Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peace in Apples

Yesterday was the International Day of Peace. It was not celebrated in our schools, I didn't hear any special music on the radio or see cards at the Hallmark store. My family, nor my community, has any tradition that marks the passing of this important day, when countries of the United Nations agree to cease fire for one day of the year, a brief but important repose in the tumult around us. When I searched on the internet, I did find some drum circles, concerts and get-togethers at your typical off-beat spiritual book store or artsy marginal coffee shop. But for the average, middle class American mother wishing to focus more on acts of peace than on symbols of those acts, I found very little by way of gathering or instruction.
Are we immersed in a society that only celebrates a holiday if there is a profit to be made from it? If this were a holiday that included the purchasing of gifts and cards, would it be more prevalent in our communities, schools, and media? Probably. And it's not as if I would be excited to see this holiday commercialized. Just as some people now "spread the Christmas spirit" by purchasing garlands and lights, sweatshirts with reindeer, and Dolly Parton's Country Christmas carols on compact disc, I would not want people to feel they could spread peace by purchasing T-shirts, buttons, and decorations sporting shiny peace symbols. These might be great ways to advertise our viewpoint, but it's not how we spread peace, not how we nurture the seeds and help them grow. The way is much simpler than this.
On Saturday my family went to a tiny orchard in Saline to pick apples. Lutz orchard was old, started by the old farmer's father in the 1930's. His sister lived in the house across from the barn, his nephew behind her in front of the corn field. His own home was a big white colonial with pillars anchoring the front porch to the shabby lawn, it's white paint peeling to reveal generations of graying wood. He had no use for television, he read mostly and milked his cows and took care of the trees. The little airport around the corner had no use for folks going anywhere. It was fine just as it rested. The air was clear, blue, and crisp and smelled of apples and Autumn. My family was alone with the farmer, picking fruit from trees over sixty years old. Conversation was slow and warm. My children were smiling. This is where I found a moment of peace. In this place that the times forgot.
I read an article in a popular magazine about simplifying your life. It gave very explicit directions about how to cleanse and organize so that you feel less stress... the whole "less is more" mantra, which is touted in so many of the magazines that clutter our coffee tables. We live in a world cluttered with consumer goods that are supposed to make our tasks quicker, easier, and more efficient. In the process we have forgotten how to do a task with intentionality, how to be in that moment and appreciate the peace that can be found in washing a dish or picking an apple. We have also lost the feeling of integrity gained by doing life-sustaining work with our own hands. We have traded sweat for convenience, peace for efficiency. In the process we have bound ourselves to a lifestyle that is often the fountainhead of our frustration.
It is my prognosis that simplicty is the key to planting seeds of peace. So, yesterday I did my best to commit simple acts of kindness. On my long walk, I looked passing strangers in the eyes and said "hello" as if they were friends. They smiled back and greeted me, and we parted ways carrying that feeling with us. I read my children the story of how the International Day of Peace was created, but they weren't so interested in it. I'm sure they were more effected by my soft tone of voice, my intentional patience and attentiveness, the love that I shared with them that day, the time we spent cuddling together and laughing together... and living together.
I'm not sure if Chailyn felt the peace when he washed the dinner dishes, as he has every day for two weeks now. But I'm sure he feels like an important cog in the clockworks of our family... and that will go much further in propogating peace than a symbol on a t-shirt ever will.

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