Saturday, January 31, 2009

New York Yearly Meeting's Minute on Torture

This is a powerful video. - sm

New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends' (Quakers) statement on torture, approved on July 25, 2008. In this statement, Quakers from New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut sign on to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture's ( "Statement of Conscience" and its "Declaration of Principles" seeking an end to torture.

Friday, January 30, 2009

That was not a dream... it was an earthquake

(Everything's fine.)

I've now been through four earthquakes. Three of them, including the one I slept through, have been in the last year. (!)

I woke up just shy of 5:30 this morning, wondering why on earth one of the cats had chosen just that moment to do kitty yoga so vigorously that she was shaking the bed. She, however, was not on the bed. Her sister was, but she wasn't grooming. I thought, "Is this an earthquake...? It's going on too long to be a heavy truck going by... No, if it was an earthquake, the cats would be hiding under the bed..."

And I fell back to sleep. And dreamed about being in an earthquake.

Later, the alarm went off, the cats demanded breakfast, and I happened to turn on the news.


It was no dream! There was a mild earthquake. Details from the Associated Press, here; from the Seattle Times, here.

(The other earthquakes were on the East Coast, in 1986 (epicenter in Ohio); in Manchester, England, in February of 2008, which I slept through (epicenter in Lincolnshire); and Ann Arbor, MI, spring 08 (epicenter in Illinois).)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lillian's obituary

Lillian's obit from the Daily News. - sm

Lillian Willoughby, Quaker activist, dies at 93
LILLIAN WILLOUGHBY had a vision of a world at peace.

She and her husband, George, dedicated Quakers, chased this impossible dream all over the world, conducting nonviolent protests against war and preparations for war for nearly 70 years.

They even refused to pay federal taxes that they deemed were going to pay for war. As a result of these activities, they often ran afoul of law-enforcement and judicial officials who did not share their passion for peace.

Lillian Willoughby died Thursday just shy of her 94th birthday. She lived on the Old Pine Farm Land Trust in Deptford, Gloucester County, part of the New Jersey Green Acres program.

In 2004, she and other activists spent seven days in the federal detention center in Philadelphia for blocking the entrance to the Federal Building in a protest against the Iraq war. They chose jail over $250 fines.

In a statement read in court, she summed up her philosophy of peace and justice.

"I am approaching my 90th year," she said. "I had high hopes of leaving this earth confident that the people on it knew more about nonviolence and conflict resolution.

"Even after 9/11 we had a window of opportunity to do just that. By working with the United Nations and the World Court we could have helped build a stronger world community, a community of fairness and justice for all, where compassion, understanding, forgiveness, imagination, sharing and courage are valued and practiced."

In 2006, she and other older activists, including the poet Sonia Sanchez, then 72, were charged with defiant trespass for refusing to leave a Center City military recruiting station after trying to enlist to serve in Iraq. A judge dismissed the charges.

They called themselves the "Granny Peace Brigade."

In 2003, she and other demonstrators had their heads shaved outside the Liberty Bell in the name of peace. They intended to send the shorn hair to senators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to express their opposition to the war.

From 1971 to 1987, Lillian and her husband ran a commune in West Philadelphia devoted to helping the community. The site included 20 houses that made up the Movement for a New Society.

The Willoughbys lived in a small third-floor apartment where they practiced living simply. When a Daily News reporter encountered them there in June 1980, they were baking their own bread. The group started the first Take Back the Night rally, an idea that became an annual anti-crime event.

Taking on the simple life was also a way to keep any income away from the federal government. Even so, the IRS confiscated their red Volkswagen for back taxes. During the auction at the IRS headquarters in Chester in 1970, the Willoughbys and supporters served lemonade in the hallway before submitting the winning bid of $900 to buy the car back.

Lillian was brought up on a farm in West Branch, Iowa. She attended a Quaker boarding school and later graduated from the University of Iowa. She became a dietician by trade and worked at hospitals and nursing homes.

She met her husband in Iowa. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and helped find homes for Japanese-Americans who had been put in camps at the outbreak of the war.

"She was loving, honest and forthright," said longtime friend and fellow Quaker Lynne Shivers. "She had a deep belief in the Quaker ideal of creating a nonviolent world. She reached out to people who were down, and cared about them."

She also is survived by three daughters, Sally, Anita and Sharon Willoughby; a son, Alan Willoughby, and three grandchildren.

Services: A Quaker memorial meeting will be held at a future date. *

Friday, January 23, 2009

Upcoming events

I've just posted a handful of new events to the bread and roses spiritual nurture web page. They're a mix of things I'm hosting and things I'm traveling to.

I think these might be of interest to different folks:
  • In the Pacific Northwest, since the local events I'm hosting might be within traveling distance for you.
  • In the Delaware Valley, since I'm going to be back in that area for two years at least, starting this August. Are there things that I do that you might be interested, either in attending, or in having me facilitate for your group?
  • In other areas. Are you interested in having me travel to come work with your group or spiritual community?

I'm particularly excited about some new things.

This fall, I developed two new workshops/retreats: The Goddess Is Alive & Magic Is Afoot, which I'll be facilitating at Friends General Conference Gathering this summer; and Working with Dying and Death: a Day of Comfort and Healing, which is explicitly interfaith.

I'm also spending time today putting together a workshop proposal for Our Lady of the Earth and Sky's Community Festival at the end of February.

For the Upcoming Events page, please click here.
For the bread and roses spiritual nurture main page, please click here.

I hope that folks in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the return of the light. It's amazing to me the difference it makes for me already, since Winter Solstice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Ella's Song / We Who Believe in Freedom"

My friend Andy mentioned that Sweet Honey in the Rock should have been there today, singing this. This is so much in the spirit of the day, and it's stuck in my head:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of Black men
Black mothers' sons

Is as important as the killing of White men
White mothers' sons

Link to a video here.

Link to lyrics here.

"Lift Every Voice"

The full text of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem, which many of us recognized during Rev. Joseph Lowery's Benediction during today's inauguration of President Barack Obama. For me, Lowery's benediction was one of the most moving parts of the inauguration. - sm

Lift every voice and sing
Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
Tigh as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea

Sing a song
Full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song
Full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on til victory is won

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chast'ning rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our parents sighed?

We have come
Over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come
Treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast

God of weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way
Thou who hast by thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray

Lest our feet
Stray from the places, our God, where we met thee
Lest our hearts
Drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee
Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand
True to our God, true to our native land.

- James Weldon Johnson

"This Land Is Your Land"

I needed my hanky during this. And I'm so thrilled they sang the "less popular" verses that usually get left out. - sm

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen - "This Land Is Your Land" - the Obama Inaugural Celebration Concert

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quakerism in the news

I was happy when I heard this last night on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. - sm

Oath of Office: To Swear Or To Affirm
All Things Considered, January 18, 2009 · The Presidential Oath of Office is laid out in the Constitution. But when Barack Obama takes it on Tuesday, he can choose not to swear. It's a choice all presidents have when being sworn in — a Quaker legacy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Statement on the War in Gaza from CPT's Palestine Team

from Christian Peacemaker Teams. - sm

14 January 2009

GAZA: Statement on war in Gaza from CPT’s Palestine team

Christian Peacemaker Teams deplores the use of violence, stands with the oppressed, and supports all nonviolent efforts to build justice and peace. We believe God loves both Palestinians and Israelis and regards every person's death a tragedy. With this in mind

-We call on all armed groups to cease killing and traumatizing the children of God.

-We implore our governments to do more to end this massacre in Gaza, including demanding that Israel immediately remove its forces from Gaza and cease aerial bombardment.

-We ask our government representatives to insist that Israel conform to International law in its dealings with the Palestinians.

- We urge our governments and media outlets to press beyond surface explanations as to the cause of this recent conflict between Hamas and Israel and address the 'root' problems (i.e. the systemic oppression and domination of the Palestinian people).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference - Breathing Fire: Channeling the Power Within

I've only just heard about this. It sounds very exciting! If anyone is able to provide a website or such, or any other additional information, I would be grateful. - sm

Summer 2008, a collective of LGBTQ womyn of color decided to gather together to construct a conference, healing and social-justice oriented in its nature, to address many of the concerns affecting our community. That conversation exploded into the 2009 LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference - Breathing Fire: Channeling the Power Within, which was created by a planning committee of over twenty (20) womyn and trans folks spanning the entire spectrum of people of color from Philadelphia to New Jersey to D.C.

This one-day conference will be held Saturday, April 4th, 2009 at the William Way Center - 1315 Spruce St. Philadelphia, PA 19107 - and will have workshops covering issues within our four themes: Relationships, Sexual Practices, Spirituality and Body/Health.

At your request, we can send our official request for collaboration letter. Outlined in the letter are the various kinds of support needed to ensure that the 2009 LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference fulfills its potential, such as workshop facilitators, vendors and donors.

We are very excited about this opportunity to work closely with you and/or your organization in developing this conference. If you are interested in participating, please contact We thank you in advance for your time and consideration. We look forward to working with you and/or your organization in the near future.

Please forward this information to others who maybe interested in supporting this conference.

In solidarity,
The LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference Planning Committee

Friday, January 9, 2009

A little unexpected wood stove geekdom

The apartment which Beloved Wife and I are renting in Seattle doesn't have a central heating system. It comes with electric oil-filled radiators and a woodstove, and our landlady pays utilities, including wood for the woodstove. (I think that bit is very smart on her part, because then she has some say in the management of the woodpile. We once lived in a house with two fireplaces, where the prior tenants hadn't taken very good care of the woodpile... and it was a damp, icky, disintegrating mess.)

I used the woodstove at Samhain for burning mementos to my ancestors and my dead, but wasn't sure we'd ever really use it for heat. I don't have any woodstove experience, in spite of the fact that my parents and my aunt and uncle heat with woodstoves. And although I know how to build campfires and fireplaces fires, I don't know much about building fires in stoves, and I can tell it's a very different sort of thing. (There's no grating; this stove is too tiny to put pieces crosswise... er?) I had this uneasy feeling, too -- while I liked the idea of not using fossil fuel or electricity, and not paying a big utility company to heat my house, I wasn't so sure about the environmental impact of burning wood. Plus, I have asthma -- do I want to heat my house this way?

Then the temps dropped to the 20s F, and there was just no way to get our apartment above 60F with the electric heaters. And there was the threat of electricity outages due to wind and ice. I didn't want to be learning how to use the stove when I couldn't see and it was 50F in our flat.

It was definitely time to fire up the woodstove.

And while I didn't find myself terribly proficient at managing it yet, I did find myself really appreciating, even enjoying, having a fire in the woodstove. There's a subjective difference between heat from a woodstove and heat from radiators, forced-air systems, and the like. I can't quite explain what it is, but it felt different, and I liked it.

I've also found myself appreciating the beauty of wood -- all the different shades of cedar, the sheen of maple -- in a way that's somewhat different from when woodworking or whittling. And I understand in a first-hand way now how Doug fir is fire-resistant, and how seasoned cedar kindling really is different from freshly-split cedar kindling from a seasoned log. There's something I really like about becoming familiar with, and appreciating, wood in this way. It feels akin to honoring the sacrifice of an animal I eat, the sacrifice of the Horned God, or to honoring the death of the plants I eat, the sacrifice of Lugh or the Grain God.

When the temperatures warmed back up, so that we could go back to keeping the house reasonably warm using the electric heaters alone... I felt a little lost without a fire to tend. One website I was reading recently summed it up nicely: heating with a wood-burning stove is a little like having a pet. Its presence is always there; it requires a certain amount of attention; it's warm; it can feel kind of affectionate.

I decided to do some research on how to build a good fire in a woodstove. My perfectionist self was feeling like there must be a better way to get a fire going than my so-so efforts thus far.

I discovered a handful of interesting things out there on the web; as with so much on the internet, some were useful, some less so.

There are a couple of methods to building a new fire in a woodstove that I'm going to try; there's a rather different way of starting new logs from existing coals that I'm also going to try. (Physics!) Crumpled newspaper, which is how I learned to do start fire growing up (gosh, doesn't that sound like I was a juvenile delinquent), does irritating things in a woodstove, and that's been driving me batty; so I'm learning to make "Nantucket Knots" (which somehow remind me of Brigid's Crosses). Physics again!

I'm enjoying the geekdom.

I also know a little about the guy our landlady buys our wood from. I feel good about how buying wood from him helps him support himself.

I like how, if you know where your wood comes from and you buy it locally, you can help support your local economy, can help support sustainable wood harvesting, can help conserve fossil fuel by not hauling your wood long distances. I like participating in the carbon cycle this way. I like getting a little off the grid. I like how a good woodlot is a renewable resource. I like how, if you use your woodstove well, you can produce less pollution than if you heat your home by most forms of commercial heating.

So I am a cautious convert to this wood-heat thing.

Which is not at all what I expected.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Holding the Willoughbys in the Light

from an email from George; if you'd like contact info, please let me know.

Lillian has been an amazing influence on me, as well as on Beloved Wife, and a loving presence in our lives.

- sm

January 5, 2009

Dear Life Center/MNS friends,
Dear F/friends of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting,

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Lillian had a stroke on December 23 when we were visiting with our daughter, Anita, and her family and the rest of our family in New York City. Lillian has since been paralyzed on her right side. After a few days, we brought her back to Deptford in an ambulance and we brought a hospital bed for her. She remains at home. Some years ago, she decided that if such an event took place, she would prefer not to be admitted to a hospital since she did not want to live as an invalid. She has chosen not to eat but let nature take its course. She takes sips of water from time to time. She is in no physical pain and can speak short phrases. Our children, Sally (who lives with us), Anita, Alan and Sharon are sharing in her care. Lillian is also visited daily by a hospice worker.

She would like to receive cards or e-mails from her distant friends. Address is [snip]. E-mail to George is [snip] and phone is [snip]. If you are close enough to visit, please phone ahead, since sometimes many visitors come at once. Please spread this news to others who care about Lillian. You can also contact Lynne S [snip] or Nichole H [snip] for more information.

We have heard from many friends, and not surprisingly, some from India! We are
grateful for your caring and support.

With appreciation,

Monday, January 5, 2009

A bit of a limb

I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb, and share with you more of what I've been up to since moving to Seattle. Which, come to think of it, is spending a lot of time out on a limb.

Starting this fall, I've been making ministry the focus of my life.

That's such a simple statement. But there are so many things it doesn't say -- about faith and faithfulness, anxiety and fear, joy and peace and simplicity, and more.

This leading has been building for a while, and came to something of a crescendo almost a year ago, when Beloved Wife and I were struggling to discern our next steps.

She was completing her PhD in math, and had started to hear back from post-doctoral jobs she'd applied for. We were trying to figure things out -- not only what to do next, but how on earth to decide. None of what looked best for her was compatible with what I'd thought I was led to do next. We twisted ourselves into some pretty interesting and awkward pretzels trying to make it all work. (The pretzel-twisting didn't work.)

A couple of things helped. One was deciding we trusted that this leading to be in a marriage with each other would not be mutually-exclusive with our other leadings. Three other things that helped were my being willing to listen deeply, even daringly, to myself; my asking for a clearness committee; and Beloved Wife's willingness to trust this before I had good words to explain it.

Beloved Wife was in England for the semester, writing her dissertation in reach of her advisor, who was there on a visiting professorship. I was in Ann Arbor, working, taking a class, and doing intensive physical therapy for an old injury.

I had a series of experiences where discernment came in bright, heart-pounding flashes. Exam questions in my music theory class ("Describe your ideal lifestyle"). An email exchange with a dear friend/former professor and mentor ("I know exactly what kind of 'shop' you should set up!"). A clearness committee meeting with me at Mid-Winter Gathering, with deep worship, deep love, laughter, and tears ("No, you can't hide").

So, I gradually came to understand that my next step was to answer a leading to make ministry the main focus of my life, of my time and energy.

That didn't mean I knew what it would look like.

And I still don't!

I know some of what it looks like, or at least what it's looked like this fall: taking some classes, hosting events for building spiritual community, being available for counseling and spiritual direction, submitting a workshop proposal for FGC Gathering, participating in the life of the Meeting I'm attending here in Seattle, getting to know the local Pagan community a little, making sure I take time for things like dance (my version of "going to the gym") and for teaching dance... But sometimes I think I'm still figuring it out every day.

That's okay with me, for the most part. I don't need to have it all figured out. I don't necessarily need to know where I'm going to end up, just where the next few steps are.

A lot of this last year has felt like this song-and-picture combination:

I feel like I'm crossing a stream in the woods: I can see the rock I'm stepping on, and I can see the next; I can tell there's a mossy bank on the far side, but I can't see all the stepping stones in between. (Or the places where my feet will get wet.) But the woods are green and beautiful; the birds are calling; the sun is shining down through the trees; the breeze is dancing; the brook is singing.

Imani, faith, can come like a spirit
Spirit come like walking on air
Take a step, and trust in the path, and

Mother Imani meet you there.

- from "Imani," by Rachael AK Hazen

"What's this empire coming to?": a politically-correct ancient Roman holiday

More stuff to make you think about perspective. This piece, from NPR, had me laughing out loud. Click here to listen.

What's this empire coming to?

Now they want us to stop greeting people with "Io Saturnalia!" "We have all these different cultures in Rome," they tell us. "We shouldn't offend anyone," they tell us, "We've got to be inclusive."

We've got the barbarians from the north with their tree decorations and their fire rituals. And the weirdos from Gaul, cutting mistletoe with a golden sickle. And the Mithraists, the Zoroastrians, the Isis cults, and, of course, those characters who hang out in the catacombs. "Hail, Winter!" we're supposed to say now.

I ask you, what next: we lose the feast? We stop the Solstice parties? No more honoring Ops, goddess of abundance?

I was buying some greenery down by the Forum the other day, and... Read more.

"What If... Obama and McCain Switched Backgrounds?"

Okay, it's a little late... but perhaps now that all the sound and buzz have died down, folks might be willing to look at some of these issues more critically. My thanks to Samuel Lippke for this. - sm

What if?
Obama / Biden vs McCain/ Palin , what if things were switched around? . . . . . think about it.
Would the country's collective point of view be different if McCain & Obama had each other's history and qualifications?
Could racism be the culprit? Ponder the following:

More posts-that-point-to-other-authors

Okay, I know I promised some actual writing from myself... These, though, caught my eye, and I wanted to share them. And I think you get a sense of people by what they find interesting, whether they agree with them or not. :)