip and Wendy were my first SERVAS hosts. They are walkers, too. Getting ready to go to England to walk for several weeks there. Low and behold we found out we have mutual friends in Maine.
Today, Thursday, I walked from Hamden into New Haven. I never expected this to be such a beautiful part of the trip but it was partly tree-lined streets through old neighborhoods and some gorgeous trails alongside a lake. Below is a photo of an old willow tree that arched over the trail in one place. What a joyful surprise. In New Haven I walked through and around the city. I spent time in the public library, aware that it is a great resource for everyone, maybe especially for the homeless. While I was there they announced that a man was available downstairs to meet with all veterans, especially homeless vets to hear their stories and offer help if needed. I treated myself to lunch at Mamoun’s. If you get a chance, do go there. The food and decor are terrific. I walked part of the way to my next host near New Haven Meeting, then took a bus part way at the suggestion of another pedestrian. All together I think I walked about 7 or eight miles today.
I’m pasting in below a piece I posted on Facebook that has a lot of meaning to me right now. Lots of people advise me to be careful and hope for my safety. I’m grateful and listen to advice from my hosts and other locals. The writing below reminds me that there is also more to it than caution alone. Thanks to all for holding me in your prayers.
SAFETY FOURTH – Jens Braun
Disentangling our priorities from the messages of culture and corporate advertising is almost like trying to live without the air that surrounds us, yet is invisible and only occasionally noticed through breath and wind. One such message is the ubiquitous “Safety First,” which seems so reasonable and appropriate. Perhaps not.
Here is an alternative message (you might, after consideration, lower the rank of safety yet further):
1st: Spirit First. Where is the Spirit leading? What is the witness to which I am called? What stands in the way of my following the urgings of conscience? Do we place physical, mental and social comfort ahead of the action consequent to discerned Truth?
2nd: Family and Community Second. What is best for growing a strong, resilient, capable family and community that is not bounded by fear nor constrained by societal impositions that tend to regulate life into meaninglessness? Do we seek out and accept the kinds of challenges that later provide the experience, balance, and honed skills necessary for lives of service and grace?
3rd: Beauty and Goodness Third. Can we practice and live our callings in beauty, passing through the journeys of this life in ways that, though the roads may be difficult and dangerous, look easy and attainable? Do we recognize that staying in familiar valleys precludes the views from the mountaintop and the wisdom gained when learning from the mistakes that invariably happen while climbing. Do we help each other and live generously?
4th: Safety Fourth, but not out of fear. As we engage in life, it is important to do so in a manner that cares for and nourishes our physical beings, but let this not be at the expense of our spirits and souls. Pain, even premature death, need not be invited, but seeking at all costs to avoid their entrance into our homes can well shut doors to the fundamentals of our humanity.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
It’s sure NOT all pretty out there! We’ve walked on lots of very busy roads and gotten pretty dusty and hot. Under bridges it’s cooler in the shade. Some drivers are great, stopping to let us cross, waving, smiling. Others are not very observant or careful. We watched maybe 10 -12 cars drive right through when the light said to cross (the picture of the little person walking). Even a police car drove right through!
My third host, Rachel Morse, in Middletown. Her parents go to Hanover MM.
Sunday, 9 August, 2015
At the Sat. vigil in Northampton, I met this woman who was arrested last year for doing civil disobedience at School of the Americas Watch! Now I can’t find her name. It was wonderful to meet her and have her blessings for my walk.
Another picture of the N’hampton vigil. Behind me is Frances Crowe, one of my great activist mentors.
My official send off at Hartford Meeting, Sunday August 9. Wanny (Lou Anne) McDonald next to me in the blue shirt, walked the first two days with me.
Our first host, Eleanor Godway, also Hartford MM, out on her deck in New Britain
SHEILA STARTS WALKING THE WALK
Saturday, 8 August, 2015
Blessings and love to all my dear Putney MM f/Friends. I hold you all in my heart with deep, wide gratitude! After a wonder-full six days at Yearly Meeting sessions, I have spent two days with my new beloved F/friend Anne Moore of Northampton Friends Meeting. Today I will attend the weekly Peace Vigil here and take the train to Hartford. Tomorrow, Wanny McDonald and I will walk the first two days together, staying the first night in New Britain and the second in Middletown. I’ve already lined up two lakes to swim!
Special message to my support team – I have sent my boots to my son who will have them for me when we meet up in Maine for Thanksgiving. I will wear sandals and walking shoes and my beloved Darn Tough socks!
I have made many contacts and continue to do so with the help of lots and lots of folks. Thanks so much for all yours, inc. contacts and prayers. If you think of anyone else you know, esp. in VA and SC please let me know. And if you are led, hold a special prayer for if I am meant to be either in Philly or DC when the Pope is there. I am asking that logistic query right now.
I will be holding you all in my prayers, too. I have my prayer flag in a special pocket and I take it out each day. And, yes, I did get my Travel Minute.
SHEILA GARRETT WALKS TO GEORGIA
As many of you know, I am following a long-held leading of walking to Georgia. In the past, I have walked with groups and by myself, for up to three weeks at a time. This walk will be 3 1/2 months, for me a pilgrimage of huge proportion.
In 2011, I travelled by public transportation down the east coast to Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA, and attended the SOA (School of the Americas) Watch gathering at Fort Benning. At that time, I said next time I wanted to walk there. Now that leading is being realized.
Generally, I hope to walk 10 – 12 miles a day. I will include a rest day every week or so. I have been blessed to have an on-going support committee from the meeting and a travel minute (introduction) approved by Putney, Northwest Quarter and New England Yearly Meeting. This support process is fundamental to my sense of ministry and I am honored to be part of the process. I will be carrying you all with me in spirit and in gratitude.
My goal is to arrange hospitality, accompaniment and other support along the whole route. If you have friends or family who might be willing to host me, know others who could or if you have a contact person in a particular meeting, I’d be very grateful if you could put them in touch with me. I travel light, carry a sleeping bag and a small amount of food. I would like to visit as many places of worship as possible. My hope is to arrange gatherings of interested people, share a meal and talk about the social justice and peace issues in the local community.
I choose to walk for many reasons, most of which overlap – philosophical, political, environmental, health related and spiritual. I have not owned a car for over fourteen years and find power in traveling the most simple ways I can. There are many political and social justice reasons to walk. I hope to visit with people whose lives are impacted by the choices our govt. makes, to think together about ways we can effect change. I am grateful for support of all sorts but my hope is to be self-sufficient whenever possible and necessary. Above all, I want to be of service, not a burden to those I visit and engage with people in a way that is meaningful to us all.
When away from home I feel blessed to meet people in their own home environment and find that many are eager to offer whatever help they can. I wear a vest or a hat that carries the message ‘Peace be With You.’ It is offered as a blessing and an invitation, if anyone chooses, to talk about what peace is to each of us and the challenges faced in life.
Another reason to walk is health. It allows me to stay strong and flexible. Being outdoors and moving, even in all sorts of weather, is a constant joy.
Most important is my spiritual call to walk. Walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists, is accompanied by drumbeat and chanting, ‘Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.’ There is intention in every aspect. Solo walks carry that same spirit. I acknowledge the mentoring of the Buddhist tradition. I also had the privilege of walking in meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh, who I consider one of the great teachers of our time.
For years I have worked with indigenous, First Nations people and have walked with them as well. I am mindful that everywhere I walk I have been preceded by those whose connection to the earth has taught me reverence for all life and all beings. I also identify as a Christian. Jesus of Nazareth is my principle teacher.
What about the aspect of walking out in the world that some would call madness? Or naïveté? Perhaps there is an element of that in any venture. I do not intend to invite violence or nor look for it. I think I present a rather comic picture – gray hair, mix and match clothes, a small back pack and the aforementioned hat or vest that says ‘peace be with you.’ Usually it’s enough to amuse and intrigue people.
I am not a purist. There will be times on this journey to Georgia when I will need to use other forms of transport but I plan to walk as much of the way as possible. I will only walk where I have a host/contact person. If not, I will take a bus or train to the next place where I have hospitality. I leave Hartford August 9, following NEYM sessions and plan to reach Americus, GA before Thanksgiving, in time to attend the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch vigil.
I am very happy to correspond with anyone who is interested. I also welcome prayers and best wishes.