Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Conflict on US-Mexico Border Intensifies, With No Clear Resolution Ahead


Love Knows No Borders Week of Action

Find an event near you at migrantjustice.afsc.org

Join the AFSC, faith leaders, and communities across the country for a week of action as we stand in solidarity with the migrant caravan and all who seek refuge in the U.S. Together, we are calling on the U.S. to respect the human right to migrate, end the militarization of border communities, and end the detention and deportation of immigrants.

Our “Love Knows No Borders” week of action begins on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, and ends on Dec. 18, International Migrants’ Day.

On Monday, Dec. 10 – Human Rights Day – more than 200 faith leaders will take part in a nonviolent direct action at the border in San Diego, California. Between then and Dec. 18, International Migrants Day, communities from Oakland, California to Denver, Colorado, to Montpelier, Vermont will host solidarity events to stand with the migrant caravans and all who seek refuge. And many more events are in the works.  

We hope you join us as we call on the U.S. to end the detention and deportation of immigrants, respect the human right to migrate, and end the militarization of the border.   

Here’s how you can get involved in our week of action:

1. Visit our website to organize or attend an event in your community. 
Congregations, community groups, and others are planning vigils, marches, visits to legislators’ offices and more. If you don’t see an action near you, consider organizing an event in your area. Here's a toolkit to help you plan, and we'll also provide you with one-on-one support. 

2. Show your support for migrant justice.  
Download our “Love Knows No Borders” graphics to share on social media, and print posters to display in your congregation, community center, school, and more. Available in English and Spanish.

3. Learn more about what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border – and what you can do about it.  
Watch this Facebook video to hear from AFSC staff at the border about what we’ve witnessed in our work to document human rights violations at the border and how you can get involved. 

In solidarity,

Lucy Duncan
Director of Friends Relations

Pedro Rios
Director, U.S.-Mexico Border Program, San Diego


Days of Action: December 10-18, 2018. All are welcome!

There will be a daily vigil at Friends Center in Philadelphia on Monday-Friday, December 10-13, and Monday and Tuesday, December 17 &18. All are welcome to gather from 12:00-12:15pm for worship to hold in prayer the asylum seekers and those called to witness at the border.
Following the vigil on December 14 at 12:00pm, we will walk from Friends Center to the Thomas Paine Plaza at City Hall and stand in support of the migrants. We will proceed to the historic Arch Street Meeting House where we will have open discussion and worship, which will end by 2:00pm. Please join us for any part of this witness that afternoon.
Love Knows No Borders--stream later today

Love knows no borders: Interfaith Service

University Christian Church
3900 Cleveland Ave, San Diego, California 92103

This service will be live streamed on AFSC's Facebook page.

Join faith leaders around the country for an interfaith service to gather in community, worship and sing together in support of the action on Dec. 10th and to launch our week of action.

Inspired by revival services conducted by the Poor People’s Campaign, we will rise up singing and be inspired by faith leaders and those most impacted by migrant policy as we prepare for faithful action at the border on Dec. 10th, the international day of the migrant.

Faith leaders presenting will include Rev. Beth Johnson, Bishop Minerva CarcaƱo, Rev. John Fanestil, Bobby Wallace, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Rev. Susan Frederick Gray, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, and Shakeel Syed. Rev. Traci Blackmon will offer the reflection and Rev. Dr. William Barber will send a special video message for the congregated body. Kenia Alcocern and Shawna Foster will also speak.

Charon Hribar and Natasha Fagrama will offer song leadership for the service.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Resolutions of a writer who hasn't been writing, of an activist who has been inactive


A few weeks ago I had a meltdown.  Oh, I wailed, nothing is working out!  

  • I have a novel half way done that I haven't looked at for almost 2 years, 
  • My father is now in a nursing home with dementia, 
  • One of my best friends has a nasty cancer, 
  • I'm a clerk of a Monthly Meeting whose members rarely attend,
  • Students don't show up for tutoring or come very late,
  • I skip business-like meetings myself,
  • Others attend protests while I wait to be led and I take more classes,
  • I forget to do my PT exercises,
  • I don't want to do all the cleaning and fixing my house needs, and
  • I have two cats who don't love me--or aren't affectionate.

I determined to put down all of my worries and "just have fun."

When I asked my long-time friend and housemate to help me make a list of fun things, she laughed.  That will be a short list, she said, See film. That's what she does for fun.  

Besides, she continued.  You'll never do it.  You'll feel guilty about everything.

I considered that a challenge.  Since then I have seen 4 movies, read 2 books, attended a read-a-thon and a concert. I've cut my volunteer teaching in half.  I've made plans to walk where I haven't tread before. and to borrow her car for day trips to the Jersey shore.  I've only felt guilty about some of it.

Giving myself permission to have fun has increased the time I spend in meditative and prayer modes. Recently, I've glanced at both, spent seconds in them, and rushed through ritual I had developed over time.  It's good to slow down again, to be present to myself.  To write more poetry.


An odd source of help for this change has been Session 2 of the AFSC webinar "Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves: anti-racist practice for Sanctuary, accompaniment, and resistance" ~ CSCO for short. Facilitators focused the second session on how those in sanctuary experience their would-be allies. Panelists were not all bilingual so we would hear first in Spanish and waited for the English translation. Leaders said they wanted us to experience how much slower things go when translation is involved. They also modeled for us how to decenter English as the standard communication tool. To participate, I found I not only slowed down, but became more present than impatient: I stopped anticipating what people would say or do. This meant I occupied the moment and listened more completely. I became intent. I listened intentionally, centering the speakers. I can only hint at how amazing this bilingual session was, with the very insistence of it changing me. I remember the theatre theorist, Antonin Artaud, speaking of hearing an unknown language as an important way to dive beneath the surface in "Theatre and its Double." I thought he was speaking only of rhythms, emotions and emphases ~ but I now know he was speaking of letting go of the ego entirely to be present. To be fascinated.
Further, two of the CSCO speakers offered advice: Make the relationship the priority, not the task. This is more than letting the one who needs assistance be the leader. It is where the spiritual gift resides for the ally as well as the one in conflict. Maybe less will be done, but it will be more important, more human/spirit, more helpful and more gifting for my own spirit. 

Deciding to have fun is opening gates for me.  Time will tell.  Right now I have to practice.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Pendle Hill Presentation

I made an outline and cut the chapters I read to the coreand I liked them so much that I think the originals need this cutting as well.  This was the outline:
Rd Ch 1 and 2 
Pause for a summary of the major conflicts and events: 
                        —the invitation and losing her job
                        —the laptop and Ricky’ visit
Rd Ch 22, 25, 26 
Discussion:      Helen as linear narrator
                        What’s like me, what’s different
                        Vertical 4-D writing
                        What I learned here
                        What I take home
2 weeks before I can write again!

And this was my prayer:  

Many Pendle Hill staff people came and two interns and and two guests!  Let me see if I can walk my way around the table: (From my left) Lloyd, Jesse, Amy, Anne, Laura, John, Amadeus, Ricardo, Helene, Joe, Shirley, Steve, and Angela.  I wish I had taken a picture or asked someone to take one.  And I am not yet able to record the responses except to say they were generally positive, very positive.  Gosh.

I addressed my entire outline with a little prompting from Jesse to talk about the role of prayer in my writing and to talk about the space in which I worked.  

Here is the "discussion" part of the presentation in a much more organized form than my actual talk.  I wrote this earlier in the afternoon while planning what to tell folks about my work as Writer-in-Residence:
Ive been thinking a lot about how narrative writing grows.  In my novel Alice in Wonder, I started with my own solo performances, making the character I once played be the core persona of the drama in a semi-autobiographical semi-historical novel. 
I made her 10 years older than me and financially independent.  I replaced my life as a teacher with hers as a storyteller.  I replaced my need to reveal what radical feminist community was all about with her reluctance and resistance to returning there—but otherwise we share a lot.  I was involved with women’s communities and did find Quakers first at the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice.  Alice’s lovers are quilted from my own and those of my friends.  Her experience working on racism and discovery of her own racism are my own.  My own spiritual life has deepened by exploring hers.
Here at Pendle Hill, I continued to write in a linear narrative, letting Alice’s conflicts and catastrophes lead me forward, but as I worshipped more and more I began to write vertically as well as horizontally, as if I were switching to 4-dimensions and exploring the depths and dimensions of single moments.  I hope the chapter I read aloud illustrates that. 
Essential elements of my time here included leaving home and its involvements, joining daily worship and starting daily prayer in three different modes—silent, in writing and in color drawing.  Also the food and its consistent scheduling--including my time with the kitchen crew around the dishwasher-- contributed a lot.   My weekly consultations with Jessie kept me on track, made me aware of creative patterns I can take home with me, and often eased anxiety as well.  She’s careful to meet when she can be fully present.  She’s a good listener and a skilled mentor.  
Finally, the events I participated in and the people they brought me in contact with expanded me—including my lunchtime writing sessions, the three sessions of readings I did before this one, the Monday talks and book signings, the Commencement ceremony of Radical Faithfulness and last weekend’s full conference on Transformative Justice in Community.  Wow.  Without the residence program, I feared there might be too little conversation and dialectic, but in the end it was just right.  I’m so happy that the last event of my residency will be Marcel Martin’s book signing event for Our Life is Love.  That is providential! 
According to Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, the Global Story Coach:
          The world has conditioned us, whether we are coaches, writers, artists, business people or other kinds of creative folks, that we need to always be moving outward.          [But] we don’t.  [We can center and then] from a place of deep abundance, we truly can remain open, and receive what is meant for us. This is the point of attraction and power. It is not a passive path. It is not a hermit’s path either. It’s one of powerful intention and receptivity.  And, it’s one of conscious awareness of being led by something greater than the individual self.
I have been reflecting today on what I take away from Pendle Hill, and Tanya's assertion is one of them.  To have a chance to learn this experimentally is a great blessing. One of the first things that Jesse said to me was that despite what I said I would be doing here, I should see what is on my heart right now and let it lead me. 
I find I stop writing to pray often about both this world and the fictional one.  I thrive in the writing cave and morning schedule I’ve made here and will build those in at home.  I also take back with me the uses of my weekly check-in with Jesse and have begun to gather a spiritual support team to read my work, to ask me questions about both the work and the process of writing, and to worship with me.  I think we’ll meet once a month.  But I would love to hear from others about what they have found supportive.
Finally: It’ll be two weeks before I can return to writing.  Obligations I’ve put off have crowded in—shopping Friday, sessions Saturday, Upper Dublin Sunday, Doctors Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday a drive to upstate New York family.  It will be March 28th before I can become writer-in-residence in my own home!  I have to look into this business and figure out a way to get a well-cooked meal at least once a week back here at Pendle Hill.
I’m hoping to finish Alice in Wonder this year, even if writing about her wonder leads me to more books or more wonders and avocations.  I don’t know yet whether writing is the calling or the path to another calling.  
But I thank God and everyone for this stop on the road.  
I will write more as way opens.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Madiba Poem by 11-year-old Botlhale Boikanyo

Here is one of the three reasons I stick with Facebook: friends spontaneously pass forward what moves them.  This amazing video came to me via poet Kay Davies who blogs at An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel.  She got it from Femi Oke who I see at Upworthy where she introduces herself: 
I’m an Al Jazeera journalist and broadcaster who’d love to show you around the globe. No passport needed because I’m going to curate the world for you. I’ll even let you keep your shoes on and drink 16 oz. sodas while following me on Facebook and Twitter.
From these social network beginnings, The Madiba Poem arrived here.  Later this year, I will use it for a poem prompt at Poets United where I have recently joined the creative team.  You could begin your poem now, as poet Botlhale Boikanyo or her poem or her performance or Nelson Mandela or any part of it inspires you.

Look at her smile
performing her poem
loving Mandiba's story.
Listen to her voice
turning two languages
into rivers that flow
into the human sea
part of which is me.
I want to rush out the door
with a magic marker
to write everywhere
Witness God Here.
God is Here, where
each of us stands.
Let us greet God here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Last night I wrote the poem The Month Before Christmas.
This morning I wrote this to my friend Brian:    
[Experience] has changed me over the years since I became a Quaker.  But I didn't realize how much until I wrote this.  I am amazed now by what I wrote.  I woke with a start this morning, feeling the echo of being in the clutch of witch-finders.  As the pagan I was years ago, I would have condemned this lifting beyond reason as part of what enabled the Church to identify and destroy witches, Jews, gays, anyone different and especially spinsters like me.  My experience has changed me, but O, there is still the pagan inside who wants to speak.   And she will,  I wouldn't want to suppress that truth just as I couldn't suppress this one.  But in this last hour she has been questioning me up and down or touching what could be a blessing but has often been the spark for horror.  Do I make sense to you?  I will pray about this today.
Brian responded: you do [make sense] ...a faith based on feeling is a scary thing to me, it lacks substance...and can def be manipulated and twisted...it can also be un-genuine and exclusive...i try to steer clear of it...and am oft skeptical of it...there is no denying the lift...at times i question the authenticity though

I'll be back with more thoughts.