Updated: Sep 23, 2021
I’m drinking my morning coffee out of a handmade cup that was created by a member of the L’Arche community in Inverness.
I love this small mug - the imperfection, the inscription.... PEACE
Today is the International Day of Peace.
More than ever, I find this word to be very powerful.
Recently we had a visitor come to stay who works in the field of mediation. It is the form of law and resolution that happens before a conflict is brought to court.
Some of us spoke round the table one evening about the subject of peace-building. One thing that struck me was how we might prevent argument or fissure to happen through the ways in which we listen or approach one another, even in confrontation. So much is about giving space for the other person, allowing them to speak and feel heard before our need to fill the space with our own opinions, and holding what another has to say, valuing them and their views as important. Sometimes it simply means learning how to disagree well.
During the few days with our friend, we went out in the car and drove along the north coast road to meet his wife and sister-in-law who were at the end of their cycle run from Lands End, and nearing the finish line. Our friend was keen to go out and surprise them, and cheer them on. Not only did he cheer them on, but many of the other cyclists as well.
It made me think that these encouragements, however big or small, are so important in the building of bridges, peace, and safety. These encouragements build confidence and stamina in one another. We can spur each other on. And why shouldn’t we? None of us are that different. These are first steps that we can all take to build a stronger society that helps one another towards peace and reconciliation.
On our way to finding where they were via a tracker, my friend stopped the car on spotting a bird in the sky, flying across the moorland. He grabbed his binoculars and went out to have a look…. A Sea Eagle! he said with excitement.
Stopping, looking… seeing… identifying... naming...
Listening, waiting, hearing… understanding….
Reaching out, encouraging… blessing.
I think of the sea eagle and want to be able to soar over the moorland like that, with seeming ease.
On this rather grey and slightly cooler morning, I reflect back on a couple of evenings ago when I stepped out as the sun was beginning to descend over the horizon, catching the last of the golden rays. It had been raining all day.
It felt good to be out and breathe in some fresh late summer air. As I walked down to the bay, the remaining darker rainclouds served as a backdrop to the most stunning and full rainbow over the sea. On my arrival at the beach I stood under its arc in awe and silence. It was as though it had been a gift for me exactly in that moment, unexpected, and filling my walk with brilliant colour and light. I walked along the bend of the bay for 30-45 minutes. The colour and arc of the rainbow stayed strong until I made my way back up to the house when it started to fade. Talk about perfect timing!
In the account of the Great Flood, God set the rainbow to a seal the alliance with man and nature, promising that there will never be another Flood. The rainbow thus became a symbol of peace across the earth and the sky, and, by extension, among all men. What a beautiful sign of a great promise.
After this pandemic, I ask myself what I have learned, what I will take with me from this unusual time, how will I move forward? I hope that we can all, with certainty, say that we want to take steps, however big or small, towards greater peace.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, from New Collected Poems (Counterpoint, 2012)