Category Archives: Inner Peace

The Night of Shattered Myth, by Swatilekha Roy

Swatilekha Roy is a 2016 Young Writers Contest Notable Finalist who writes from Durgapur, West Bengal, India. Swatilekha’s story caught the attention of our judges with its courage and hope. As one of our judges commented, “Swatilekha reaches for empathy in the darkest places of humanity and imagines not only what could cause a man’s extreme loss of compassion, but also where he might possibly find it again.”

In her words:

For me, the most deadly weapon yet discovered by mankind is a pen. ‘A pen is mightier than the sword.’ In today’s world, we have everything except peace and as they say, everything comes with a price. The biggest price yet has to be paid by those who fight for peace, physically and verbally. Writing has the power to bring about revolution. It is that gentle tremor that can shake the world. It is writing and writing alone that can change the face of the world for the better and make it a more peaceful place to dwell in. I would like to congratulate Writing for Peace on their outstanding feat of spreading the aura of peace through mere words.
~Swatilekha Roy

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The Night of Shattered Myth

By Swatilekha Roy

 

9th November, 1938

Just as our truck neared the corner of the Heidereuter Alley, the moon retired behind the clouds. Shards of glass littered the pavement. The night was filled with desperate shrieks, breaking glass, gunshots, and pleas for mercy.

Our orders: to ship these savage fools with yellow stars to extermination camps.

Our duty: to follow without question.

Our job: to kill.

The coal-black swastika on the rear of the truck showed a ghastly grin. Peace is a fool’s concept. War is the imperial truth. The synagogues heaved desperately, and thousands of Jews prayed for escape.

The orders were precise, “Execute as many children as you wish. They eat, yet can’t work.” Men and women would be sent to separate extermination-camps to be starved or tortured until death arrived as a welcome release.

As I was loading the emaciated Jewish children into the truck, I felt something tug at my shirt sleeve. Disgusted, I turned to find a bony child with hollow eyes. My duty was to kill, but something about him was familiar. And then it dawned on me. “Abbott?”

The child nodded. “I am Issao, Abbott’s son. They killed my father.” Tears welled in his eyes.

I suddenly remembered the pool we had loved as children, Abbott and I playing our reeds at the lake’s edge. Our different religions never came between us until Herr Hitler began his crazy rampage. When I was taught about the Jewish scourge, I hadn’t wanted to think about my friend. And now, looking into his son’s eyes, I was no longer a soldier. I was just a human being, an indebted friend.

I knew I was making a terrible mistake. I could almost hear the Führèr screaming, “Treason! Death!” But, the one speck of humanity that still blotted my soul rebelled. Acting on instinct, I checked to make sure the children were seated safely in back and bolted the latch. I turned the key and the truck’s engine rumbled to life. The swastika glared at me. Treachery? Death! As I sped off with the truckload of gaunt children, the moon abandoned its hideout and lit my way. Children were crying from hunger and fear and I was in disbelief. How could anyone justify the murder of innocent children?

Near the heavily guarded Berlin border, my heart began racing faster. There was no way I could pass through without getting shot. I prayed for a miracle.

As I neared the gates, the guard stopped me. “Your pass?”

“I, well…the orders were last moment. I’m shipping this scum out of Berlin. Here’s my badge.” He eyed me suspiciously. I flipped him a couple of Reichsmarks. “For bier!”

The guard saluted and, with a cry of “Heil Hitler,” opened the gates.

Driving away from Berlin, I racked my brain for connections I could use for the children’s safety, but most of the people or places I knew were far too risky. And then I remembered Paul, my childhood teacher and the kindest man I had ever known. He was my only hope. I made my way toward the familiar village from my youth.

As I reached the outskirts of town, I was comforted by the familiar sights. I drove through the village, past the solitary willow tree and my old church, and turned onto a dirt road marked by a rusty signboard advertising cheeses and fresh milk. I pulled to a stop in front of the farmhouse, got out, and knocked on the door, but when I asked for Paul, the woman shook her head.

“Please, Paul was my friend and teacher when I was a boy.”

She hesitated, wiping her sturdy hands on her apron. “Follow me,” she said, and stepped outside to lead me around the house toward the barn where a man with gray hair and rimmed glasses sat on a bench, reading. He looked up at my uniform in alarm.

“Paul,” I whispered. “Is that really you?”

“Have we met?”

“It’s Alfred. I’ve come for a refresher on formulas,” I said.

Paul flashed me a cautious smile and said, “Come sit, my friend. I had one particular formula that has stayed with me all these years.”

I sat beside him, laughing in relief as he gave my head the same sturdy knuckling I remembered from my childhood. He introduced me to his wife and began filling me in on the goings on at the farm, the cows, and children. It was if we had never been apart. But could I trust him with the children’s lives? With my life? Was it fair to ask him to risk his own life? His family and farm?

Before I could ask these questions, his wife was coming back around the house with two of the children. “There’s more, Paul.” She held their little hands tenderly, but her face reflected the horror of our situation.

Paul looked surprised as I broke into tears. “I, we, need your help. I’m sorry to ask, but they’re just children. Innocent children.”

Paul’s kindness and moral integrity was unchanged. He immediately agreed to help the children with this risky endeavor. Two of his farmhands emerged from the barn to help unload the children and get them into the house.  Some were barely alive. As the children were carried inside, I again felt a tug. “Did you know my father?” asked the boy.

I lifted the bony, weightless thing into my arms and kissed his dirty forehead. “Don’t worry. They’ll take good care of you.” I couldn’t answer his question, admit what a selfish, bloodthirsty cut-throat his father had once befriended.

“It’s time you leave,” Paul said. “Your truck will attract attention.”

I nodded, as Paul’s wife took Issao’s hand.

“May God bless you! We’ll take care of them,” my friend promised.

As I hoisted myself into the truck, the sky was illuminated with a brilliant orange hue. Even if I died today, I had no regrets. For once, I had been my own Führèr.

 

Meet Swatilekha Roy, 2016 Notable Finalist

Swatelikha Roy, finalistSwatilekha Roy is a seventeen years old amateur writer. The day to day fancies of nature leave her flabbergasted. Swatilekha’s favourite pastimes include sitting alone and listening to hardcore music, painting, reading novels and, of course, writing and editing. She loves critical study in literature. She is a diehard fan of fantasy and science fiction. Moreover, traveling intrigues her. Swatilekha writes to ventilate her feelings and to give in to the indomitable spirit of her fountain-pen. Writing gives her great joy. It’s her dream to become a writer and train amateurs like herself. This is the second time Swatilekha has participated in the Writing for Peace contest and the fact that she is a finalist delighted her. Earlier, she had also been selected as one of the best entrants in national level Campfire Young Writer of the Year Contest. Swatilekha would like to use this platform to extend her heartfelt gratitude towards everyone who stood by her: parents, family (especially, her uncle who is unfortunately no more) and friends.

 

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestOur annual young writers contest will begin as scheduled on on September 1st, 2016. Watch for details and announcements on this blog soon.

The Peace Correspondent: Call for Submissions

Information is beginning to go up on the website about our new online periodical, The Peace Correspondent, a tri-annual solution-based publication. The first issue will be published on October 31st. Submission deadlines are September 15th. Guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts: Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceGuidelines are posted for the 2017 Edition. DoveTales is an extension of our mission to promote writing that explores the many aspects of peace.  Our purpose is to expose young writers to a diverse collection of thoughtful works by established and emerging writers, as well as our advisers. The journal will also feature works by the winners of our annual Young Writer Competition. The journal will be released on May 1st, 2017. There is no fee for submission, but please read our guidelines carefully.

Theme: The theme of our 2017 issue of DoveTales is Refugees and the Displaced. As in our earlier issues, we encourage contributors to take a broad view of the definitions within the context of peace.

  • The reading period begins July 1st, 2016 and ends January 15th, 2017, and the journal will be released on May 1st, 2016.

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Thank you for your on-going support!

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again, By Lyla June Johnston

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The Story of How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again

By Lyla June Johnston

I spend a lot of time honoring and calling upon my Native American ancestors. I am keenly aware that my father’s people hold a venerable medicine as well. He has ancestry from the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe.

I have been called a half breed. I have been called a mutt. Impure. I have been told my mixed blood is my bane. That I’m cursed to have an Indian for a mother and a cowboy for a father.

But one day, as I sat in the ceremonial house of my mother’s people, a wondrous revelation landed delicately inside of my soul. It sang within me a song I can still hear today. This song was woven from the voices of my European grandmothers and grandfathers. Their songs were made of love.

They sang to me of their life before the witch trials and before the crusades. They spoke to me of a time before serfdoms and before Roman tithes. They spoke to me of a time before the plague; before the Medici; before the guillotine; a time before their people were extinguished or enslaved by dark forces. They spoke to me of a time before the English language existed. A time most of us have forgotten.

These grandmothers and grandfathers set the ancient medicine of Welsh blue stone upon my aching heart. Their chants danced like the flickering light of Tuscan cave-fires. Their joyous laughter echoed on and on like Baltic waves against Scandinavian shores. They blew worlds through my mind like windswept snow over Alpine mountain crests. They showed to me the vast and beautiful world of Indigenous Europe. This precious world can scarcely be found in any literature, but lives quietly within us like a dream we can’t quite remember.

As all this was happening, I peered into the flames of our Diné hoghan fireplace. These Ancient Europe voices whispered to my heart to help me understand. “See, our songs are not so different from your Diné songs,” they seemed to say with a smile.

In this moment, the moment I first acknowledged and connected with my beautiful European ancestors, I could do nothing but cry. It was one of those messy, snotty, shuddering cries, where my face flowed over with tears of joy and sorrow. It was the cry of a woman who met her grandmother for the first time. I always wondered where she was. What she looked like. What her voice sounded like. Who she was. And now, for the first time, I could feel her delicate hands run through my hair as she told me she loved me. I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.

Intermixed in there were also tears of regret. My whole life I was taught to hide my European “side.” All I knew was that my father came from Dallas and that was all I needed to know. These pale-skinned mothers and fathers were to be forgotten, I was taught. They carried violence in their blood and avarice in their smile, I was taught. They were rubbish, I was taught. There was no need to ask questions about them or think about them, I was taught. Whenever I wrote down my race on official forms, I would only write “Native American,” as I was taught.

But then, as thousands of European ancestors swirled around me and reassured my fearful heart, I wished I had honored them sooner. I wished I hadn’t disowned them. I wished I knew how beautiful they were. I wished I could have seen through the thin wall of time that dominates our understanding of Europe. I wish I could have realized the days when Indigenous Europeans were deeply connected to the earth and to kinship. In my mind I told them I was so, so sorry for forsaking them. But, of course, they did not care. They only held me tighter and assured me they would be with me to the end.

The sweetness of this precious experience changed me forever. I have come to believe that if we do not wholly love our ancestors, then we do not truly know who they are. For instance, I get very offended when people call Native Americans “good-for-nothing drunks.” Because by saying this, people don’t take into account the centuries of attempted genocide, rape and drugging of Native American people. They don’t see the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. And now, I am offended when people call European descendants “privileged good-for-nothing pilgrims.” Because by saying this, people do not take into account the thousands of years that European peoples were raped, tortured and enslaved. They do not understand the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. They do not understand that even though we have free will and the ability to choose how we live our life, it is very hard to overcome inter-generational trauma. What happens in our formative years and what our parents teach us at that time can be very hard to reverse.

They estimate that 8-9 million European women were burned alive, drowned alive, dismembered alive, beaten, raped and otherwise tortured as so-called, “witches.” It is obvious to me now that these women were not witches, but were the Medicine People of Old Europe. They were the women who understood the herbal medicines, the ones who prayed with stones, the ones who passed on sacred chants, the ones who whispered to me that night in the hoghan. This all-out warfare on Indigenous European women, not only harmed them, but had a profound effect on the men who loved them. Their husbands, sons and brothers. Nothing makes a man go mad like watching the women of his family get burned alive. If the men respond to this hatred with hatred, the hatred is passed on. And who can blame them? While peace and love is the correct response to hatred, it is not the easy response by any means.

The Indigenous Cultures of Europe also sustained forced assimilation by the Roman Empire and other hegemonic forces. In fact, it was only a few decades ago that any Welsh child caught speaking Welsh in school would have a block of wood tied to their neck. The words “WN” were there-inscribed, standing for “welsh not.” This kind of public humiliation will sound very familiar to any Native Americans reading this who attended U.S. Government boarding schools.

Moreover, our indigenous European ancestors faced horrific epidemics of biblical proportions. In the 1300s, two-thirds of Indigenous Europeans were wiped from the face of the earth. The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, ravaged entire villages with massive lymph sores that filled with puss until they burst open. Sound familiar?

The parallels between the genocide of Indigenous Europeans and Native Americans are astounding. It boggles my mind that more people don’t see how we are the same people, who have undergone the same spiritual assault. The only difference between the Red Story and the White Story is we are in different stages of the process of spiritual warfare. Native Americans are only recently becoming something they are not. They are only recently starting to succumb to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, gambling, self-destruction and the destruction of others. Just as some Native American people have been contorted and twisted by so many centuries of abuse, so too were those survivors of the European genocide. Both are completely forgivable in my eyes.

Now I see I have a double-duty. I must not only honor and revitalize my Diné culture, but also that of my European ancestors. This ancient Indigenous European culture is just as beautiful as Native American culture and was just as tragically murdered and hidden from history books.

And so, some years later, armed with this new understanding, I traveled to Europe. I scaled a beautiful mountain in Switzerland to see if I might hear hints of ceremonial songs in the wind. I stepped upon the earth guided by those grandmother and grandfather whispers. I plucked a strand of hair from my scalp and placed the offering upon the earth, still wet from morning dew. I ambled through the forests enchanted by the new sights and smells. And I did see glimmers of visions of the villages of yesteryear. And they were full of Earth People living out harmonious community. And, they had beautiful music.

As the sun went down, I fell back on the grass and looked up to the sky. At the time, I was going through a very painful separation from a person I loved. To my surprise, it felt as if the earth was pulling all the sorrow I was carrying down into her core where she could transform it into beauty. The sky was speaking to me about how I didn’t need to worry, that I would be happy again one day. The earth and the sky healed me that day from the great weight I had carried for months. It was a special reunion with the mountains of my foremothers.

My mountain experiment yielded astounding results: the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe is still alive and breathing and waiting for her children to come home! She is waiting for us to ask her for songs so that we may sing to her once again. She is waiting for us to scratch passed the surface of time, into the B.C. period when our languages were thriving and our dancing feet kissed the face of the earth. She is waiting. She is waiting for us to remember who we are. If you hold this descent, or any forgotten descent for that matter, I am asking you to join me in this prayer to remember who we are. I have a feeling this prayer will heal the whole world.

In 2009, archaeologists came across a female effigy believed to be the Goddess of the Earth buried inside of German soil. The radiocarbon dating tests came back. They indicate that this clay deity was molded by European hands 40,000 years ago. 40,000 years ago. This is the time she beckons us to. This is the world she hopes we will remember: where man and woman alike, held the soil in their hands and saw the value and sanctity of women and of the Mother Earth. This is the world that still flows through our veins, however deafened we have become to it. With prayer we can learn to hear it once again.

I compare this earth-based, Indigenous European culture to the witch-burning psychosis of the first and second millennia. I cannot help but ask myself, when and how did this egalitarian, earth-loving, woman-honoring culture, become the colonial, genocidal conquerors that washed upon American shores? Could it be that our beloved Indigenous European ancestors were raped and tortured for so many thousands of years that they forgot who they were? Could it be they lived in a pressure cooker of oppression for so long that conquer-or-be-conquered is all they knew? Yes, I believe so.

Our task is to shake the amnesia. To not be ashamed of our European-ness, but to reclaim our beautiful grandmothers, to reclaim our venerable grandfathers, to reclaim our lost languages, our lost ceremonies, our lost homelands and become one with the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe once again. The European diaspora is spread all throughout the world, searching the planet for something that lives inside. I promise you will hear it when you climb the mountains of Switzerland! Of Scotland! Of Tuscany! Of Hungary! Of Portugal! Of the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe! Just because bad things happened upon her bosom does not mean she is bad.

Our task is to honor our ancestors, even those who caved beneath the weight of systematic destruction and became conquerors themselves. Our task is to remember that we are those beautiful Earth People. The ones whose love and prayers were so strong that they could carry 25-ton blue stone monoliths for miles and miles and build the sacred place of prayer known as Stonehenge. That is who we are. When we remember this, the healing of our lineages comes full circle. When we remember this, we will no longer need to borrow spiritual practices from other cultures (although that can be very helpful when there is nothing else to hold onto.) When we remember this, we will remember that the fates of all beings are intertwined with our own. When I remembered this, I found whole-ness in my self—no longer a half-breed, but a daughter of Two Great Lineages, Two Great Rivers that ran together to make one precious child.

This is the story of how I became whole. Some days, it feels like both fire and water live within me. They dance and swirl around one another. In the morning when I wake up, each bows to the other, honoring themselves as equals, as beautiful. When I go to sleep at night they wish each other good dreams. They teach me how it could have been when Columbus first stepped upon Taino shores: a meeting of two long lost brothers, embracing each other and celebrating their unique cultures. They teach me how things can be for our children in the future.

Because that’s what matters most, doesn’t it?

Not how the story goes… but how it ends.

We each hold a pen. Now, let us co-author a story of how humanity fell in love with itself and its Mother Earth once again. Shall we?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. Learn more about Lyla and her work here.

(c) Copyright 2016. Lyla Johnston. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here with permission by the author.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons: Sami Indigenous Peoples of Norway, circa 1900. They are standing beside their “lavvu” which look strikingly similar to the tipis of Plains Indigenous Peoples of North America.

 

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2016 Young Writers Contest Begins!

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13–19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes. We’ve extended the submission deadline to April 15, 2016 at midnight (Mountain Time). There is no fee for participation. Check out our guidelines here.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“How do we fight for what we want and need; to protect the planet; and to ensure justice for all, when we are confronting an oligarchy?”

Newsletter: Defeating The Oligarchs

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Tree, by Azfar Ali Rizvi

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By Azfar Ali Rizvi

Among other things that almost all children universally share, is a tree. It could be the one in the backyard of our oldest house. The tree you played around. It could be the one you carved your name in, or the one you buried your pet cat under. Sometimes it’s simply the one you held close, while curiously looking at the funeral of your best friend’s brother. Or worse your own brother’s. Trees are our saviors, whether we acknowledge or not. They allow us to celebrate our gains and mourn our losses. They let us be.

This fleeting thought was triggered by news last year that the 007 Skyfall director Sam Mendes will bring to life the much loved British Author Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. Blyton has left behind an unmatchable legacy– her books not only sold over 500 million copies across the world, but were also translated into 40 languages. Pippa Harris, co-founder of Neal Street Productions, the company responsible for this ambitious task, expressed her excitement over the development, saying, “The Magic Faraway Tree is one of the most loved children’s books series from an iconic author whose work has been adored by generations. To be able to adapt these for the big screen is incredibly exciting.”

So I picked it up again last week, and saw the merit in C.S. Lewis’ words: “ … a story worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.” I can read it again and again, and find something new every time. Storytelling at it’s best, the series sparks imagination about peace, diversity and family values. It reminds of us the potential of love and coexistence in a small world. This is a story that opens a portal to another world in every week, and gently nudges the readers to accept contrasting nuances and cultures. As adults, we tend to forget this as we take the world head on, and life gets in the way of our understanding of stories.

A good story amuses us; a great story allows us to fantasize and bend this world and the situations we find ourselves in, to allow us to clearly focus on the moral aspects of what’s happening. Hence, I consider it a privilege to be a small part of WFP. Every year, we are treated to some of the most challenging, unique and diverse perspectives from around the world. WFP is simply championing the cause of barebones storytelling for peace. My allegiance is not just because I crave a peaceful future, but also because writing liberated me from the clutches of my past, and allowed me to soar to a better future. A future where I could be with my tree and carry it on my sleeve.

 

Azfar Ali Rizvi, Writing for Peace Adviser2Azfar Rizvi is a proponent of social justice, and a driving force behind interfaith, cross-cultural and pedagogic initiatives across three continents. He is a Toronto based documentary filmmaker, Photographer, an academic and a cross-platform communications strategist.

Originally from Karachi, Azfar experienced extremism in his early years after surviving violent ethnic cleansing first hand. The incidents shook him to the core and he started exploring reasons behind extremism through this writing; something that evolved from local dailies to covering systemic national issues for news and current affairs publications across Pakistan. Before transitioning into television news and documentaries, he took to presenting radio with the country’s first English radio network at the time.

Learn more about Azfar Rizvi here.

 

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Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“Black Americans, Indigenous peoples and immigrants who are standing up to highlight the injustices they suffer on a daily basis are creating a long overdue teachable moment for whites in the United States.  Whites who believe in equality, an end to prejudice and equal justice for all are standing with them; together we can make transformational change on racism and prejudice.”

Follow the latest Popular Resistance developments here.

 

DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update

DoveTales "Nature" CoverPurchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.

DoveTales are available through our website here.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

World Peace Through Volunteerism, By Brian Wrixon

peace69Building World Peace Through Volunteerism

by Brian Wrixon

                “Passage – the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.”

 

The title Passage to India has been used at least twice in the history of great English literature, first by the American poet, Walter (Walt) Whitman (1819-1892) in the 1900 edition of his Leaves of Grass, and secondly by English novelist E.M. Forster (1879-1970) in his 1924 work, A Passage to India. The 1984 film version of Forster’s novel won two Oscars. With great respect to those two giants of literature, I borrowed their title for my own book, “My Passage to India” which was published in 2014.

My first personal passage to India took place in January 2013. I visited what is commonly known as The Golden Triangle, the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in the north. I had been invited to read my poetry at the inaugural Delhi Poetry Festival and I was intent on attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. My conclusion was that literature has a way of breaking down international and racial barriers. One of the highlights of that trip was the opportunity to sit spell-bound for an hour and to listen to the Dalai Lama speaking about the historical influence of Buddhism on literature.

My second trip in February 2014 and my third in October 2014 were both to the beautiful state of Kerala. That part of southern India is known for its production of rubber, spices, tea, coconuts, cashews and coffee and for its magnificent Backwaters. I went on a volunteer placement, principally to work with small businesses, helping them with strategic business planning. My trip was organized by the Canadian NGO, Chalice Canada.

My visits to India served as an attempt on my part to eliminate the various myths that I associated with the country and to establish, once and for all, my own reality of India. There are two kinds of people in the world as far as opinions about India are concerned, and both types have very definite opinions. When I told people where I was planning to go, half of them responded positively and spoke with envy about the experiences that I would have. The other group invariably responded with disgust. “Why in heaven’s name would you want to do that?” was the meekest of their replies. Many other comments were unfit to repeat.

I have heard every horror story imaginable about India, its filth, poverty, corruption, stench, disease, evil social habits and crime. According to the disgusted, most of whom it turns out have never set foot in the place, the streets are paved in excrement, rats run everywhere, flies cover everything that moves or doesn’t move, and the horrid stench of the country can be smelled five miles off shore by those unfortunate enough to be passing by on a cruise ship. We are led to believe that crime is rampant, people are slaughtering each other in the streets for religious reasons, every male is corrupt and every female is in mortal danger of rape, murder or forced prostitution.

From my own personal travels to India I have learned that most everything that one has read or heard about the country is patently false or at the very least, over-exaggerated. People simply repeat what everyone “knows” about the place. Our experience is that we view a place by its parts and then reach a conclusion about the place by combining those parts into a self-interpreted reality. Indeed for me, I look at many of the same things that others see, but I reach a very different interpretation of that combined reality. I suppose that I simply choose to interpret what I see in a very different light than most, that the glasses through which I peer are tinted quite differently. I have lived my whole life that way. Generally, if the world is lined up and heading in one direction, I find myself safer and happier if I head off in the opposite direction, off the beaten path as it were.

But in addition to finding out for myself what India was really like, I had another more important reason for venturing off that well traveled path. I am at that stage in my life when the desire to make a difference, to have an impact or to do something meaningful has become a driving force for action. My wife Cheryl and I are no strangers to Chalice Canada, an NGO situated on our east coast. For several years we have sponsored a number of children through them – three in Africa, one in Haiti and one in India. It came to my attention that Chalice was looking for people with certain skills or talents who might be willing to travel to their various site locations to share those abilities with others. Many years ago I developed a planning system for small businesses called “Growth By Design”. The problem with many small operations is that those who own them know how to do the work of the business, but often don’t have a clue about how to run the business. For example, there is a huge difference between being a great chef and running a successful catering business. My planning system helps business owners visualize what it is they wish to accomplish and then assists them in establishing a step-by-step framework for making it happen. Chalice encourages entrepreneurs in various regions and invited me to pilot my program in India to see if it could have application there and elsewhere.

Like Walt Whitman in his poem, I felt like I was on something of a spiritual journey. But I admit that I travelled there the first time with a combination of terror and excitement. As I indicated, I had heard so many terrible things about the country, how it was an evil assault on all the senses, the mind and the heart. I was warned to check all my sensitivities at the border, that I would be changed forever and for the worse. But I returned from India with a remarkable sense of fulfillment, calm and fully at peace. I indeed was changed forever, but for the best. Through my passage I have become a more spiritual person and I hope a spokesperson for what I regard as a very kind and very gentle nation, despite what those who maintain their walk on the beaten path may say or believe about it. Like always, I know that I walk a separate route from most, that I have taken the less travelled path and that, like poet Robert Frost, for me that has made all the difference.

One cannot help but feel close to God in India – his, her, their presence is everywhere. At every turn of the road there is a temple, mosque, church, shrine, sanctuary or votive holy place. Every meal, meeting, or event starts and ends with a prayer. Religion is very much a part of everyday life in India, but I don’t mean “organized religion”, I mean that a sense of spirituality permeates Indian society. That is not to say that what we would call “organized” religions have not played a part in India society historically, and indeed continue to do so today. The common understanding is that the organized religions of India are at war with each other.

My read on religious intolerance and sectarian violence in India is that it all takes place at organizational and governmental levels, and not amongst the common people. A large number of social scientists feel that many of these inter-religion acts of violence are institutionally supported, particularly by political parties and organizations connected to the advancement of one or more ideologies. I personally did not witness any religious intolerance or a religious divide during my visits to India. It was evident that most people were members of some religious faith and that the spirituality that their membership afforded them was part of their daily lives. I found that people were Indian first and religious second and the fact that they were Indian united them and the fact that they were religious did not divide them. In truth, it seems that the fact that everyone was spiritual in their own way brought them all together, not under a common god or belief system, but as members of a believing community.

I started these comments by defining the word passage – “the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.” I made a physical journey to the other side of the world, but my passage was more than that, it was one of the mind. I moved through or past the widely-held prejudices about India. I moved into a society that is spiritual in nature and where love abounds at the grass-roots level. The driver behind all of this was the fact that I traveled for a purpose. I went there to volunteer my time and talents, but as is usually the case when one embarks on such a journey, I got more in return than I gave in the first place. I went to India to discover a land. Instead, I discovered a people. I tried to help them and they in return made me a better person.

That opportunity for self-development is available to all of us and is a goal that we should be trying to instil in the younger generation. We can all help to build world peace through travel if we simply take it upon ourselves to travel with a purpose. We can each become our own private Peace Corps. We all have talents and abilities, and if we reach out and share them for the benefit of others, we will find that we can create a chain of held hands that stretches around the world. Perhaps you do not have the health or the financial ability to travel to a country like India, but I bet that there is a neighborhood in your own community that would welcome your skills. If you set the example then the spirit of volunteerism will be easier to foster among our youth. Remember the words from the old song, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world it would be.”

I worked with five ladies who operate a power laundry business in a small village in southern India. When I asked them if my discussions with them were of any value, one lady replied, “You showed us how to dream and you taught us how to make it happen.” That comment will remain with me for the rest of my life and has changed how I view the world and the brotherhood of man. That same opportunity is available to all of us if we just reach out a hand and take that first step.

About Brian Wrixon, Writing for Peace Adviser

Brian Wrixon, Writing for Peace Advisor

Brian Wrixon is a retired business executive who, after serving over 40 years in the financial services industry, devotes his time to creative endeavours. In addition to writing and publishing his own poetry and prose works, he has been instrumental in assisting hundreds of young and emerging authors from around the world get published, either personally or as contributors to group anthologies. Learn more about Brian’s work here.

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserDramatic Correlation Shown Between GMOs And 22 Diseases

Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Loving Through The Truth, By Lyla June Johnston

Winslow Homer - The Rapids, Hudson River, AdirondacksLoving Through The Truth

By Lyla June Johnston

It took a lot of strength and courage to admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was hard for me for two reasons 1) I thought that only weak and dumb girls get abused. I didn’t want to admit I was abused because I thought it made me less of a person. And 2) I didn’t want to hate them. And it was easier to love them if I found a way to rationalize/normalize what they were doing to me.

Well it turns out that the dark actually targets strong and smart girls. It doesn’t want them to succeed in bringing the light they were born to bring. Rape can fool the woman into thinking she is not sacred. And if she thinks she is not sacred she can begin to think that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people. And if she thinks that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people, then she stops bringing that light to the world. This is what happened to me.

I did bring good things to the people but when I did it felt more like I was “making up” for the bad person I was. It didn’t feel like I was simply being the beloved and beautiful medicine woman that I was. That we all are.

Instead, I felt like an imposter when I would try and help the world. How could a “tainted” woman advocate for purity? When I did advocate for love and healing, soon after I would intentionally do crass things just to show to everyone that I wasn’t trying to “be something I’m not”. I felt more like shameful, outside ally of the pure. Not a true part of the pure. I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of that marching band. The dark won this way for many years. I shut the valve and the medicine could only trickle, if that. Luckily this was only temporary. One day someone came along to remind me who I was.

They taught me that just because I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused it did not mean I was “less than.” I realized I was not a weak and feeble “victim,” but a wounded veteran who had come home from a great battle. The battle of being woman in the 21st century. Indeed, it is hard to be woman within a system that routinely works to destroy their self image. It did not mean I was weak, it meant I was taken advantage of before I was old enough to understand the battle.

Once I realized that being abused doesn’t mean you are a bad person, I could admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was still hard and took a lot of courage but now I am able to say, “that was really wrong and it happened to me.” This process of realization took several years and is still ongoing. The good news is I no longer feel compelled to be around people who make me feel bad. The reason I felt compelled to be around these kinds of people is a whole ‘nother story…

So number 1 was taken care of. I now understood that I was still respectable and even beautiful despite the fact I had been abused. But number 2 had yet to be resolved: I didn’t want to hate the other person. For this reason I would shy away from admitting that what they did was wrong because it was hard to love them in the face of that truth. Once I could fully see that what happened was wrong, I could feel the urge to hate start to make its way in. Hatred and bitterness are such uncomfortable feelings and I knew I was not designed to house them within me. I also knew I could not help the world when I was in that state.

Number 2 was resolved through an exquisite process some people call “forgiveness.” Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to me was okay. And it does not even mean that I would ever have to go within a 50 mile radius of these people ever again! It was something that happened within me. It was something that happened for ME. Not for them. It returned me to my natural state. And it went like this:

I stood in the middle of a river. The beautiful water was flowing all around me. This is literally what I did, not a metaphor. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I was manipulated and coerced. I thought of all the ways I was exploited and taken advantage of. I saw in my mind’s eye the face of the very people who picked me up while I was too drunk to see and took me for their own. And I said, “Even though you have tried to mine my body for your own personal gratification, I still hope that you are healed and that you live a happy life and that you are reconnected with Creator in a good way. Creator may you please bless and help and heal this person, your child.”

And with that, I kid you not, an IMMENSE amount of palpable weight was released from my being. It flew out of me and into the river and into the trees and into the soil and out into the sky. Far, far away. I was free. I had released. I was my self again, not my hatred.

There’s much more to the story than that. But it was these two things, realizing it was not my fault/I was not a bad person and choosing to love these people with all my heart (from a safe distance). With those two things I was able to admit that abuse is abuse, not love. It was not easy but it wasn’t impossible at all. It was and is incredibly liberating and helped me get to a safe place.

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about her work here.

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNow Is The Time To Take Action To Save The Internet

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Pilgrim’s Progress, by Robert Kostuck (Part 2)

Butterfly, The Pilgrim's Progress, By Robert Kostuck

The Pilgrim’s Progress

(Part Two of Two)

By Robert Kostuck

Sunday, January 28th, 1945

Now we have rumors of surrender, spoken in hushed voices. What will happen? The Russians will turn to our nation of islands built on the cracked spine of the Pacific Ocean. Depredations continue. We wash linen and clothing without soap, in cold water. Two days ago some rice was delivered, heaven-sent. Unlike my village here the men still go out to fish. Part of their catch is donated to the hospital, also heaven-sent. Mostly there is dashi with fish and greens, also some rather dried-up roots. Someone brought us a large basket—almost 90 kilos!—of last year’s sweet potatoes. Flavor and fiber. Shizuko tells stories of growing up in poverty on a farm. She is eighty-one years old, strong as an ox and missing two fingertips on her left hand.

“Ten years old,” she says. “An argument between me and a knife for cleaning fish. The knife won! Clean living, young woman. Rice wine and plenty of vegetables. Makes one strong and long-lived. Your Buddhist grandmother was right. Too much meat makes the body weak. You have doubt? Look at me!”

I tell her about my tuberculosis, how disease comes with indiscretion to any and all. Always there is weakness and lassitude, other times I cough so much I think it will be my last breath. Because of my illness, I am segregated from the rest of the ‘staff,’ and most definitely from the patients. My volunteer work is limited to laundry and gathering firewood for cooking. There is a park near the city center, once beautiful with decorative cherry and peach trees. Unhindered, each week we go there with the cart and the old men and the young girls cut down the trees. Everything is burned for cooking fires and the wet, green wood smolders and fumes and blows sparks upward to heaven. I want to go on my knees and pray at this perverse cooking fire shrine, bow and make obeisance like Obāsan in front of her Buddhist altar.

*

Thursday, February 1st, 1945

I’ve temporarily stopped working on the novel.

It is becoming difficult and somewhat pointless to continue keeping a journal. I discovered a ream of typewriter paper in one of the abandoned administrative offices here at the hospital. I made a brush from a thin bamboo and my own hair. Ink? That must be the office worker’s India ink that comes in a bottle. I pour a bit in a dish and pretend I have ground a black stick into the sumi stone. Mind you, all pretend. The ink is inferior for anything but practice. My calligraphy takes on a dream-like quality, one day elaborately cursive, next day crude as a child’s first attempts. And that is just my handwriting.

My sister writes:

Yuriko-chan, we miss you and pray for you. Your illness is such that no one will prevent you from leaving the hospital. Here is food, comfort, and the love of family. How can you expect to get well living in a place filled with the sick and dying? Please, Sister, listen. Come home.

*

Sunday, March 25th, 1945

Spring. Patients sun themselves. I am one of them. The wind from the sea and the scents of new life. It seems everyone except me knows how to plant a garden. Seeds for cabbage, onions, and daikon; more donations. Shizuko oversees all, orders the volunteer nurses here and there. The girls obey. Measuring out the space for the rows in the lawns behind the hospital. Grinding up the beautiful lawns and tossing out the white boulders of an unkempt decorative rock garden. In the distance a child’s loud and happy voice shouting, “Ma! Come look!”

“We won’t grow rocks,” says Shizuko. “Better to grow melons and radishes and cucumbers. You came to the right place to be sick. Too bad there’s no medicine.”

She eats less and grows stronger. I eat less and grow weaker.

I sit on a bench in the sun. Sometimes I fall asleep. Messengers and medics arrive in trucks belching smoke and deliver official documents and angry wounded soldiers. So many important papers, so many men. Mail deliveries are sporadic. If my Kuri still writes I have no way of knowing. In my mind I continue to compose the new story. I think it will be my final novel. After this I will retire to my childhood home at the age of forty-two and spend my spinster days writing poetry and feeding my sister’s chickens. If I get better. When I get better.

The new book is equal parts fantasy and autobiography. In fact as I have it now it begins and ends with autobiography. Paragraphs, sentences, entire chapters form, dissolve, and reform in my imagination. Beginning and ending = memories of my own childhood. I never cut my finger with a knife. We had a servant who helped in the kitchen. I see now that my cherished memories were made possible by the labor of others. I was a spoiled child and I became a spoiled woman. The parties, the drinking, the public scenes. We build our lives around fantasy. In the end I am left taking orders from an eighty year-old woman, left eating roots and weeds.

Today I stood at the side of the road as a convoy passed from somewhere to somewhere. Not one soldier saw me, not one turned to look. So now I am invisible, turned into a pattern of leaves and shadows of leaves, turned into smooth river rocks and silky red fox fur. Invisible.

*

Tuesday March 27th, 1945

I drift. Somehow I have run aground in an abandoned fishing village. From the signs everyone left quite suddenly. Nets rot in the boats, gulls pick listlessly at offal on the wet sand. A bicycle leaning on the single automobile, the hood of the vehicle still warm. Smoke curls from the finest house: a western-style stove warm with embers; a pot of broth hastily removed and set to the side. Watery fish broth: I eat until I am full. Back on the beach I find a beautiful seashell, large as my head. When we were children we held shells to our ears, told each other: You can hear the ocean.

I sit on the bench and watch Shizuko guide other hands in the garden. And now sick, coughing Yuriko has been conscripted! My pages of calligraphy discovered! I am pressed to the honorable task of writing letters for the unschooled soldiers. They say tuberculosis is catching but the men crowd around me. Dear Keiko-chan. Fumiko, mother dearest. Brother, I hope this letter finds you well. Secrets and fears, anxiety and anger, sadness and yes, sometimes love. One insists I write to his former employer: You bastard! Where are my back wages!? I never realized the importance of writing for those who cannot read or write. The stories and desires are warring with the plot of my novel. Who will win? The finger or the knife? I will call it unasked-for research notes. Already new stories fill my thoughts, overflow, pool around my heart like moonlight on still water.

*

Monday, April 2nd, 1945

Letters are gathered. I fold the pages into envelopes, write out the addresses. We put the letters in a bag and give them to a surprised military messenger on the way to Kyoto or Tokyo—he’s not sure. Of this I am certain: the letters will never be delivered. The soldiers remain steadfast in their devotion to the Emperor. For them there is no disruption of daily life—this in the face of food shortages!

The worst days are when my appetite returns and there is nothing to eat.

*

Saturday, April 14th, 1945

Shizuko’s garden is lush with tiny green shoots. I’m a small-town girl who forgot her roots in the city. The garden amazes me. I am beginning the second batch of letters but these are now more ‘thinking out loud’ than notices of day-to-day happenings. My novel—all jumbled in my mind now—soldiers and nurses telling stories, prophecies soon to be fulfilled, dreams for the future. They ask about my life as a famous writer. I tell them if they never heard of me then I’m not so very famous. I embellish anecdotes from a not very wild past. Some wildness. That good-looking actor with the dark eyes and quick laugh, for example. Crazy about me, followed me everywhere for months, told me he would die without me. I don’t have to embellish that.

*

Monday, April 23rd, 1945

Today we sent out another sack of letters. Where will they go?

*

Saturday, May 19th, 1945

Today is my birthday. Unlike most women I am not ashamed to tell my age. Today I am forty-three years old. Shizuko clucks her tongue.

“You look older than me,” she says.

I tell her: “I am sick and dying. Disease, unfathomable, directed by a mysterious and probably uncaring god. Besides, you were raised on rice wine and vegetables. Me? I ate too much meat and drank too much Irish whiskey and Russian vodka. And the men! Tempting me, leading me astray!”

We laugh at that.

She holds up her amputated fingers. “We both lived the life we wanted.”

“Yes,” I say, “the life I wanted. Now I am a respectable public scribe composing confessions, testimonials, and love letters for free. If only they could see me now.”

I think: This is the life I was meant to live.

*

Sunday, July 29th, 1945

Who will read this? I lost my appetite. My breathing became so shallow. I thought I was dying. I think I am dying. The girls put me in a tiny hut away from the hospital. They cleaned it out and called it a cottage but it smells of rotted plants and gasoline. A disused storage shed. Each day Shizuko comes in the morning with tea and broth. Unable to stand and use the clay pot in the corner of the room I soil myself in the night. She cleans me. The other volunteers check on me during the day. Outside someone burns incense. A moaning prayer rising and falling in pitch. I have to ask: What day is this? It is Sunday, July twenty-ninth. Why do you need to know? You see, I tell them, I am keeping a journal. I am making notes for my next novel. I am composing—creating—recording—remembering—

*

Tuesday, July 31st, 1945

I can breathe again. The air is hot and dry. There is less food. Wild mushrooms and bits of strange fish in the dashi. What would a sweet potato taste like? Fresh bamboo shoots?

One of the girls brings me a dish with radishes, cucumbers and salt! From Shizuko’s wonderful garden. We are growing our own food. While I was isolated all of the soldiers were evacuated to Tokyo and Yokohama Bay. Now it is just the volunteers and no one to serve.

*

Friday, August 3rd, 1945

Today is the Day of the Ox, hottest day of the year. Shizuko brings back eels from the fishermen and roasts them on an open fire near the garden. As per tradition of course they are expected to keep us cool on this hottest day and provide us with strength for the rest of the year. Much work for a tiny eel! For some reason I am the first served. Everyone watches me eat and swallow. Day of the Ox. Now there’s a folktale I never thought to re-write.

I seem to have misplaced my notes for The Shell God.

*

Sunday, August 5th, 1945

I feel stronger. Does tuberculosis completely leave the body? Obāsan was a spiritual woman. Maybe I can still be like her. I resolve to change my ways.

*

Monday, August 6th, 1945

Today I woke before sunrise. Everyone else is still asleep. The hospital silent and empty. Shizuko was correct about today’s weather—country folk have a secret sense about nature. Clear skies and a breeze from inland. The odors of outdoor fires, of earth giving up summer. Premonitions of autumn. My heart is calm. I think the rest of the year will be calm also. I feel stronger. Maybe I will yet return to Hashikami—my very idealized fishing village. I’ll end my days filling volumes of thin rice paper with poetry, scattering grain for my sister’s chickens and ducks. After all this sickness and traveling—to return. To stay.

To remain.

[THE END]

[The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in Roanoke Review, fall, 2013, Vol. 38.]

 

About Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace AdviserRobert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction and essays appear in many American and Canadian literary journals. He is currently working on short stories, essays, and a novel; his short story collection is seeking a publisher. Learn more about Robert Kostuck and his work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserCommunities Standing Up

“This week we are inspired by the communities that are standing up to police abuse and by the students in Mexico and Hong Kong who are placing themselves at risk in order to fight for their rights.”

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

VENDOR, By Maxfield Harding

New York City

VENDOR

(an excerpt)

CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir

By Maxfield Harding

 

I laughed at my cleverness at escaping life. It was a cold late afternoon in early December on my corner at Fifty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. I stood behind my small vendor’s cart of dried fruits and shelled nuts. I had been standing at the cart since nine o’clock that morning. Blanched cashew nuts had been the hot item with the few people that came up to my cart that day.

I could look up through the tall windows in the fortress of a building to my left to see well-dressed men seated in large cushioned chairs, smoking their cigars and reading their newspapers and talking about their business deals, I imagined. I laughed loudly and pulled my black knit cap over my eyes, effectively shutting out the world around me and completely convinced now that no one could any longer see me either. I stood there smiling in what I hoped was oblivion. I was very tired.

Soon it was six o’clock in the evening. The rush hour had passed. Office workers had become pedestrians and then commuters and the street had emptied quickly. I began pushing my cart of dried fruits and nuts toward the west of midtown. A half hour later I was almost at the cart owner’s garage in a section of the city called Hell’s Kitchen. I had found three twenty dollar bills in the street about a hundred yards from the garage gate and was so elated I became slightly giddy. I hadn’t made much money that day.

I pushed my cart up the ramp and into the holding area where my fellow vendors and I waited to get the tubs of fruit and nuts weighed, and to work out our day’s pay. It was somehow always lower than what we hoped for.

I took out the three twenties and began to slowly shred them and toss the bits to the floor. A young woman near me screamed and told me to stop but I didn’t. The rest of the vendors scrambled to pick up the pieces while I laughed.

The young woman came up to me, her nose almost touching mine and said, “You need to talk to someone, buddy. You’re in a bad way.” I laughed, knowing she was totally wrong.

“You’re the weird one,” the owner said to me in the sing-song way he and his fellow countrymen from India had. “I’m glad that wasn’t my money you destroyed.” He was seated at a desk with a scale on an elevated platform off to the side of the room. “You won’t last long here,” he said.

I laughed again and walked into the back of the garage to use the bathroom. I sat and put my face into the palms of my hands in defeat and waited as long as I possibly could to just before the urge to scream became too much. I walked out of the bathroom and the garage was empty of people save the owner at his desk on the platform. I stood before him. I said nothing. I could not think of the words to speak.

“What are you doing here, Max? Everyone’s already gone for the night,” the owner said to me.

I didn’t respond.

“Go have some dinner, Max. Unless you are filled up already from eating your own profits.”

Again I did not respond. The owner got off his platform and stood in front of me and looked directly into my eyes. “Okay,” he said. “Just this one time.” He walked out the door leaving the lights on and lowered the heavy steel gates that protected his investment and, for this night, me.

It was cold that night, but thank God for us street vendors there was no snow on the ground. There was little heat in the owner’s garage either. I huddled under his desk near the faulty steam radiator and tried as best I could to sleep. I laughed at myself in disbelief and wonderment: in my mind I was losing the sense of feeling “cool” selling dried fruits and roasted nuts on the moneyed streets of New York City. I had chosen this path rather than having what was then called a “straight job,” climbing the corporate ladder, making a lot of money. But I also knew that night that I could have used a few more ten dollar bills in my pocket and wondered why I had shredded those twenties a few hours ago.

Downward mobility had become my attitude of nobility which I had adopted since I graduated from Brown University fifteen years before. Certainly scrambling for a few dollars a day was supposed to be more entertaining and honest to me than sitting behind a desk, or so I had thought. I had made my choice and it seemed there was no turning back now. I was out of the economic mainstream and out of a place to live and sleep and had not much money with which to eat.

Maxfield Harding, Guest WriterAbout Maxfield Harding, Writing for Peace Guest Writer, and Author of “From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir”

Max Harding arrived at Brown University as an “A” student. His descent began then in rebelliousness and a journey he hoped would bring him a life as an author. Inexplicably, he eventually found himself homeless and mentally ill on the streets of New York City at the age of thirty-five.

Maxfield Harding, Author of From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A MemoirMax was unable to fathom what was happening to his brain and the images and sounds of the world all about him. He roamed the city in full psychosis from small homeless shelters and down-and-out residential hotels to the large Camp La Guardia for homeless men north of the city. He was soon removed from that facility and sent back to New York to be put in handcuffs and eventually consigned to Bellevue Mental Hospital, more of a threat to himself than anyone else. He had given up all hope of dealing with the voices and strange powers that brought him to fully expect his execution at the hands of the doctors and nurses at Bellevue.

Casualty, by Maxfield Harding, on Amazon.comFrom the hospital bed from which he awoke the first morning at Bellevue he was eventually able to rise up with psychiatric medication and therapy and the great and generous help of his social worker. He gained entrance into a psychiatric apartment program and then onto work again in mainstream American society. Many of the programs and aid which Max received are no longer available today or are in very short supply. Close to half of the adult victims of over six hundred thousand homeless in America today are mentally ill and have outrageously become our most disposable citizens. Most disturbing are the returning military veterans with more psychic than physical wounds languishing in agony within this substratum of American society. The terrible actions of a few rare mentally afflicted individuals gunning down dozens of innocent people, many of them children, call out for greater and better treatment of the mentally ill in our society.

After thirty-five years of productive work, Max now lives in subsidized housing in Bronx, New York.

Max’s story comes to us through Writing for Peace Adviser, Lorraine Currelley. Lorraine shared this account of their meeting:

Maxfield Harding Group Circle SPARC“I was a 2014 S.P.A.R.C. Seniors Partnering with the Arts Citywide recipient. It was a citywide competition and my proposal for a program won. I taught poetry and creative writing.

“Max joined my workshop and attended twice weekly. Max was an experienced writer, but I don’t believe he was ever published. His short stories and the work he produced in workshop was phenomenal.

Maxfield Harding SPARC 2 I encouraged each student to publish. As an end of workshop project we published a book, On The Write Path. Max informed me he was writing a book and it was near completion. The book CASUALTY and the rest is history. It’s available as an ebook and within a week or two will be available in hard copy.”

You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com here.

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Check Out the Latest Recommended Reading From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserWorld VS Bank: Take Action To Break Wall Street Exploitation Of Global Community

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace; Purchase Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

It Is Time, By Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston Climate change march(2)It Is Time

By Lyla June Johnston

 There is this latent, pervasive notion that it is completely acceptable to abandon our otherwise treasured allegiance to brotherhood and kindness as we step into corporate and business realms because “that’s just the way business is” thereby replacing that allegiance with an exhalation of cutthroat competition and institutionalized greed.

We have reached a point, however, where “the business” permeates every aspect of our lives and therefore humanity is calling into question the sanity of appointing greed and competition as architects of the built environment. What we wear, what we eat, how we communicate, how we move, how we make art, how we are entertained, even down to the insurance that our heart will beat tomorrow–all of this has become absorbed in and regulated by the mechanics of the American business. And it shows. The outward symptoms of depression and dissatisfaction in both the very wealthy and the very poor cohorts of the human race is a reflection of our imbalanced innards. We are beginning to yearn for a world that is not motivated and shaped by the insatiable fear and hunger of profit maximization.

Is this to say that the whole of American and global business is wrong and useless? I think not. How could I when it has driven into existence so many exquisite innovations, fed the families of so many communities and solved so many seemingly insurmountable social problems. While a globalized economy has brought the world together in undeniably problematic ways, it has also brought us together in incredibly beautiful ways! Business has given the incredible potential of the human spirit wings to fully express our unending creativity and ability, lending purpose and fulfillment to many a lifetime.

Indeed it has done great things for great amounts of people. What I am saying is that it is time to address the fly in the ointment: that our wondrous invention of free trade and enterprise does indeed hold within a darker component that has nudged humanity closer and closer to the precipice of complete spiritual, ecological and economic dysfunction. While it is important to acknowledge the beauty of business it is also important to recognize the ways in which it can and must be improved for the sake of all beings. It is also important to acknowledge the ways in which it has caused many a man and woman to compromise their deepest and most fundamental desire to care for others in exchange for a chance at the fortune they describe in mainstream lore.

We simply cannot continue to promote good will toward men by night to our children in our homes while simultaneously promoting dog-eat-dog mentalities and behavior in our business schools and behind our store fronts by day. For the business world no longer comprises a small fraction of our time and life like a weekend getaway in Las Vegas where we can temporarily suspend our morality. No, in fact the corporate endeavor has successfully woven itself into every molecule of our being, literally, and become the stuff with which we clothe our children and house our lives. Therefore, it deserves a deeper dedication to morality than ever before, lest the house we live in become a creation built by bolts of avarice and planks of ruthless ambition. For how can the very veins of a society be driven by a model based on the fear of a mythological scarcity and the worship of selfishness and dominance?

We have been in the midst of a 240 year experiment with Adam Smith’s well-intended, widely-accepted and gravely misguided proposition that selfishness is a necessary component of a thriving economy. This experimentation, which feels more like denial than anything else, has brought our global life support system to the brink of complete collapse and the human race to a state of abject spiritual, emotional and material impoverishment. We can no longer justify, try as we might, the current economic model we operate by, nor can we justify the business norms engendered by short-sighted boom and bust economies of our forefathers. This much is clear.

What is less clear, however, is with what models and principles we shall replace this Jurassic economic modus operandi and how. If this denatured understanding of the earth and of ourselves no longer works, then what does work? And how will we dare to proceed in the name of not only human generations to come, but the progeny of all life forms on this great, wide face of the Earth?

I know that buried deep in our hearts, or perhaps lying just beneath the surface of our stifled voices, we know the exact answer to this question. Indeed, the answer is woven into our DNA strands. If we can just follow this double helix pathway back in time, back to the days when our communities lived by the principle of “I am you” and the children born each day were ushered into a culture of compassion, synergy and generosity, we will arrive at a greater world to be passed down to our own children.

Find the day! Find the day when our cultural proverbs, such as InLak’ech, Mitakue Oyas’in, Namaste, Love Thy Neighbor, Ashe, and Inshallah were replaced with phrases such as Nice Guys Finish Last, Survival of the Fittest, Life Isn’t Fair and Time is Money. This is the turning point! Where the spirit of darkness pulled a hood over the eyes of humanity and led us down the poisonous slope of otherhood, fear and an illusion of scarcity.

My friends, we need only look to the earthy worlds of our ancestors to find the key to thriving economic thought and true fulfillment of the human heart. Encrypted in the cultural rituals of not only North American indigenous peoples, but European and Asian indigenous peoples as well are the answers we seek to give rise to true wealth and existential meaning. Look to find the truth embedded in the roots of your family tree, however far back it may be. And once you have found it, hold it tight and hold it high for all to see until the weight of truth bends and breaks the walls we have built with our own two hands between us and our Mother. Bring these ceremonies, these ancestral principles, these truths, these bottomless philosophies of interconnectedness, compassion and joy into the hallways of your school, into the cubicles of your office building, into the language of our novels and legislation, into our theaters and headphones. Bring them like a blazing torch into the blackened nights of hopelessness and despair. Bring these offerings like a contagious flame that ignites the lives and eyes of others who in turn bring it to others.

It only took three generations of absolute terror to transform our communities from harmonious collectives to warring and disparaged nations. It will only take three generations of absolute love and a kindness to transform them back again.

And what better place to bring this attitude than into the private sector, where so much creativity and potential remains untapped? What would happen if the game changed from who can make the most profit to who can make the most positive change? And how much more alive and fulfilled would we feel each day as we clock out and make our way home amid the roseate hue of dusk? And what would happen?!?! If all the momentum and energy now placed towards the accumulation of digital and material capital (which we will all ultimately leave behind as our soul journeys home) was redirected towards the rehabilitation and regeneration of our war torn emotional and physical worlds?

It is already happening. For every Lifestraw sold, an African scholar receives free drinking water for a year. For every tray of Project 7 gum sold, ten fruit trees are planted. For every Benevolent Bone sold in a convenience store, an Iraq War veteran is linked with a new pet dog to assist with his PTSD and TBI. And, most famously in the American consciousness, for every pair of Tom’s shoes bought, another human being in need receives a pair of Tom’s shoes.

This is what I call “Honey Bee Business.” The Honey Bee takes pollen and gives life all in the same moment. For as it receives what it needs for survival, it also gives the fields of flowers the cross-pollination they need for their survival. In turn, honey bees give rise to many of the foods to which we owe our existence.

Similarly, within the next decade, I forecast, consumers are not only going to want their product to provide their survival, they will also want and expect their purchase to generate positive change in an area of need somewhere in the world. We are entering a new age of economics whereby the very system that has ravaged and exploited the willing abundance of Nature will be the same infrastructure that works to heal and feed the whole of humanity, both physically and spiritually.

If we can learn to harness this dragon with a deep commitment to generosity and altruism, we can create as much healing as it has historically created destruction. For a ship propelled by fear and selfishness will guide that vessel to the land of pain and dissatisfaction, but that very same ship, propelled by the winds of loving kindness will bring its passengers to the golden shores of true and fulfilling humanhood and the community that the Creator intended for us all.

Are there pitfalls and things to watch out for with this plan? Certainly there are… For we have all seen the deleterious effects of green-washing and half-hearted corporate responsibility… It comes in the form of cheapened marketing ploys such as “Up to 30% Plant Bottle!” or “100% recyclable!”

What I am saying is that we must engage in a new kind of business. A kind of business that sincerely and painstakingly measures and works to increase the PLANETARY return on investment, instead of the individualistic return on investment. Imagine a group of businessmen and women meticulously calculating and devising ways to increase the number of veterans that get a pet dog, per unit of Benevolent Bones sold. Imagine a group of economists working to develop a business strategy whereby the inception, production, distribution and sale of a product nourishes everything it touches (100% Regenerative Business Strategy). What kind of creatures would we become? Perhaps we would begin to resemble more and more the visage of our ancestors who largely spent their time attempting to catch a glimpse into the endless Heart of God by practicing and enjoying a life of kindness, generosity and celebration.

 

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity.

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 Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers Recommends:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPopular Resistance Newsletter – Congress Flees But We’re Still Fighting

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where we can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges

Check out our 2015 Young Writers Cntest! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTale

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

EVERYDAY PEACE, by Samantha Terrell

Vincent Van GoghEVERYDAY PEACE

by Samantha Terrell

I’m an everyday kind of person.

The youngest of four kids, I grew up in an old farmhouse smack-dab in the middle of a Kansas wheat field where there was dust, and sweat, and homemade bread, and prayer…mostly led by my dad, a progressive Presbyterian minister.

When I was a teenager we moved to the Missouri Ozarks which was a culture shock for a Kansas girl, though I would adjust. I spent my college years all over the (United States) map, both literally and figuratively, as I struggled to find my way—switching majors and schools, dropping out altogether, and working here and there, before ultimately earning my Bachelor’s degree and meeting my husband.

In all things though, I kept striving for the out-stretched hand of a faith to give me peace in my decision-making; it’s a faith that has guided me as an adult, through career changes, marriage, parenting, and many other everyday kinds of things, and it provides a peace that I don’t dare take for granted.

So, these days when my sons occasionally grumble about their “first-world” problems, my husband and I make a point to explain the privileges we have as Americans living in the 21st century. While to some it may seem harsh to push these “grown up” issues on kids, I want them to grow up knowing that as they complain in-between bites of breakfast cereal about going back to school, many children in the world are enduring the hardships of poverty, starvation, and war.

I would consider it not only the ultimate “parenting fail,” but also a “humanity fail,” if I didn’t attempt to instill in my own children the sense of peace that comes from an appreciation of (what we consider) everyday things. It is in this vein that I write.

TAKEN FOR GRANTED

tonight my sons
eat pizza that I pulled
from my electric-oven
with a hot blast in my face
transporting me to our own youth
when oven-heat from
a floor-vented furnace sent
our pink nightgowns billowing up
in clouds of warmth,
as we giggled, and sighed with relief
at the comfort of that heat
in our very own home
which mother-nature has now
simultaneously stolen from each of you,
in your respective struggles,
as I worry over you from a distance
with overdue gratitude for
a family home,
a source of heat, and the
laughter of sisterhood

 

Samantha Terrell, Writing for Peace ContributorAbout Samantha Terrell

Samantha Terrell is a published poet, who has been writing for nearly two decades. Her chapbook ‘Honesty,’ is published six times annually. Her work has been featured in DoveTales, by Writing for Peace; LaBloga Floricanto; and other formats. Samantha resides in Missouri with her husband and two boys.

Samantha’s new book “Vespers,” features her original poetry and offers the reader a weekly prayer journal to assist in finding peace of the ‘everyday’ variety. For more information, or to place an order, go to: poetrybysamantha.weebly.com. A portion of all profits will be donated to charity.

 

 

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Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers Recommends:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPopular Resistance Newsletter: We Believe That We Will Win

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where we can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges

Check out our 2015 Young Writers Cntest! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTale

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition

The 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

manifesto, by radhiyah ayobami

Writing for Peace Welcomes Guest Writer, Radhiyah Ayobami

 

manifesto

Radhiyah Yemayatoday i heard a story that made me very happy. in fact, it actually made me feel joy. it was a story about a close sista-friend of mine. i have known her for about ten years. we met when our children went to the same cultural school (our friendship has outlived the school as well.)  i was in my early 20’s- she was about 30. i was transitioning into the cultural world, growing locs, and exploring different traditions. she had already been married to a community leader, and she eased me into her circle and her way of life. she introduced me to roots reggae dances and was the first person i met who blessed herb before smoking it. she took me to african spiritual events and explained the protocol; how to cleanse before entering, when to stand and when to kneel, how to give an offering and receive a blessing. wherever we went, folks cracked into wide smiles as soon as she was on the scene, she was forever being waved at across a crowded room, greeting other smiling people, and being enveloped by hugs.
 

as the years progressed, we went through the same initiations, starved through the same fasts and partied at the same events in long skirts and headwraps on a wednesday night and were late getting our kids to school in the morning. we piled our children and some other folks children in a half-working car and drove to all-night drum circles where they fell asleep under trees as we meditated by the fire, we survived on the same small handful of greens in a foreign country when it had rained too much and everybody was hungry, and when the sun came out we all washed up outside in broad daylight, everything jiggling, breasts that had nursed babies, waistbeads, and our locs heavy with water from the sea.
 

and then came the curves of life. we went to city offices and through housing systems, patching together the help we needed to move forward. we created resumes and got jobs that paid on the books and took out taxes. we transitioned out of our small communities and found that wearing extra long skirts and yards of cloth around our shoulders was sometimes not practical when working with small children or in various other settings. she was first to cut her locs and put on pants, and one day she came walking around the corner on fulton street with no headwrap, no multi-colored skirt swishing her ankles and no scent of sacred oil, and i walked right by her. she had a short afro, creased pants, and a folder full of resumes, and something about the outfit reminded me of the colorful birds i saw languishing in cages at the zoo. months later, when my son and i lived in a building that awakened us with five am fire alarms, she wrote me a letter that helped me transition out of that place and into an apartment where my porch was the entire roof and i could sit and watch the sky.

 

and then we went into the next decade of our lives, and i listened to her laugh become a little less loud as she watched friends and family marry and waltz across the dance floor in each other’s arms as she raised her children and drove to the occasional roots dance on her own. we began to talk about the beliefs and traditions that kept us bound to the idea of being honorable women. elders told us that we shouldn’t be out past nine o’clock. imams said we should be in by maghrib. at the drumming ceremonies, we couldn’t uncover our hair (even though it was hot by the fire, and the breeze through our locs would have been the greatest blessing.) in almost every tradition, we were lectured against smoking herb, and told to have husbands instead of lovers, so we wouldn’t damage our spirits. so me and my sista-friend began to have conversations. we began to wonder, under the skirts and scarves and rules and admonishments, where we could find the seed of joy. our communities and traditions had sustained and nurtured us, but now we were in a new cycle of life, and it was time for change. we talked and argued with each other, we fasted and went to steam baths and spiritual events and prayed and sat with our own thoughts. and then, we moved.
 

she broke the no lovers rule first, and invited me over for  tea so we could talk about it, and it was a conversation that lasted all night. it was winter when she broke that rule, and it was summer when i broke it, and i ended up writing a lot of poems. and we discovered some things. we discovered that another human being, particularly a partner, fixing a meal that you like or washing your hair or giving you advice on a complicated problem late at night even though they were tired or rubbing your foot deep enough to ease out the soreness of the day was just as holy as a drum ceremony or lighting an incense stick or the pouring of water- and maybe, even more holy than that. we discovered that the best rules to follow were the ones that brought our spirits balance and joy.
 

and after awhile, my sista-friend stayed in pants. she never went back into daily headwraps and long skirts- although she would wear them occasionally for events or if she felt like it. i stayed in long skirts and wraps because my womanself loved them, but sometimes wore jeans if i wanted to, and we never gave up dancing or late nights or wine or bud. we still prayed and chanted and burned and poured sacred water- but we carried no flags but our own.
 

and then today she called me, ashamed, because she was out on a date with a man that made her heart glow, and they had a little taste of wine and a little smoke, and they went to a roots party, and she ran into folks she knew, and there she was in a short skirt and a wild afro, kinda high, kinda drunk, with a strange and non-cultural man, and all the women were in there with headwraps up to the ceiling and skirts down to the floor. well, i fell out. i laughed and laughed. because at the age and stage that we’re in now, does it really matter? we are far enough into this journey that we know most things are between us and the creator. when i was living in the five am fire alarm place, i was plagued with headaches so bad that i walked around with tylenol tucked into every pocket, every bag, and even under my headwrap for emergencies. and her letter helped me get into a house where the birds would come sing at the windows in the mornings when the sky was still pink, and i didn’t have a bottle of tylenol in that whole house. and some of those women in those skirts would never do that for anyone else- some of them were devils. i know, because i wear long skirts and i’m a devil when i wanna be too.
 

and i wish my sista- friend a hundred dances in a hundred short skirts, if that’s what feeds her soul. and for the rest of us, i wish us permission to be unbound to whatever it is that binds us. sometimes i look at my life- i’m in an expensive grad school but got no money. i’m an older black woman in an mfa program, which is generally made up of students who are young, male and white. i’m fat but i do african dance and yoga and i love it, even when i’m the biggest person in the class, which is often. i moved across the country with a teenager, which everyone says is the worst time to move a child, and now he’s closer to the honor roll than he’s ever been. i’ve made a lot of mistakes, but my son and i have also had some great adventures. life has been our guide, our teacher and our protector. and as shaky as my progress is, i’m continuing on my journey to be fully unbound, fully engaged in the process of life instead of watching it drift by, and fully committed to living with joy.

 

i  give myself permission to:
 

honor my inner guidance

create my own family makeup

not explain or apologize for my choices

not explain, excuse or defend my size, culture or style of dress

treat my body kindly no matter what it looks like

tell my truth even when it’s uncomfortable

tell the stories of my ancestors

pursue all my passions

ask for and accept compensation for my talents

not be afraid or ashamed of mistakes

choose teachers by spirit and not external affiliations

walk away when i need to

humble myself only to the elements; water, sun, trees, land & sky

(& of course the creator)

 

and so it is!

 

radhiyah ayobami: brooklyn born by way of the south, telling stories of black womanhood, motherhood & folks in invisible spaces, believes word has the power to shift consciousness, writes & workshops with pregnant teens, inmates & elders, africana studies graduate of brooklyn college & mfa prose student at mills college in oakland, california, where she is working on a collection of nonfiction essays & the trees give her poems.

 

Writing for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace Our Second edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso
Cassandra Arnold
Maggie Bàra
Henry Braun
Lorraine Caputo
William Cass
Lorraine Currelley
Colin Dodds
John Garmon
Diane Giardi
Mark Goad
Veronica Golos
Sam Hamill
Dawnell Harrison
D. Iasevoli, Ed.D
Allan M. Jalon
Shelley Kahn
Richard Krawiec
Paula Dawn Lietz
Cory Lockhart
Shannon K. Lockhart
Veronica Marshall
Sandra McGarry
Iwona Partyka
Sy Roth
Andrew Sacks
Carol Smallwood
Julia Stein
Samantha Peters Terrell
Bänoo Zan

  • 2015 Young Writers Contest

Our exciting 2015 Young Writers Contest Judges Panel will be announced on September 1st, along with our Contest Guidelines!

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