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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.

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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?

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