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Friday, October 8, 2010

Butterfly Peace Visions Released and Teacher's Promise Kept

Such, such a yellow
is carried lightly way up high
It went away I'm sure because it wished to kiss the world good bye...
(Taken from "The Butterfly" by Paul Havel. See below.}

What a wonderful year this has been. How serendipitious that the butterfly peace quilt should end its journey on display at the Shedd performing arts hall in Eugene, Oregon from September 27-October 3. Why there? Because my friend Marcee Long responded in a profound way to the question, "What is your vision of peace?"

I asked that question many times this year during my journey with the quilt. Thousands of cards with peace messages have been sent to Oprah Winfrey and more are in the mail today.

If you'd like to add yours to the swarm of visions, take a blank notecard and put the address on one side(110 N. Carpenter St., Chicago, Illinois 60607-2146, USA,) a 28 cent stamp, and your vision of peace on the back. Add "My vision of peace is..." Complete the sentence and illustrate it if you wish. Add your first name and age in the bottom right corner. If you are from another country, add too. The 250 Russian children who wrote individual cards did that as did the folks from the UK and Costa Rica.

The butterflies are out of my hands now. I kept my promise to take the quilt "around the world." I helped spread children's visions of peace. I asked people to join with adolescents at Shasta Middle School by considering or remembering their own ways of making a peaceful difference too. I didn't consider how many people actually acted on the visions they chose to claim for the betterment of the world. That didn't seem to matter. Releasing those butterflies was my primary objective. Transformation was left up to each individual something out of my control. I did believe/hope that a mass of individual visions could become a mighty force, much like a swarm of butterflies hatching out of their chrysalises.

Butterflies of all different hues and habitats do make a sight. That's for sure.

Today the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner was announced, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo who was imprisoned because of his protests against the restrictions of the Chinese government's disregard of human rights. Last Christmas he was arrested to begin his 11 years in jail for daring to speak out over and over against China's authoritarian leaders for the past 20 years.

There are those bigger-than-life people who risk much for others. They are our heroes to emulate, and we are awed by their accomplishments. I believe that the rest of us, the "ordinary" ones, who may not live in such politically oppressive climates must take risks for peace also. We must join Liu and MLK, Jr. and Mother Teresa. We must initiate quiet or loud, small, medium, or large actions. We must grasp our individual passions by our hearts to make the world a happier place for all. Everyone deserves basic fundamental human rights. It we dare to forget this, our children can always remind us.

My middle schoolers had not lost hope. For this reason, I traveled for one year hoping that people would listen to their visions and those they inspired and respond with the peace they may have forgotten. That was my vision.

Sometimes peace takes daring, fortitude, and passion. Always it takes time. As Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate winner for banning landmines, put it a few months ago when I saw her speak at a Peace Jam event in Corvallis, Oregon: "Everyone can do something about what they care about even if it's only a half hour a month. Get off the couch. It will make a difference. No excuses."

Friend Marcee Long went out on a limb to present her vision of peace ("Peace Begins at Home") in an extraordinarily artistic manner in Eugene last week. She listened to the question I asked her at the Eugene library. The quilt with kids' visions of peace attached like butterflies to its surface was making one of its appearances to highlight the developing peace park honoring American Nobel Peace Winners in Eugene.

"And what is your vision of peace, Marcee?"

After she pondered the question the length of time she needed, she came to me with an idea. She dreamed of creating something really big, a vision of peace from her heart, something for the community beginning at home. Something out of her usual reach.

Months later, the vision took on flesh. For seven nights she drew together audiences to celebrate visions of peace. Everything presented was crafted with excellence and dignity and professionalism by each participant and behind-the-scenes support people. Her piano students from her "Red Room" home studio provided the verbal framework for the days of peace performances. They initiated the ripples in the pond image so often referred to throughout the week of peace. Children as young as five and as old as 17 memorized and delivered their monologues of meaning. Hope personified.

Marcee's multiple people connections proved to be a visual metaphor illustrating how all of our own individual actions begin in our homes and can subsequently affect others we know and don't know and even ultimately our world. From the Peace Nobel Laureate Gala on September 24 until October 3, choirs of children and multiple adult artists performed. People of all ages spoke, sang, danced, acted, played musical instruments, sculpted and painted their visions into action. They expressed their responses for making the world a better place out loud with boldness. Gratis. The proceeds earned were designated for the building of the U.S. Nobel Peace Park, the first one of its kind in the nation.

Was the week successful? Yes. Were there huge crowds of people there? No. Did hundreds and hundreds of people respond with their gifts of their own peace visions from the heart? YES! More butterflies were released. No strings attached.

(Paste in this address: to understand more about Marcee's dream.)

At the end of the seven days of peace at the Sunday twilight program, I talked briefly about my teacher's promise and its completion.

"...I believe that the force behind this series of events at the Shedd has not been Marcee or my students at Shasta or the wonderful performers of peace on this stage. I believe that this week was influenced by a child none of us know. His name is Paul Havel.

During WW II, young Paul wrote a poem called "The Butterfly" while living inside a Jewish ghetto.

His words inspired my students who memorized them. They frequently spoke the poem en masse in the classroom, and subsequently, wrote their own peace poetry. One thing led to another and postcards of peace visions fluttered like butterflies to Oprah Winfrey's snailmail post office box. Paul's butterfly became their peace symbol.

The quilt I've carried this year was purposely designed in the shape of a butterfly backdrop by Carol and Chuck Vanlue so that those same visions could be displayed before mailing. Middle schoolers hoped that they might become that tipping point for peace. Naively. Maybe. They innately knew that violence, hatred, and the abusing of basic human rights was simply wrong.

Thank you, Paul Havel. Thank you, Marcee Long.

Imagine now that you are in my classroom and that those 6th graders are reciting this butterfly poem...all of them together with you in this audience. Paul Havel knew the importance of seeing butterflies. Close your eyes, don't look at me, and listen for that connected voice.

The Butterfly
by Paul Havel

The last, the very last
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing against a white stone.

Such, such a yellow
is carried lightly way up high
It went away I'm sure because it wished to kiss the world good bye

For seven weeks I've lived in here
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court
Only I never saw another butterfly

That butterfly was the last one
Butterflies don't live in here
In the ghetto.

(The butterfly poem was taken from a book entitled I have not seen a Butterfly Around here, Children's drawings and Poems from Terezin, a way camp that led to Auschwitz and subsequent death for those young children of hope.)

Now I am looking for a new vision of peace, but that will come after I've had time to ponder this year of peace. I hope that it will have something to do with laughter.

Meanwhile, I'm doing other things. Last night I "played" Julia Child at the opera gala. Merle Streep was busy. Bon appetit, my friends!

Julia Child loved her friends, her husband Paul, well prepared delicious French food, MacDonald's French Fries, and her own 6'2" sturdy frame and distinctive voice. She wrote many cookbooks, graduated from Paris' prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school in the 50s, organized her own cooking classes with her French friends Simone and Louisette, was rumored to have been a OSS(CIA) spy, and was the first woman to have her own syndicated show on U.S. public television: The French Chef. Truly, I always thought Eleanor Roosevelt had that honor. I would have liked both of those women so very much. Such authentic souls. Perhaps I would have liked Paul Havel even more.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Peace Quilt Arrives at Prime Meridian on September 11

Two Visions-of-Peace Postcards from England

While a sickly-minded minister named Terry Jones was threatening to burn the Koran in Florida, the Jubilee tube station line was closed in Central London because of potential trouble, and Oprah Winfrey was otherwise occupied taking a break contemplating her own retirement, peace happened. The wee butterfly quilt arrived at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England on September 11 at 1:59 PM, one minute shy of the scheduled time.

Keadys and Pierces stand on the Prime Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. London's skyline in the distance.
Saturday was not an easy day of travel for my trusty companions and me. Less hopeful peace butterflies fluttered in my head as more and more transportation difficulties ensued. After jump starting our car in Langport, we drove to the Heathrow airport's long-term parking lot #4 and parked downhill. Continuing our quirky journey to Greenwich, we caught the shuttle, boarded a bus playing loud Lady Gaga music, and switched to several alternative tube lines and finally, the light rail. Speedwalking through the village gathering my blisters along the way, we arrived at the Royal Observatory at the top of a long hill five and a half hours after we had started. The trip from Langport in Somerset to Greenwich in London had taken twice the expected time. Thusly, Roger and Karen Keady, John, and I planted our feet on the longitudinal line of O degrees, O minutes, and O seconds, known as the Prime Meridian of the World. Four smiling friends in blue peace shirts. Just us. Just right.

I felt giddy and appreciative for a year well spent as I stepped on this imaginary line of beginnings and endings. The perfect day heralded by rainbows sighted on the Thames right above Big Ben on our return trip.

Phileas Fogg would have been properly proud of our attitudes in handing tiny glitches along the way while soberly identifying with our conveyance problems and the importance of meeting exact deadlines on certain dates. Chuckling, I juxtaposed the fictional plot of Jules Verne's classic novel Around the World in 80 Days that my social studies students dramatized every year with my past year of traveling for peace.

On my real journey, the plot wrote itself and I certainly won no wager. However, by reaching the Prime Meridian, in my mind, I had completed a teacher's promise in a timely fashion. For a year, I took the butterfly quilt wherever I was invited to share children's visions of peace hoping that their words would inspire others to help build peace too. My pledge was completed on a significant date. What a great way to retire! Again.

Nine years ago terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City jarred the world. I remember another personal photo taken that year in August while I was standing on Ellis Island by the railing. The panoramic shot portrayed a closeup of my red-polished forefinger pointing at the Twin Towers in the Manhattan skyline one month before the attack. Unsettling. I remember hearing Bekah's frightened voice as she called from New York City on September 11 before we lost communication for days. She had just witnessed the second plane crashing into the second tower from the top of her Astoria brownstone. I remember another important date too. A happy one. Prime Meridian day for me was also Grandson Will Pierce's 5th birthday. He was probably home in Bend, Oregon hosting his Star Wars Party.

To Greenwich I had also carried two visions-of-peace postcards given by Sue and Susan from the UK. These token cards previewed a peace event organized by the cards' authors who were inspired by the Zillion Visions of Peace Project. An upcoming festival of peace will take place at a healing arts sanctuary in Manchester on September 21, the International Day of Peace. Visions continue to multiply.

Negatives. Positives. Disappointments. Delights. A year of unexpected immeasurable gifts of peace and serendipitous outcomes in places least expected.

Double rainbows complete Lura's journey "around the world in more than 80 days."

In this final month of the quilt's journey, I plan to celebrate Marcee Long's "Peace Begins at Home" postcard vision. Final quilt stop #50 occurs at the Shedd Community Arts Center from September 27 to October 3 where it will be displayed as a quiet backdrop. In a much grander and classier style than I could ever have imagined, the building of peace visions will come alive on stage in a festival week of peace-filled performances by artists near and far. The outgrowth of these peacemaking volunteers' efforts will be the construction of a peace park commemorating the 24 U.S. Nobel Peace Laureates in Eugene, the only one of its kind. I believe that. Marcee believes that. John Attig , head of the American Nobel Peace Laureate Project believes that. Klaus Nobel himself believes it enough to personally dedicate the park and attend a fundraising gala on September 24.

Shasta Middle Schoolers believed that a peace park would be built two years ago. I'm proud of you, kids.

For information, see

(Note to Oprah Winfrey)
Oprah, you'll receive the postcards above and more from Manchester, all because of adolescents who dreamed larger dreams several years ago. Look for messages from Sommerton, England also. A group of 5-7 year old Rainbow Girls will draw their visions of peace for you because their Girl Guide Leader, Janet, heard about the million-visions-of peace project during the quilt's visit and will implement her version of peace visions just as Sue and Susan are doing.

By the way, I am pleased to report that I contacted your agent, Kevin Huvane, before I left for England. I detest making phone calls like that, but since I asked others to call about the quilt's 49th stop in Greenwich, I decided I'd better do what I find difficult. Daughter Rebekah and her friend Ronia called the Chicago number where your producer, Lisa Halliday, learned about the Prime Meridian visit too. We did our homework, our part, so to speak.

I phoned because I wanted you to know about the thousands of postcards that have been arriving one by one in your Chicago mail slot for quite awhile. I doubt that you've seen them.

I hoped that I would get your busy agent's voicemail. Instead, Mr. Kuvane answered from his Los Angeles' office sounding gruff and impatient. I proceeded to plunge into a one-sided conversation, but he didn't hang up. Paring my words to basics, I explained the project's goal of one million visions of peace, the butterfly peace quilt's visit to the Prime Meridian, and asked for one easy favor. Out of respect for all the people who had written and sent so many visions, I asked him to tell you personally so that you could be aware of them. The rest of the 250 Russian cards recently gathered in July will be mailed at the end of this month, for example, and you don't want to miss them.

He said he would let you know.

"We'll see," as my mother used to say.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh, my gosh, OH, My Gosh, OH, MY GOSH! We Won! All of us.

The peace quilt has taken on a life of its own. It just won a prize, a big one, on August 28. Out of 80 entries in the Eugene Celebration Parade, the peace quilt entry entitled "Raise the Roof. Build Peace" won BEST Of SHOW under the umbrella of the Nobel Peace Laureate Project.

Actually, the middle schoolers who wrote, taught and inspired people of all ages to write 1,000,000 visions-of-peace postcards to Oprah won too. After studying a diverse group of heroes, the 24 U.S. Nobel Peace Prize winners, those sixth graders derived their own personal ideas for making a more peaceful world. The quilt went on its way this year voicing those messages as far as Russia and as near as Gary's Coffee Shop in Eugene. The Prime Meridian in England is next and a final international destination.

On the other hand, the Nobel Laureate Project Board which is building a peace park won too because we all walked supporting their vision of peace.

However, the real winner of First Place for Best View (representation of the parade theme) as well as Best of Show is obvious.

All 70 people who gathered early Saturday morning to walk for kids' visions of peace won the prize. Apparently, they got across the message of building peace to the secret judges in the crowd that clapped and clapped as we walked by. Every person did his/her part in the "moving play" of peacemakers. People from age two to 76 walked in line for about a mile in downtown Eugene along with the 80 other parade entries having a delightful time. We never expected to win. Now we can donate $450 to the developing peace park for the fun of it.

At the awards ceremony, even the incredulous announcer noted that our group had never been in the parade before and yet, we had won the top coveted prizes.

"Where have you been?" he quizzed.

That's a question we could ask Oprah or any of the rest of us who have yet to both envision peace and then act.

One sure thing is that little seeds of planted ideas sure can grow a lot larger than initially imagined. A tad out of control...

My friend Jen made a comment last spring that grew larger than anyone ever would have thought. The Vanlues, the quilt creators, held a similar thought. These delightful thoughts initiated a transforming or metamorphosing(butterfly language) event that turned out to be "better than good enough."

"Lura, why not bring the end of the quilt's journey to a close in the Eugene Celebration Parade?"

"I will."

Thusly, this past Saturday a diverse group of people headed by the U.S. Nobel Peacemakers walked under a raised roof followed by children's visions of peace protected by the fluttering butterfly quilt at the end.

Close by, walked Marcee Long announcing upcoming cultural and artistic events depicting her vision that "peace begins at home" at the Shedd beginning September 27 and ending October 3.* Peace ripples in the pond continue to expand. Seeds are planted. All of those metaphors seem to be working.

I wonder what British metaphors or sayings will be discovered in London on September 11.

*For information, check The upcoming set of visionary events are really, really big.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Open Invitation to Peacemakers in England

Peacemakers, you are invited to come and meet the quilt on the PRIME MERIDIAN in Greenwich, England. Be at the observatory on the hill at 2:00 P.M. on September 11.

The greeting/meeting will be short as we all step on the imaginary line together. This will take a small amount of your time but will be memorable for us all.

If you can put this on You-Tube, do. Bring a camera. If you want to bring some postcards for peace for Oprah, see November 11th entry in the archives for instructions. Make the cards to Oprah larger...more like 4 by 6 inches. Cards from Somerset are being hand delivered for the occasion, for example. I'll bring some blanks just in case you forget.

Are there Quaker peace groups in the area? Just come if you are a person of peace and action. Would you like to be there but can't but know someone else who can? Spread the word.

Look for the mini quilt and somebody who looks like me. The quilt's message of kids inspiring others with their varied visions of peace will spread at its 49th stop.

The journey is about over and others can take over. Where will the quilt find a home? Suggestions? I have kept my teacher's promise.

See More

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Partying and Praying for Peace

Seventy people are signed up to walk in the Eugene Celebration Parade both to celebrate the quilt's return home and to spur other people to build their own visions of peace too. What an entry this will be! All ages walking "the peace talk" inspired by children's visions from Shasta Middle Schoolers who got this ball rolling two years ago. August 28.

On August 8th, I responded to a request from McKenzie Valley Presbyterian Church to talk about the Russian trip I had just made. Still jet-lagged, I wasn't planning on this but 250 postcards collected for the Oprah Project seemed too good not to share. This small church's pastor urged me to share the quilt's story and its ever moving "self" while she was out of town. (That's not why she left.) Stop #47. No surprises...just the usual surprise. Every place I have shared kids' ways of making the world a better place, at least one person has understood and taken immediate action. This time, the worship leader was particularly in tune with the quilt's message of inviting the creation and action based on individual ways for making the world a better place . Married to an Iranian, she wondered about my taking the quilt there. She smiled when I said my journey was almost over and I was ready. "God might have something else in mind. One never knows," she replied.

Wouldn't Iran have been a powerful quilt stop this past year? By the way, my new friend's 8th grade daughter will be taking blank postcards and examples of the Russian children's visions of peace to her school this Fall. She understood peace envisioning, plus she liked my outfit too. Can't beat that combo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

From Russia with Love

Russian camp children holding their visions- of-peace postcards urging adults to make the world a better place.

In St. Petersburg on board the Tikhi Don, Kathryn hand delivers 250 cards addressed to Oprah from five different children's summer camps where she taught English. I am thrilled.

For sure, Russia was always terribly cold and people dressed like Dr. Zhivago and Julie Christie because it snowed all the time. Siberia was a prison for people who were dissidents who were artists and friends of the United States.

Why didn't Dorothy and I choose an African photographic safari or a trip to Norway's fiords?

We did think about it, but after pondering our choices, we both decided to check out our childhood perceptions in a greatly changed Russia.

However, when it gets right down to it, Dorothy graciously agreed to accompany me to the place I most wanted to take the peace quilt during my year's journey, and I thank her for her great company. In this year's "around the world" adventure I really needed to go to places where I was invited to share kids' visions of peace. And, yes, I was invited to Russia so we went.

Earlier this year, I attended Mike Raz's wedding in Eugene, Oregon. I sat behind Mike's two sisters, Eloise and Kathryn. Both got excited about the quilt's journey and its purpose in a few short minutes. Plans for two visits were set in to Sisters, Oregon and the other to Russia before the "I dos" were even shared.

Kathryn Teitzel has spent much of her last 16 years in Russia. She and I wrote back and forth about how to collaborate in gathering children's visions of peace from Russian children. Somehow, some way, I would bring the quilt to her and she would get the visions to me. All in Russia. She had been working with the Russian people both as a missionary and teacher connected with the University Presbyterian Church in Seattle and the Russian Orthodox Church based in St. Petersburg a great portion of each year. As it turned out, this was a perfect fit for stop number 46 on my quilt journey.

Also, during the past three years during the summer, she had been teaching English in the six-week city and country summer camps that were not church related. At five of those revised/retooled camps that used to be called Young Pioneer Children's Camps during the Communist era, Kathryn talked about the visions of peace to children in her English classes. She shared Eugene's Shasta Middle Schooler's dreams for making the world a better place and the 1,000,000 visions-of-peace postcard project to Oprah. The Russian kids responded in a big way!

Kathryn's job was to teach English to kids who were just learning to others who could write English words beautifully. She gathered 250 illustrated cards which she presented the last day of our trip to Russia on a river ship in St. Petersburg. The irony is that we never really knew if we'd actually hook up because so many things/people in Russia are not reliable. She warned me, "Plans change. Often." Yes, I was absolutely thrilled and relieved when we actually greeted each other the last day of our stay in Russia. Dorothy and I had completed our 1000 mile journey on the Volga for this exchange.

We talked and talked for two hours. We asked about the Russian culture, and I shared my perceptions and new appreciation for a beautiful people and culture. We talked about infrastructures that are in disrepair, about the present government, some history and the Russian Orthodox Church. I told her of my amazement at the immense restoration of palaces, churches,and government buildings since the break up of the Soviet Union. I learned that not all is roses. Starvation is the main cause of death. Smoking and drinking are huge problems. And more.

I presented 12 butterfly quilt squares made by Carol Vanlue, the quilt artist of the traveling quilt. She graciously accepted them for future peace building. She heads a school and in the Fall when regular school begins again, the teachers and kids will have a creative opportunity for piecing peace. A new peace quilt? Those butterflies keep "fluttering."

I learned more about the background behind the Russian summer camps. Traditionally, all kids attend from the poorest on vouchers beyond. There has to be a place for the kids because Russians take 6-week breaks from work just as a matter of course. Even orphanages shut down and kids are shuttled off to camps.

I learned that there were some orphans in the camps where Kathryn taught. She explained that orphanages are differently configured in Russia. Often children who live there have parents who are not dead, but are alcoholics. Some camps were filled with tough and unruly kids, hard to control. Some were in the city; some were way out in the "boonies."

Two older kids(16 or 17) approached Kathryn at one "camp from hell" and threatened her with harm. They said that they were from the Russian Mafia. She quickly responded unruffled. "No problem. I'm the U.S. Mafia." Bewildered, they paused. Later they became her friends, her protectors.

Other Russian workers at a camp of over 200 kids tried to help her to know how to control the rowdies. They suggested that she yell to get control because that was what the children were used to. Kathryn refused. The helpers produced a mic, thinking that she needed more help with her voice. They didn't understand that she didn't believe in public humiliation and loud confrontations, a common cultural rebuking technique.

In the midst of all the camps, Kathryn fell in love with these children and will miss them. She saw what was in their hearts and taught them how to work together.

Some of the children could only write a bit of English and others outdid our U.S. kids in artistic writing and imagery. Traditionally, artistic expression is encouraged in every Russian. The care they took with the cards was beautiful to behold. I am finding familiar themes of children are ringing loud and clear, no matter what country or city or school. All kids everywhere want clean air, protected animals and environments, no pollution, friendship and respect, happiness, and healthy families and good homes. Over and over, the Russian children wanted our countries to be friends.

Kathryn shared a story about one card that I can't forget. It was drawn by a 15-year-old girl without an arm. Society shuns the handicapped, the homeless, the misfits, the elderly on pensions. Tourists don't see them...on purpose. The card portrays a tiny girl with two arms holding her parents' hands. Her vision...happy families in a beautiful world. Lots of flowers and hearts. (See above.)

Kathryn knew that the postcards wouldn't make it out of the country because of postal corruption. Thus, I accepted the precious illustrated dreams from kids from 8-18. Somehow I'll get them mailed to Ms. Winfrey who doesn't realize how lucky she is. (By the way, they didn't know who Oprah was, but because United States kids created visions, they drew and wrote. They told Kathryn that they wished they could talk peace with the U.S. children.)

So what about the rest of my trip? A few blips from my mind: Red Square and the Kremlin were huge complexes filled with onion-domed churches with bright red and yellow buildings, simply grand architecture. The seven birthday-cake buildings of Moscow included Moscow University, an imposing structure. I've not seen so much gold, amber, or art masterpieces in palaces, churches and museums in such a short span of time. (Yes, I've been to Versailles and the Louvre.) Russian food is darn good. I make lousy blinis. The hinterland towns on the Volga are charming...and old. Russian cars cost $3000. "The Volga Boatman Song" sounds really good in a church in a community over 1000 years old. Dachas are little summer places, escapes for 25 per cent of the Russians. Far from plumbing, a bit of land to grow pickling veggies. (I have named my own backyard retreat "dacha.") Rasputin was crazy and gifted and hard to murder. I saw the resting places of the last Romanov Tsar and family. I'd read 6 books about them to prepare for the trip. The Hermitage, Catherine the Great's winter palace, in St. Petersburg and St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow's Red Square were particularly fascinating to me. Lenin was in his tomb; I saw him. Stalin was under the grave marker. I was glad. The Moscow Circus truly had dancing bears...made me sad. Russka is a great book to read while riding on the Volga. Ivan the Terrible and Stalin were hideous fiends, AND Russian history is particularly violent and dark. It infects and affects the present day... even if the country has changed dramatically for the better since the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Do countries have a DNA? Autocratic Putin is the real leader even though he's only the Prime Minister. I saw former President Yeltsin's grave...looked like a big liver. Saw Checkoff's and Khruschev's monuments too. Russian music lectures aboard ship excited me... Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. Russia supplies most of Europe's oil. There are lots of rich, rich Russians. MacDonald's has a store in Red Square along with the famous ritzy GUM department store. Young Russian women dress like Parisians but they sometimes only have two outfits, one to wash in the tub on the week ends. Russians make a lot of jokes about the KGB. Vodka is not what it's cracked up to be. Who knew you drink it with a pickle? Russians think Americans smile all the time and wear comfortable shoes. We think Russians don't smile. WW2 Russian Veterans wear lots of clinking medals...lots. Russians are animal lovers. Watching Swan Lake ballet sitting in Catherine the Great's actual seat was a high point and a hot one too. Fanning myself with a small business card in over 100 degrees will not be forgotten. I'll remember the expressions on the orchestra members' sweaty faces and their hollow eyes, the glow on the ballerinas' brows, and the fat man's comment at intermission. "I can't wait until this is over."

The Volga freezes over in the winter but the weather this July was the hottest on record. I got home right before the horrid fires started. They are out of control. The news that 500,000 acres+ have burned and Moscovites are dying makes me sick. Pollution is the killer and the government officials were not prepared. What I learned about the infrastructure's instability has been harshly demonstrated.

Now I'm wondering about the safety of those precious vision makers?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kiwanis Club Applauds Children's Visions of Peace

Kiwanis's Fred L. Towne "gets it." What an inspiration he is!

This past week Eugene Magazine interviewed me for a short article in the upcoming September issue. What was going to be a 30-minute conversation stretched to two delightful hours. I enjoyed sharing the quilt backdrop for the children's visions-of-peace-postcard project and the background of its inception. Michael Krummel was a great listener and asked those clarifying, straight-forward questions that redirect. He began with a disclaimer: It was best to have no preconceptions of what should be written in this short piece.

Heck, I didn't care at all. I was simply pleased to be talking to him because he eventually "got it." What will be said will be said, I reasoned. What will be understood will be understood, I hoped.

That's pretty much the way I've approached all of the 47 visits with the quilt this year. I've been the messenger of the messages. Clearly, Michael came to understand the focus of this grassroots peace effort and why I was "traveling the world" with the quilt lip syncing (voicing) children's dreams of a happier world. He celebrated with me the planting of peace seeds for diversity,respect, and action. The Oprah Show is not the ultimate ending target. Tipping point peace is.

Last Thursday another wonderful group of men and women listened intently for 25 minutes during their luncheon meeting on Thursday at the Eagles in Eugene. As usual, I shared the quilt and the 1,000,000 Postcards-to-Oprah project. Of course, I invited folks to create their own visions of peace and handed out those blank addressed postcards for their use. Once again, I connected my journey's roots to my integrated peace curriculum beginning with the research of heroes few people know a lot about, those 24 U.S. Nobel Peace Prize winners. Finally, I remembered to talk about the beauty of individual visions of peace and the celebration of the variety of ways we can all make a difference peacefully.

I delighted in the group's understanding nods when I explained how the Nobel Peace Laureates were quite diverse in their ways of peacemaking which subsequently inspired the middle schoolers to consider themselves and their own actions in their immediate worlds and beyond. Could they do the same? Yes.

My greatest happiness that day was meeting Fred L. Towne after the talk. He immediately asked when the August Eugene Celebration Parade would be, where to meet, and the time. He mentioned that he did have some trouble walking, but perhaps he could get his grandson from Portland to join in too. (Near the end of the talk, I had invited folks to walk together on August 28 to celebrate "building peace." Our entry would highlight the inspiration of children's visions of peace and the 24 U.S. Nobel Peace Laureates they researched. The Nobel Peace Laureate Project with its slowly developing monument in Alton Baker Park would get some exposure in the process.)

Fred was quite clear that he really wanted to help in some way. He just didn't know what he could do as an almost 93-year-old, but he did have a computer, he offered. I paused to think. Meanwhile, he forthrightly decided that he would begin by definitely e-mailing everyone he knew about this event and its importance.

I honestly believe that kids and elders "get it" first. They are our teachers from both sides of life's spectrum. Thank you, Fred. I'll see you at the parade.

Now I'm off to Russia.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

44th Stop: Pioneer Presybterian Church Welcomes the Peace Quilt

Postcards cover the Mother Quilt; Lura holds the smaller version before passing it to the congregation to examine closely.

"Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will become the Children of God."
"You have to be carefully be peacemakers."
"Pass the peace please."
"Send a million visions-of-peace postcards to Oprah."
"Listen to the children's visions."
"My vision of peace is that middle schoolers will remind adults about the peace they may have forgotten."
"What is your vision of peace?"
"What will you DO with your particular vision of peace?"

For one year, those words encapsulating the purpose of the quilt's trip have been spread wherever I was invited to share the stories of middle school peacemakers. I have been journeying "around the world" with the butterfly peace quilt designed and created by Chuck and Carol Vanlue since last June. (Their version of a vision-of-peace postcard, if you will.) I have gone from women's groups to churches to civic groups, libraries, peace groups, a peace garden, coffee shops, bakeries, people's homes, weddings, schools in different cities, states and countries. I have carried blank postcards addressed to Oprah inviting all ages to join the one million postcard goal. I'm beginning to sense closure even though three more months have been added to the timeframe.

The year draws closer to an end in Russia next month and in England on the Prime Meridian in September. At last, the quilt will come home to the city of the American Nobel Laureate Peace Park in Eugene, Oregon. What will happen to the quilt? Don't know yet.

The Last Two Coming Final Attractions in Eugene:

1. A parade. The quilt will be marched through the community while "raising the roof" for peace on August 28. (If you are interested in joining a diverse group of walking peacemakers, let me know. Kids are welcome.)

2. A Unique Celebration called Seven Days in the Circle of Peace. This arts event at the Shedd will highlight varied visions of peace from amazing people of all ages for one week. Something different every night. These amazing presentations are being orchestrated by one super human being. She will help to tie up my teacher's promise with a lovely ribbon and I thank her. I will have fulfilled what I said I would do. AND Marcee Long will be joining me in birthing her own adult vision of peace. I remember the quiet night at the library when she heard me talk about the butterfly peace quilt. I asked her to help me hold one side of it for the small audience so that they could see the attached children's visions of peace cards to be sent to Oprah. Marcee clearly understood its connection to the locally developing American Nobel Peace Park also. It took her three months to respond to my questions afterwards: "What is your vision of peace?" "Would you want to write a play?"

Her vision: "Peace begins at home." Stay tuned.

Now to Stop 44 on June 13. I was thrilled by the authentic welcoming of the Burns, Oregon Presbyterian Church congregation. Cordial. Inviting. Real. Picture people opening their hearts and minds to children's visions of peace as guidance for their own actions. These folks epitomize the opposite of what I call the Cheshire-cat fake grinners and the cold shoulder maneuverers in life, those people who simply don't get the importance of hospitality.

Pastor Jean Hurst is on sabbatical so John, my husband, and I were invited to give sermons on two of the Sundays of her leave. John talked about grace one week; I talked about peace the next.

If anyone wants to settle in with a small church whose members understand peace, openness, and acceptance of differences, drop in some Sunday morning on your way across a vast desert in Eastern Oregon.

OPRAH, where are you? You'd be welcome there too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eleanor Roosevelt Stumps for Middle Schoolers' Visions of Peace

Sometimes it takes a gimmick to get across a simple message. My sideways slide into inviting more adults to create peacemaking postcards for Oprah's 1,000,000 project was particularly delightful fun on May 15.

For years I have studied the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, a relative of mine. Quite distant...but nevertheless, an inspiring woman to claim! Former students researched such heroes as the U.S. Peace Nobels in more recent years and other famous people ranging from Attila the Hun and Malcolm X to Marie Antoinette previously. Because they wanted me to suffer with them, I was long ago challenged(coerced) to join the kids by studying and "becoming" someone also. I agreed to give a first-person speech in costume just as they had been directed to do. It was a hit the first year; many kids didn't recognize me as I talked in an assembly.

From that first performance, I have collected scads of books written by Eleanor, her friends and family, scholars and even her official biographer, Joseph Lash. I keep adding more facts to my routine and deleting others. In April, I almost attacked a lovely older lady at the annual library book sale because I noticed at the check stand that she had bought a book of Eleanor's letters. On the way out of the Convention Center, I followed her mentioning casually that she had a book I wanted. She said I could have it if I really wanted it. I should have just paid her the $1.50 and smiled, but I was effusive in my thanks. I rattled on and on that I was thrilled because I became Eleanor.

I've enjoyed speaking at a couple of conventions...Delta Kappa Gamma and the State Garden Club as Mrs. Roosevelt, so taking the peace quilt to an A.A.U.W. Spring Luncheon seemed an appropriate venue. It was pure enjoyment to dust off Mrs. Roosevelt's clothes and reread portions about her life from my constantly growing library.

For example, I was reminded for this speaking occasion that although she was First Lady of the U.S. for 13 years, her work with peace after Franklin's death was more important than any other of her myriad of progressive causes or pleasurable activities in her lifetime. Her efforts brought yet another title: "First Lady of the World." 68-year-old Mrs. R. tirelessly led an 18-member committee of world delegates in the United Nations to draft the International Universal Humanitarian Bill of Rights in 1948. Truman had asked her to represent the U.S. at the very beginnings of this newly forming institution, and as an outcome, on December 10 at 3:00 A.M. the General Assembly voted for the adoption of the document that supports the basic rights of every single human being on earth. Basic freedoms of speech, health care, clean water, education, etc. were spelled out and supported by small and large nations together. All stood to salute the lady of peace who spent 14-16 hour days negotiating and wording "visions of peace" and who had urged others to work as hard also in expressing theirs. During that wee hour in the day, the nation's delegates stood in mass to honor her. Everyone. The only time any delegate before or since has received a standing ovation.

What a treat it was take the peace quilt to its 42nd stop in Lake Oswego, Oregon. I chuckled at being greeted by the chef of the Country Club in a golf cart as my friend Betty Barber and I trudged up the steep driveway. We had parked across the highway because the lot was full. We probably looked pathetic. I had already dropped most of Eleanor's "costume" in the middle of the road, and we had been laughing uproariously to see my feathered blue hat, rayon red dress, fur, navy long gloves and large black plastic glasses tumble to the ground out of a large hatbox. It seemed rather ironic for the cheerful man in the poofy chef's hat to suddenly appear. He offered to deliver my Eleanor in a large Nordstrom's hat box straight to the luncheon's dining room. Betty and I continued trudging behind on foot arriving later. But when we did find the room and walked down the staircase, the program chairman proclaimed, "Eleanor has arrived, everyone!"

The American Association of University Women welcomed Eleanor's message, a first person account of her life from beginning to end. It was gratifying to receive a standing ovation after Eleanor talked for an hour. She ended with her powerful support for the traveling peace quilt and the visions of peace that children had written. She read a few post card visions attached to the quilt and marveled how kids inspire adults to make a difference. Blank cards were passed out for the women to fill out also, of course.

At 126 years old(she really died at 78,) the imaginary Mrs. R.'s advice was timeless. "Get involved. Get busy. You must do the thing you think you cannot do...for it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it." You, go, Eleanor!

Postscript musings: Truthfully, if Eleanor had been alive when this project first began, she would have been a better choice than Oprah for the receiver of the 1,000,000 visions of peace. I believe that she would have noticed the cards and responded with action of some sort. She was somewhat of a media star herself--had a radio program and a television program for awhile where she interviewed Einstein and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as a couple of her famous guests. She even made a commercial for Good Luck Margarine for the fun of it. Plus, some of her happiest moments were when she was teaching at Todhunter Private School in N.Y.C. and when she entertained children with hot dog picnics at Val-kill, her stone cottage on the Hyde Park Estate in New York. She would have listened to the children's visions.

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