Peace is muscular and requires postage. Without facts, messages of peace are gauzy and limp and when espoused without action, they might as well serve as tombs to defeat. But peace upheld by informed citizenry and expressed by those willing to place their hearts in the hands of the world, shines and leads. Sinewy and generous, that kind of peace has the capacity to inspire and uplift us, even now when so much else sends us in the other, darker direction.
Liz Ackert of Texas is teaching me these things. One time contributor to the Hearts for Charleston Quilt, creator of the Peace Pin Project and now, the conduit for Peace Objects Extraordinaire, her work to advance world-wide peace is robust and by the way, lovely. Both conduit and creator, she is keeping her friends around the world focused on “Yes” — no easy task.
Liz sent one of these leaves to each of the Hearts for Charleston quilters, reconnecting us in a kind of devotional and aspirational network. It feels good to revive that group specifically. It feels good to be connected, generally. And, as with the Peace Pin project, it feels good to be warmed by Liz’s shining example of what I’ll call ‘aesthetic activism’.
When I think about Naomi Klein’s wise thesis that it is not enough to resist anymore, I’m often stymied. Saying NO takes so much energy! There seems to be more and more to say NO to! Where is the way out or forward and where’s the energy to go there? To define and uphold YES?
Liz reminds me that positivism can begin at home. She reminds me that it can be launched with a simple idea, a sheaf of stamps, and a gift-giving impulse. The way her gestures resonate literally around the globe is testament to the nature of love, to the artistry possible while envisioning a better future, and to the power of connection.
And of course, getting gifts in the mail is nice!
The leaf came wrapped in silk that Liz hand dyed with Brazilwood (true to form, I can’t locate it at this very second — it’s probably lounging & gossiping somewhere with the white silk sent to me by Mo).
A beautiful letterpress piece by Fiona Dempster of Australia was also enclosed. It speaks to the energetic nature of peace. Liz’s cover card, itself a work of art, offers inspiring words and a sense of occasion.
Liz is literally and figuratively ‘loosely binding us in silken ties of love’. How powerful a gift this is! Thank you, Liz — please continue!
One of these days, one of us will be the 100th monkey…
Imagine peace. Such a refrain! A sewn pin from Liz in Texas renders the reminder tactile and lovely.
With the pin, came a stitched date: June 17, 2015. This, as you know, was the day of the tragic shooting at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church and Liz was one of the contributors to the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt (see side bar). The pin and date-cloth seem very at home in a sweet grass basket made in Charleston, don’t you think? There they are on a pile of shells gathered south of the city along with a wasp’s nest (also found somewhere in SC).
Look at Liz’s capable hand! Seeing her tiny, regular stitches reminded me of the pleasure of collaborating on our quilt for grieving Charlestonians last year. Making hope tactile while affirming friendships all over the globe is a powerful thing. Thank you, Liz, thank you and thank you – both for the gift itself and for setting a moving example.
My mad play with pix of villains, on the other hand, is likely pointless. But, look at that face — even if the stakes were low, would YOU trust him? With an image like that, you don’t need to evaluate his lame, contradictory explanations of recent blundering and partisan actions to conclude that the House Intel Committee’s work is done. Toast. I went to the Mother Emanuel Church while in Charleston recently. It was drenched in sun and very still, in spite of a fair amount of traffic out front. I felt a sense of sadness being there and also care — I did not want to intrude. Sometimes even taking pictures can feel transgressive. Fortunately, no one came or went while I took the photos below.
I found all the shells on Folly Beach as the sun came up. K and I thought we’d have the place to ourselves, but lots of people were there — a military jogger and his handsome German shepherd posing for pictures; a rashy-faced photo enthusiast talking up his Facebook page; other tourists; a guy with a metal detector who reminded us of those funny nerds on “The Detectorists”. The pier’s criss-crossing supports looked like a row of herringbone stitch connecting the ocean to the sky.
Naturally Finn joined me as I took a selfie on the sunny staircase yesterday — he always knows where the action is! He kept looking up as if peace was just there, slightly beyond my reach or capacity to see.
I shipped the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt last week and the Mother Emanuel’s Memorabilia Committee ought to have received it by now. I’m glad the quilt made it there before the first anniversary of the massacre (June 17).
There is so much to say about this project — how it came together, how much it meant for the ten participants, what each of us learned about the lives lost — but posting about the quilt’s creation doesn’t feel respectful at the moment. If you’re curious, a lot of the process along with links to the makers can be found in the sidebar category “Hearts for Charleston Quilt”. I expect some narrative and documentation to follow. But not now.
Here are photos of the nine people who lost their lives last summer.
People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Blocks were made to honor: Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Rev. and Senator Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.
After reading this Post and Courier article, we also decided to honor the five people in the church that night who survived: Felicia Sanders and her granddaughter (Felicia is Tywanza Sanders’ mother), Polly Sheppard, and Jennifer Pinckney (Rev. Clementa’s widow) and her daughter.
Kathy Dorfer stitched “Love heals” on her block (and enclosed this with her square)
The contrast between slow cloth and swift violence was evident all along the way, repeatedly reminding us of the ruthless speed of the news cycle, the continuing savage treatment of blacks in this country, and the permanence of this kind of loss.
I wanted the recipients to be able to hang the quilt upon receipt if desired, so I enclosed a four foot long dowel. That meant I had to use a long, narrow box. It bothered me how much the box looked like the size and shape of a container that would house a rifle. I said as much to the clerk — the staid one with the frizzy bleached hair. To her credit, she didn’t look at me like I was crazy. But she did say the most inane thing to reassure me: “Oh don’t worry, you answered all the questions.”
Answered all the questions? You mean about shipping things “liquid, fragile, perishable, and potentially hazardous” – the questions that I, and presumably lots of other people, routinely lie about? Oh well, I’m guessing the box was opened. I insured the quilt for $500, but if it offers some of the comfort that quilts have been offering since the dawn of needles and cloth, I will consider it priceless.
Saturday I dug up some lilies of the valley for my sister, happy as anything to be working among their fragrant flowers. Today was too cold to work outside. It was basement vacuuming and garage sorting for me. And some sewing.
Somewhere along the line, the decision was made to name all the congregants who were in the Emanual AME church the night of the mass killing. Liz Ackert (“I’m Going to Texas“) stitched these names and created the lovely hands. I struggled with placement when they were white rectangles. But once I decided to reverse appliqué them with some reproduction Civil War fabric, they found their spots. The hearts were too big. Circles seemed just right. The only label left is the one naming the ten makers. The one saying these blocks were stitched with love, in grief and outrage and with hopes for peace.
Two weeks ago, I was going down various paths on the internet which sometimes feels like going down a rabbit hole. Down and down you go! Poof! There goes the morning.
Some of the search terms: charms, voodoo, voodun, sigils, veves, Celtic knots, hemlock, protection. Remarkably enough, at some point using the query “veve, protection,” I came to a site with information about Yoruban cosmology that included a picture of the walking labyrinth at Boston College. It is particularly remarkable when you consider that by then I was specifically hoping to find a symbol from my own (Irish) tradition.
And there it was: not only my tradition, but my neighborhood, and even, my alma mater (which a friend reminded me means, “nurturing mother”) (BCLS ’89). This labyrinth is less than two miles from my home. So, of course I went. Based on a pattern found at Chartres Cathedral, it is a unicursal — meaning that there is only one way in and one way out. The labyrinth was built as a memorial, dedicated to the twenty-two Boston College alumni who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The design was an aid to meditation because no choices needed to be made about what direction to pursue. As I walked it, I prayed for my sons, for the descendants of the enslaved, for justice and peace and healing for our country — the usual, urgent things. But braided in and around those other things, was the prayer that I could somehow come to more regularly believe in my own essential goodness. It took about an hour. Afterwards, I felt grounded and renewed. I went into the library and found more lovely and potent Celtic images — I’ll save those for another time perhaps.
Here is the charm I came up with. It’s a first pass and not original.
I like how the photo on the right crops the door molding into a crucifix.
Before the labyrinth walk, we went to Montreal. After, Schenectady. This weekend we will lay down compost and mulch and I will cook chicken and wilt greens with loads of garlic and we will figure out where to put some of my son’s things.
And: I will finish the Hearts for Charleston quilt (she said, but really meaning it). The front has been done for weeks but the labeling continues. Liz Ackert helped out generously by supplying some very beautifully stitched names. I am writing up the cover letter and ‘legend’ and will photograph the piece as soon as the last labels are on. My goal — by Friday of next week.
The first anniversary of the Emanuel AME murders in Charleston is only five weeks away.