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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.

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