By Linda Merryman
I go this morning a little before 8 to join "The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering" in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. Like local author Sharon Mehdi's book by that title, it's mostly women and a few men. It's cool and the sun is starting to warm the dew covered grass. I have come to stand peacefully and in silence. It's not easy.
A siren is shrieking as I enter the park. It pulls my mind to the idea of all the places sirens are going off around the world right now, where fires are blazing and people are suffering. I am immediately in my head aware of why I'm here. There are so many fellow human beings being murdered right now by the violent acts of some other human beings who have found a way to go to war. I am standing in silence for those being killed. I am standing in silence for those killing. I am standing for the ones who are being killed by the weapons, and the ones who made the weapons, and the ones who sold the weapons, and the ones who bought the weapons, and the ones who made money off the deal. I am standing in silence for the ones who are shopping or sunbathing or yachting off the money made from the sale of the weapons. I am standing for all the soldiers decked out in matching outfits whose adrenalin is surging as they wait poised to defend their own life and possibly take someone else's. I am standing for their Mother's and Father's who are trying to live their life today, but part of their thinking is always on their soldier aching for their return to "home".
I have only been standing 5 minutes and I have been anything but silent in my mind. I have been with all these places and people around the globe. I have not been standing in silence in peace. I've not done what I came here to do. I begin, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…" just that first line of the song. It becomes my mantra, silently over and over calming my thoughts. Pulling them in from what I always feel on some level…. the fighting that is happening, the suffering. My mind jumps to the barbarism that human beings are experiencing at Guantanamo Bay. I see the images of the torture by "our side/the good guys" those pictures I can never forget. There I am no longer doing what I came here to do…."Let there be peace…." I get myself back on track.
Gradually the beauty of the morning is my experience. Other people just standing very quietly. Dear precious not on fire, not filled with armored humvees, blessed thank you thank you Ashland is coming alive. People in trucks are driving around with tools to do their days work. The birds or chirping and flying in and out of the three big trees and one small one. A runner with a beautifully fit body comes by in his light blue baggy running shorts and no shirt. He stops for a drink of water at a fountain I've never noticed. Then he disappears behind a door that says 13. I notice above it a rainbow colored peace sign. Very shortly he reappears in regular shorts with his cell phone and wallet and still no shirt and walks now up the street. Noticing. I don't let my mind follow him past the corner. Soon a woman in navy long pants, wearing a shirt, comes out of the same door, goes around the corner, and begins to sweep. Lucky human beings not at war. Not in fear. Not carrying weapons.
It's been 20 minutes. My mantra continues, "Let there be …." Finally now I get very still. I expand out from Lithia Park and loose the sense of my physical form. I just am…. now….. standing….. peacefully in silence. Gratitude. My eyes closed, the warmth of the sun on my face makes an orange red color that is me.
Wow 8:30 already. I must go, but just a few more minutes. This feels so good. I look over at the standing ones. A couple have gone now. Someone else has come. The rest stand still. They are a chorus of silence. Mostly they are wearing blue, beige, and brown as though it were planned. My eye catches off to their left a contrast in color. The sparkling white Sculpture of the headless statesman. He stands proudly immortalized in his stuffed suit and shirt. Honored right here in Lithia Park for moving ahead at all cost, whatever it takes to be secure and safe and right and doing it all without a head. The statesman of our time. My eyes go back quickly to the silent chorus of human beings all with heads. Wow, now I notice they also have hearts. There they are simply standing. Because they can. Because they must. Because something must be done. Our leaders, long feared to be heartless, now have no heads.
Quick get the mantra going before you forget why you're here…"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…"