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.


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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Living an un-divided life

Since writing the poem "Persona Grata" about the strategic use of masks and another--just a few hours ago--I found Parker Palmer's post about "The Undivided Life" on his facebook page.  He posted this video:  

I felt for a moment as if we were in dialogue.  Here is my poem:

What skill to hide under
such cover as face masks
provide and not let them
know our identities

Camouflage to hide and
to stalk successfully
the over-confident,
unwary, gullible

Cover up to hide tears,
grow strong and build allies
for a united front
when time is ripe to act

Cover up to expose
character, to play more
than one part, one gender,
one race, ethnicity
and class, to meet someone

To walk in another’s
shoes,  path, obstacles
To satisfy curi-
osity, to expand

What skill to wear the mask
for survival, what skill
to take it off for love
pain both ways, always pain

And gain—empathy and
control, freedom and its
choices to be alive

"Persona Grata," Copyright © 2013  S.L.Chast

And here is a bit of Parker Palmer's intro from his Facebook wall:

"Don't wear your heart on your sleeve." "Play your cards close to your vest." "Don't make yourself vulnerable." Sadly, most of us learn early on that it's not safe to be in the world as who we truly are, with what we really value and believe.But when we live "masked," even "armored" lives, the world pays a price.

Parker Palmer reminds us that this price we pay is "at the heart" of his book Healing the Heart of Democracy. This book is support for anyone trying to change their modus operandi in the world.

In the following poem, Paul Laurence Dunbar exposes his undivided self in this confirmation of living a divided life:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Dunbar's context was the Harlem Renaissance, but his message transcends time. Palmer's context is now.  The closest I have come to undivided is in my back-stage life: rehearsal, classroom, home, journals and my relationship with God.  Now I try to bring that space into my writing.

Where, when, are we safe? or at least safe enough?