Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Mimisms ~ I Think I'm A Closet Quaker

 I was early.
It was quiet.
Very quiet.
And time for my annual trek out of town to the lovely 24-Hour Prayer for Peace service held every New Year's Eve in the Friends Meeting House. I would like to thank them for welcoming my shadowy pencil self to their wreath-lined door each year. They've been gracious and kind, never minding that I keep their names a secret and take half pictures of their church.

 Usually, I'm late. As providence would have it, my early-birdness (I love that word!! I just made it up)  caused me to stand face to face with a handshake and a friendly smile. Outed! Trapped! My own fault. Might as well 'fess up. I explained my prior visits and how I landed in his sanctuary, carefully taking the camera out of the bag as I spoke. "Do you mind if I blog the service?"  "Oh, no!"  (I hoped that "oh no" went in the right direction) He was quite gracious and asked me to take a paper crane from the basket. You mean you're not going to take my camera? I secretly wondered. Hmmmm....he's much nicer than the bookstore police. That was a day I'll tell ya. Maybe I'd better not mention it in church.

It's impossible to convey to you what took place in my soul this night and early morning. Words to describe my emotions: happy. Oh. I just needed one. Happy.
Let me show you, instead, what took place. Shhhhhhh...
There were oodles of Japanese paper cranes on the table in the vestibule

 poinsettias above and below

and lights ablaze

See! It's my seat. MMMMyyy seat. They must have saved it for me. My view from my pew.

Even the Zen-like green walls are at peace. The clicking had to stop soon. People were congregating to meditate, not hear my shutter go off every ten seconds. It is THAT quiet and still in this sanctuary. I so love it.

Mr. Crane and I sat reading the program. To my delight and surprise there were peace prayers from most every religion inside the little book. Hebrew peace prayers, Hindu peace prayers, Buddhist peace prayers, Shinto, Christian, Muslim, Indian, Native American and everything in between, including a portion of one of Abdu'l-Baha's addresses at the 1911 Paris Peace Talks. I knew you'd want to see.

Who knew paper cranes could read?

An instrumentalist played as my eyes fell upon these words from the Buddhist Prayer for Peace, "May all beings everywhere, plagued with sufferings of body and soul, quickly be freed from their illnesses".... ALL beings, Mimi, ALL of them. Not just your friends, not just your family, not just yourself, but your enemies too. All of them.

And look at this.
Am I in the right place or what?

Outside in the beautifully starred night through a church window with prophetic branches peeking into this cocoon of mine, I heard the occasional blast of fireworks as the speaker spoke gently of war - and the true meaning of peace. "What does peace look like?" she asked. Paraphrasing: Our troops are home from Iraq. Does this mean we are at peace? Do we really have peace? Whose peace? Where? What war? Are there other wars on earth? Whose peace is it?  Whose war? What is true peace? Where is true peace? Across the street in our homes? Do we have peace there as well? Is peace merely the absence of violence? Her words rang true and I was so happy to be in a place that did not deliver unrealistic euphemisms to try and make us feel better in the midst of our questions and the mess we find out world in today. She honored the questioning. And the silences between the answers we didn't have?.....she honored that too.
We sang another Hebrew round and it was time to go home.

The-nice-lady-with-the-poinsettias asked if I'd like to take one with me.  I declined, happy to have my crane. I slipped out the door quietly that is so not true   ( Happy New Year! ) Shhh! said Mr. Crane as I shut the door which I couldn't get open in the first place because I pulled instead of pushed which started the door knob tug 'o war that made me blush and nearly crush my origami present.
"Goodnight, Mimi," said the pastor.

Was that a laugh I saw start to form?
I certainly hope so. 
I'd better not cause a disturbance. He knows my name now.
I drove my sleepy-headed self home into the warm night. Where are all the party-goers? Not very many people on the highways. Good thing. I had my mind on other things.

Back to Bloggingham. The crooked Christmas tree still drooped and leaned, I never found Baby Jesus another crown to replace the one that fell off, Santa was lying on his back on the floor and Christmas paper strewn about looked anything but perfect. As I photographed the lovely paper gift .....I wondered if I could make it fly

 and pondered the significance of cranes and wishes, thousands, symbols, and dying Japanese children, and I asked myself if anything half as lovely as this night could happen to me on a daily basis..... not just to me, but to you as well. Isn't it our birthright to be at peace?  Does that mean sometimes or every day?  Must we be void of hatred and smallness first? Or do we believe that peace is doled out only for the righteous....which is the truth?  I'd taken your prayers and wishes and dreams with me as I do every year, silently voicing them in the still Quaker silence and each year when the clock strikes the beginning of day one in the new year, I don't want to break the spell and go home. I am sometimes overwhelmed with the simplistic power of silence. Perhaps that's why I find myself in this pew every year.

Symbols. Hmmm..Peace talks. Religions clothed in violence with written scrolls of peace prayers in their sacred texts. How do you make sense of whole nations of peoples and denominations saying one thing and doing another? Why do we think we have to argue loudly to have peace and quiet? Is it because man truly does not value quiet over ruckus?
Maybe some. But not all.

It's those not-alls that have me captivated. The paper crane makers and the white poppy layers, the peace sign button wearers, the bumper sticker crowd and you, too, the incredible peace globe makers. How much louder can all the symbol sayers become when stillness is the goal? And should they?  Or would it be best if silence became the message they screamed..... 
The real question is, will they? Will we? Will I?

If I believe that words are powerful - and I do - then I have to believe that the effects of those words have the impetus to accumulate mightily. The effects are paper gifts. And unconditional treaties. Deeds of love just because. Consistency. A persistent passion for justice, equality, tolerance. And one day soon, we might just find ourselves sitting not around a polished mahogany table of policy making peace players, but one strewn with all shapes and sizes of intricately voiced Japanese cranes, crying silently for this child and that one, white poppy wreaths tossed on top of that and artists hearts on canvas, ribbons from the caskets of soldiers and every name who ever perished in the name of some God's war scrawled lovingly on a piece of silk, one by one....can you see it? .... peace signs torn from our sixties jeans laid side-by-side with Brazilian white roses from the sea of midnight from some faraway New Year's Eve  - and prayers, they would be there too,  woven into aprons and headbands, beaded sweaters full of international symbols and knitted scarves with words we pray from every nation on the face of the earth. All piled high on a table of peace. Such a display of unspoken power could not be extinguished by the next loudest voice, the crowd with the most money, or the one with the scariest weapon.
  What could anyone say that would speak louder than that? 
Silence is good.
Very good.

Join us for BlogBlast For Peace Nov 4, 2012

*photography Mimi Lenox*
The story and history of the Japanese paper crane

#blog4peace #blogblast4peace


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Mimi, NO ONE can blog peace like you do. I would have so loved to have been at that Quakers meeting. Is there a chance you might blog all of the prayers in that little book for us? I think I must be a closet Quaker too, in search of a meeting. Sigh. Thanks for sharing this one.

dawn said...

hmmm... I think I might be a closet Quaker too. I would have loved to have attended that service with you.
And the photos are just beautiful!

Mimi Lenox said...

Sherry - Thank you, Sherry. I wrote you back also. Go find one and just sit in sometime. It's fascinating.

Mimi Lenox said...

- You were there.

Akelamalu said...

It looks and sounds the perfect place to spend New Year's Eve.

Wishing you and yours a Very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2012 Mimi my friend. x

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

A wonderful piece indeed. Happy New Year my dear friend.

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