Peacemaking in D.C.

It’s been a few days since I got back from Washington D.C. but this is the first chance I’ve had to write an update.

The road trip started on Thursday as we headed to my cousin’s house in Virginia. She graciously agreed to allow her crazy relatives to spend a couple of nights with her (thanks, Melanie!) and even joined us for the march! It was a long day on the road with the biggest surprise being the forty dollars in tolls to take the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes. Apparently it’s been awhile since I’ve been on them because that was certainly not in my budget! What am I saying? The trip was completely unplanned so none of it was in my budget! 

After a leisurely breakfast on Friday, we drove to the Wiehle-Reston East Station to hop on the Metrorail and take the silver line into D.C. This wasn’t our first time on the train (the last time we each had a toddler and were pregnant, but that’s another story), but things have changed a bit since the mid nineteen-eighties. In other words, we had no idea what we were doing and had to get some human assistance.

Armed with a map and instructions from the self appointed greeters who met us at the Smithsonian rail stop, we headed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial so we’d know what to do the next day when it was time for the march. It was quite an experience – not sure I can really put it all in words.

After that, we headed to the American History Museum. The highlight for me was seeing the African American History and Culture Gallery where there was a display about the Poor People’s Campaign that took place in 1968. Fifty years ago, an estimated thirty-five million people in the United States lived in poverty. This year the estimate is forty-three million. Hmm, seems like we’re not making much progress . . .

Later in the day, specifically after rush hour started, we hopped aboard the Metrorail’s green line to head to the Festival Center for the evening’s presentation. We spent some leisurely time browsing the books and having a bite to eat at the Potter’s House.

The speakers at the event were Dr. Kit Evans-Ford, John Dear, Ken Butigan, George Paz Martin, and Veronica Pelicaric. While they were all inspirational, I was moved the most by the people who shared their stories of the actions and projects they’d done in their cities over the past few months before coming to Washington D.C. They came from all over the country, one guy even came from Hawaii! It gave me hope that so many people are doing things, though it was a little embarrassing that the contingent of two from Michigan had done pretty much nothing. So far. But we are about to.

It was really late when we got back and it was hard to fall asleep anticipating the march the next day. At barely after six am we were back on the road heading for the train station. This time we rocked it like veterans and got to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in record time. As we gathered, a huge helicopter kept buzzing by our location, no doubt keeping an eye on us protesters. Though we were warned that we could be asked to leave by the park rangers, nothing happened and the rally continued without any issues.

Though I was doing my best to be professional, I did have a fan girl moment when Shane Claiborne arrived. Shane is the author of several life ruining books like Jesus For President, The Irresistible Revolution, Red Letter Revolution and Executing Grace. He’s partly responsible for this current journey I’m on and I just had to introduce myself and shake his hand. Because it would be wrong to kick him when I’m trying to be a peacemaker.

Speakers at the rally were John Dear, Lisa Sharon Harper, George Martin, Shane Claiborne, Ken Butigan, and Reverend Lennox Yearwood. As I listened, I looked up at the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it looked like tears were streaming down his cheeks.  Were they tears of sadness that in fifty years we’d made so little progress or were they tears of joy that there were still people – however few – peacefully marching for injustice?

We paired up and silently started marching toward the White House. We passed the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As we passed fellow Americans and visitors from other countries, I wondered what they thought of our peaceful demonstration. 

We arrived at the White House and a group of people stepped up to the barricade. We stood directly across from them and it wasn’t long before the police arrived and asked them to leave. They stood their ground and the police called in a van and additional officers. After an hour we were all getting tired, hungry, thirsty (and it had been a really long time since any of us used the bathroom) so we gathered in a circle and each shared one word that was on our lips as we reflected on what we’d experienced so far.

You can see someone standing on top of the White House – not sure if it’s a telescope or a gun that’s pointed at us.

Ironic that an officer with an assault rifle is standing behind our peacemakers

The police explaining that not moving will result in an arrest

Though we would have liked to stay and see things through to the end, we had a long drive ahead of us so we left after the circle. The group ultimately waited about two hours but no arrests happened. What I’d like to believe is that the police continued to wait instead of arresting people so they wouldn’t have to arrest peaceful, respectful citizens who are trying to make a difference.

It will take some time to process everything I experienced, but I wonder – what would have happened if more people stood with us? What if we had two thousand people instead of a couple hundred? What if there were twenty-thousand people? Two-hundred thousand? Would it make a difference? Would the issues of war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction be addressed if more people stood up and said things are not okay? It’s frustrating that most people seem oblivious to the pressing issues of the day, but then until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t doing anything about these issues either. So here’s my plea to everyone that’s reading this post. Do something. You don’t have to march in protests (but you might want to!). Do some research, call or email the people in our legislature, recycle, be a responsible consumer, partner with organizations who stand against injustice, and exercise your right to vote after you’ve thoroughly vetted the candidates. Don’t wait – everyone can do something now.

My favorite shirt at the march

The Clinton Theater

On a rainy Monday night in March I experienced something I never dreamed possible.  Clinton, Michigan, population approximately twenty-three hundred, is about a fifteen minute drive from the farm.  In this tiny village, there’s a movie theater.  Even though I drive through at least twice a week (if not more), I never paid much attention to it.  When a group of us decided to see Beauty And The Beast, an internet search showed that it was playing there. 

Admission to the theater is four dollars.  That’s right, $4.00.  Since we went on a Monday night, it was half off popcorn night.  That’s enough right there for me to be a customer for life.  But then . . . the sign said . . . Eden organic popcorn.  With real butter . . .  and sea salt.  What’s that in the cooler?  Virgil’s Root Beer?  Oh yes.  If I were to open a movie theater, this is what it would look like.

While there are previews of other films, there are also old music clips playing in between.  Artists range from the Monkees to songs in German to Reggae.  It’s weird and fascinating all at the same time!  It was so much fun to watch a movie in this quaint old theater, that a couple of weeks later, I went to see Kong: Skull Island.  There’s no way I would ever go see that movie except that I wanted to sit in the theater with my giant bucket of half off popcorn, sipping my root beer, having the theater experience. 

After the movie, owners Karie Dorsten and Frank Cianciolo were kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes.  After I gushed on and on about how much I loved the place, I asked them how they are able to offer movies and snacks for a fraction of what it costs at the big theaters.  Karie said that they keep it simple, they are a family owned business and they do everything themselves, from selling tickets to running the concession.  There’s an interesting article here that tells more about some upgrades they did to the theater in 2011 and how Frank’s band, Frank Allison and the Odd Sox played to raise funds for it.

So far his year I think I’ve seen more movies than I have in the last five and I’m sure this trend will continue.  In fact, I’ve got plans to go again next week!  Since the cost is nominal, it’s easy to take a chance on a movie I might not otherwise see and I love being able to support a local business.  If you haven’t experienced the Clinton Theater, and are close enough to be able to, I encourage you to treat yourself to a night out.  You just might see me there, munching on a giant bucket of popcorn!

Time For A Break

Spring is a busy time at the farm.  One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t tend to your fields and gardens, the weeds quickly take over.  We’ve been clearing the weeds and overgrowth bit by bit and in the process have found many things left behind by the previous owners that were buried under grass, burdocks, thistles, and grapevines. An entire blog post could be written on that alone! It’s not easy work for someone over fifty-five who has spent much of her life sitting behind a desk. Things are shaping up really nicely at the farm, though, so it’s worth every aching muscle.

Spring also brings wildlife, birds who’ve made a nest right outside my bedroom window, geese that have returned in droves, and, unfortunately, raccoons and possums.  Apparently they have been undeterred by Hannah’s presence, to her delight and my dismay. Yes, wildlife is cute, but it’s also smelly and destructive (and they hiss and growl at you when you inadvertently get too close!). They also like to eat eggs and chickens, which seems pretty rude since they haven’t contributed anything toward our poultry operation.  At the moment, it looks like there are only domesticated animals in the vicinity of the house and barns and I’m hoping it stays that way! 

There’s still so much to do and we haven’t even planted the garden yet!  Our four page to-do list has many tasks completed, but it seems like I add four new items every time I scratch something off.  Despite the daunting list, the sun was shining on Wednesday and it seemed like the right time to take a break and enjoy nature in a different setting. 

Not far from here lies the Waterloo Recreation Area, twenty-thousand acres of woods and lakes and wildlife.  My aunt and I enlisted the guidance of my cousin Laura, who is a much more experienced hiker (and we hoped would keep us from hurting ourselves or getting lost).  She also had an app on her phone with maps, which turned out to be a really good thing.

The three hikers

Waterloo Recreation Area Trails

Tiny spring flowers

Eastern Skunk Cabbage

This sneaky snake crossed our path.  There was an even bigger one at the farm last weekend.

Some kind of mushroom growing on a tree

Look at these beautiful little flowers!

The plan was to hike a trail that was a little over five miles long. We brought snacks and a lunch and estimated that we’d finish in under two hours.  Our guide took a brief pause to take a humanity break and I forged on ahead knowing she would catch up.  Unfortunately, there was a fork in the road and I went left when I should have gone straight.  After a while, I was feeling a little hungry and asked if we were halfway yet.  That’s when we realized we were no longer on the right trail.  Oops!  We backtracked and ate our lunch on the way, which wasn’t exactly the idyllic meal we had planned, but it was fine.  We got back on the right trail and made our way back to the car.  In my defense, the signs weren’t completely clear and we’d been following the blue markings and I thought that was the right way.  Of course, I didn’t actually look at the map that was right next to the sign, but it’s fine, no one was upset about the detour even though it led us up some really steep hills that we then had to trudge back down. 

Why do people leave trash on the trail?  I took this picture at the bottom of the sign where I took the wrong turn . . .

It’s hard for me to take the time to do something for leisure when there’s still work to be done.  My entire life has been spent getting all the work done first, and then taking some time to goof off and play.  Sadly, that means that not a lot of playing occurred because it seems that the work, regardless of what kind it is, rarely gets one-hundred percent completed.  There’s a proper rhythm in life, which means I need to take time for leisure as well as do the work. 

Are you like me and always have to get the work done before you can do something fun?  How do you make sure that you have the right balance in your life?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Facebook!