51+ Million Trees Later
Wangari Maathai is one of my peace heroes. Like most successful peace activist, she started with making change on a small-scale. She planted trees in her rural area so that poor women and starving children could have a healthier more sustainable life. Professor Maathai was founder of the The Green Belt Movement and winner of the Noble Peace Prize.
Quote: “For me, one of the major reasons to move beyond just the planting of trees was that I have a tendency to look at the causes of a problem. We often occupy ourselves with the symptoms, whereas if we went to the root cause of the problems, we would be able to overcome the problems once and for all.”
I would challenge that anyone who is not at peace in their life it is because they are failing to examine and address the root cause of their distress. A new spouse isn’t going to make you happy after you’ve left the old one if you don’t know why the relationship failed. Being thinner, prettier, wealthier isn’t going to make one happy if the inner voice keeps repeating, “You’re never going to be good enough.” Turning up the air conditioning won’t solve the reason your area is on day 20 or 100 of record heat.
One of the best descriptions of anger I was ever given for a child was: the branches that we see on a tree represent the anger a child displays — go to the roots of the tree and there you’ll find sadness — find out why the child is sad and the anger will go away. Or to say it another way — as Professor Maathai believes go to the cause or the root of the matter to solve the problem and find peace.
It may seem strange to list myself as one of my own peace heroes and a few years ago I certainly would not have done so. It is not with pride or arrogance that I do so now. It is with the knowledge that we recognize in others what we know to be true about ourselves. For me to be able to see the peace hero in others there must be at least a bit of that in me. If you are able to admire peace in others than it resides in you — you and I don’t need Noble Peace Prizes or international accolades to be a peace hero. Sometimes being a peace hero is as simple as being aware an “attack” from another is fear and a cry for help. This is the moment to be aware that they need love rather than condemnation. Love will bring the peace — even if it must be given from a safe distance. I am most imperfect with my peace actions but I am willing to continue striving every day to seek peace and love.
No Bullets Fired — Four years without war
(former) President Jimmy Carter like all great peace activist has held true to his beliefs throughout his presidency and well beyond. For four short years, we had a president who knew the balance between the yin and yang. He sought peaceful resolutions — moved sustainable energy to the forefront and supported the notion that the poor are not helpless to be given handouts rather than a hand up. Through his work with Habitat for Humanity he has supported people assisting in the building of their own homes and then others as well. He has been awarded the Noble Peace Prize and if you listen to his TED talk you will get an inkling as to why he received this honor.
There is a reason we feel more peaceful in nature
When I’ve seen to too much news about wars and other human atrocities. When I’ve listened to too much gossip and bickering from those around me. When I’ve breathed in too many toxic chemicals that are supposed to improve my life. When my body feels the anger and discord that so often vibrates around me. I go walk among my peace heroes and absorb their peaceful intent.
peace to each of you — you are all peace heroes or you would not have taken the time to have read this post!
The brave women who were part of the Suffrage Movement were treated in cruel and terrible ways. Alice Paul was one of these incredible women. She dedicated her life to getting women the vote. At one point she (along with other women) was arrested and placed into a damp and filthy prison cell where, after going on a hunger strike, Miss Paul was strapped to a chair and force fed, day after day. She never wavered in her belief that women deserved the right to be heard. All of the women were abused and mistreated.
I am grateful to these wonderful women for their courage and unwavering dedication. All of the jailed women suffered, chained to the bars of their cells, denied their medication, forced to live in truly unhealthy conditions, because they wanted women to have the same right to vote as men. They are my Sheroes…but Alice Paul captured my attention and my heart. I hold her in the highest esteem. I hope that if she were alive today she would smile at me and be happy for the years of work I have put into the Woman’s Movement because of her. I never take my rights for granted because I know the terrible price my foremothers paid so that I could enjoy the things available to me because of each and everyone of them. I’m grateful. Sheroes, each and every one.
Wandering foreign back roads
Sans news bombarding me from every angle
Away from depressing snippets and soundbites
Construed to perpetuate division and unrest
I’m blissfully off the grid!
Society’s maladies forgotten
Replaced by a celebration of shared commonalities
Soaking up universal love
Strangers morphing into new friends
Eager to share stories of their homelands
A single afternoon reshaping my heart
Strolling enchanting cobblestone streets
Swapping mutually respectful gazes
Studying exotic features
Appreciating cultural nuances
Savoring the international pulse
Rather than having it interpreted for me
Peace is not something wished for from a distance
But rather an empowering choice made with each encounter
Whether thousands of miles from home
Or in my own backyard
I must give my best
While seeking the same in others
Or risk living a sad life
Where I’m continuously offended
Immediately jumping to conclusions
Making examples out of every deemed wrongdoer
Leaving a dense cloud of negativity in my wake
Please draw me upward
Whenever I’m tempted to fly so low
Please open my eyes to just how rewarding life can be
When I remember
I’m obligated to find peace within my own heart
Because harmony begins with me…
**photo from our recent Balkans adventure: Sibiu, Romania
There are no walls in the forest
Where eagles rise with the tailwinds
And chlorophyll canopies shadow dance
Over moss carpet floors
Morning glory knows no barriers
Roots of the gnarled oak
Venture out in every direction
Baring their bones to the sun
Willows welcome the lark’s sweet song
Arms reach out without thought
Embracing those that walk peaceful paths
Embracing those that do not
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
♥ ♥ ♥
In my dreams
Humanity doesn’t just bustle by one another
We initiate inspiriting impressions
Sans preoccupation or fear of repudiation
Greeting one another joyfully
Sharing a smile
A funny tale
Or maybe even swapping life stories
Commonalities dissolving differences
Respectful minds OPEN
Approachable hearts expanding
Celebrating varying viewpoints and insightful interpretations
No matter how contrasting
Laughter and tears uniting
Difficult situations drawing us closer
Providing opportunity to stand in each other’s shoes
Appreciating the pain
While boldly rebuffing the destructive “us versus them” mentality
Bridging every gap in our power
Mindful we’re in this together
Spreading kindness rather than antagonism
♥ ♥ ♥
(Photo from my latest travels: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland)
What does peace look like? This is a question posed by Artists 4 Peace. So what do you think peace looks like?
Which duck is the more peaceful? Is it the one calmly bobbing up and down giving no resistance to where the waves take him? Or the contortionist, who was twisting and turning and splashing and at times flipping upside down? If one believes that peace is a passive thing then I suspect you chose the duck in the foreground. If you view peace as that inner joie de vivre then I suspect you chose the duck in the background.
Is this goose at peace? Who wouldn’t be at peace — flying over calm waters on a sunny day? Moments before this photo was captured the goose was floating near shore seeming to be at peace with my standing there snapping photos of him. And then a group or is that a gaggle of geese came honking and flying by and got all the other geese seemingly riled up.
The thing about a moment of angst in the animal world is just that — A MOMENT. The geese didn’t attack me. The geese didn’t try to get every goose on the lake to hate or despise me because I’m different from them. The geese didn’t have to tell everyone they knew about their moment of fear thus reliving it hundreds of times. They flew a few yards away and forgot all about that one moment of fear and went back to living in the moment of swimming on a beautiful lake on a sunny day.
Is this pretty Yellow Warbler at peace? It seems to be in this photo. I feel at peace looking at it. I love birds and my favorite color is yellow and I still remember the songs of many birds surrounding me as I took this shot.
He tried to draw me away from this nest. He hopped and flitted and tweeted. Is it possible to glimpse a moment in time and know what is in someone else’s heart? How often do we as humans for a fleeting moment see a glimpse of someone’s exterior and decide we know all there is to know? How often do we believe that everything is just fine because that is what we want to see?
The gosling all snuggled against his father’s breast — is he at peace? Indeed, moments before there was chaos and I think I can go as far as to say terror. I stood on the shore deciding whether to take two steps around a fallen tree to get a clear shot or wait for the geese to swim by. Suddenly, the geese were panicked. They frantically tried to reverse direction. The goslings were getting tossed about in their parents’ wakes. As I had walked though the woods, I had inadvertently scared a Great Blue Heron who flew directly over the geese within inches of their heads. I was so stunned I missed the shot. the gosling all snuggled up against his parent is there because the fear of his parents created a ripple effect in the water and it swept him away until he collided with his parent.
If I had to pick a photo that shows what peace looks like it is this one. At first, when I walked by the new goslings, the parents swam away and non-parental geese joined around them. I stood there peacefully at distance. And then a day or two later, the geese were content to swim by me. I stood there peacefully snapping my photos. In another couple of days, the geese allowed their babies to be on shore near me BUT with the parents looking very attentively at my every move. If I sensed them tense, I moved further away. The lake has a 10 mile circumference and yet one day — the parents turned and swam straight toward me as I stood near the shore. While the parents hung back in the water — the babies walked up onto shore. It was a phenomenal gift of peace and love and respect.
In truth, I cannot tell you what peace looks like. I can, however, tell you that when you feel it there will be no doubt that you will ever want to feel anything else ever again. I took this photo yesterday. If the heron and geese can forgive and live in peace — maybe there is hope for us humans too.