Friday, November 28, 2008

One With Nature

Last weekend Jolyon and I had the unique experience of volunteering at The Disney Wilderness Preserve, which is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy. (Disney's name is attached to the preserve as part of the Mitigation Park Program, in which the state of Florida attempts to protect wildlife by mandating certain land use regulations.) With 12,000 acres of undeveloped beauty only 40 minutes from us, we knew we had to take a drive to check it out. After a few weeks of email correspondence with one of the preserve's volunteer coordinators, we were registered as "seed collectors" for an early Saturday morning nature experience.

It was a crisp 40 degrees the morning we awoke for our volunteer experience, but the sunshine spilling through our bedroom window made it slightly (slightly) easier to roll out of bed at 6:45 a.m., which is earlier than either of us get up for work. That was also probably the only time I ever donned both a turtle neck and fleece vest while living in Central Florida.
The preserve was gorgeous: rolling fields and wild animals mixed in with beautiful trees and the soothing sounds of the winds in the grass. I was a bit nervous at one of the signs placed strategically at the check-in center, though I suppose it's best that they warn you in advance.

As "seed collectors," we spent a peaceful three hours in the fields, wandering around with buckets, collecting the seeds off the long grass so that the seeds could be redistributed elsewhere on the preserve. The only sounds we heard were the low voices of our fellow volunteers (10 of us total) and the calm rustle of the wind through the fields. By the end of our experience, my back was starting to ache, but it felt great to know that we were helping preserve such a beautiful piece of nature. Living a mile outside of the theme parks, it's easy to forget the natural wonders that existed long before the tourist industry.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Swinging on Birches

According to my watch, the time is now;
the past is dead and gone.
Don't try to shake it;
just nod your head.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Move on.
~Jimmy Buffet

I've been reminiscing a lot lately. These waves of nostalgia wash over me, a constant flood and a painful reminder of mistakes and unsettled situations. Usually, it starts with something small to trigger formerly fond memories. Recently, though, I snap awake every hour throughout the night, unable to fall back asleep, wishing certain arguments hadn't ocurred, wondering if an apology would change the world.

Part of me, though, thinks it's too late. The simplicity of our lives sparked the initial bond; the complications and eventual deceit shattered everything. The anger and simple bewilderment over this fractured fairy tale still lingers, though I swallow the lump and fain and smile whenever her name is mentioned.

I miss my friend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Celebrate Peace

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
~Margaret Mead

On Saturday night, I had the silent privilege to be part of the first official group meeting for the US Peace Memorial foundation. The meeting was held in Tampa, at a very kind woman's welcoming home, in which the interior was adorned with painted murals, canvas art, and antique treasures. Curiosity and simple intrigue lead me to this home, where Jolyon and I mingled with other like-minded individuals seeking to change a societal norm, one step at a time.

Rather than butcher the purpose of the US Peace Memorial, I will let Dr. Michael Knox, CEO and Founder, explain his idea:

I travel frequently and have seen the monuments to soldiers and to wars that occupy our city squares and parks. In the summer of 2005 I took my son James to Washington DC after he finished his first year of college. We made the standard tour of the city, visiting museums, the White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the newly dedicated National World War II Memorial.

In this and other visits to the Washington Mall, I encountered dozens of war veterans discussing their combat experiences with their children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends. I suspect that most of the listeners were proud of the speaker’s military service. These memorials exist to reinforce the notion that war efforts or activities are valued and rewarded by our society.

Suddenly, with my son present, I realized that all of my memories and stories were of anti-war activities and there was no monument anywhere to indicate that our society values peace and those who take action to oppose US wars. There is no public validation of anti-war activities and no memorial to serve as a catalyst for discussion regarding peace efforts. This realization led to the organization of the US Peace Memorial Foundation, Inc.

It is time to dedicate a national monument to peace. Our society should be as proud of those who fight for alternatives to war as it is of those who fight wars. Demonstrating this national pride in some tangible way may encourage others to explore peace advocacy during times when only the voices of war are being heard.

Through the display of anti-war quotations by American leaders and the documentation of US anti-war role models and activities, the US Peace Memorial will make it clear to our citizens that advocating for peaceful solutions to international problems and opposing war are honorable and socially acceptable activity in our democracy. War is part of our culture; change requires that peace be taught. We will provide education about our nation’s long history of patriotic citizens and leaders who have opposed wars.

A national monument to peacemakers can change our cultural mindset so that it will no longer be acceptable to label those who speak out against war as un-American, antimilitary, traitorous, or unpatriotic. The memorial will help decrease the social barriers that citizens must overcome before they publicly oppose a war. If just a small percent of our citizens were to publicly speak out against a US war, it would end quickly.

I'm not a pacifist by any means, and I was pleased to hear that this is not part of the foundation's mantra. Plain and simple: in a country that prides itself on equality, both sides of an issue have the right to be heard and recognized. Some wars are just and unavoidable, yet we should not be condemning those who voice their opposition. We should promote the acceptance of peace rallies and activists just as much as we promote the support of our men and women who fight for our country.

No, it's not currently socially acceptable to oppose war, which I why I commend those who do. Need proof? Browse this list.

It certainly would be a feat if we can spread the word about the US Peace Memorial Foundation, and actually witness a Peace Memorial momument being built in Washington, DC. Celebrate Peace, my friends. Join the US Peace Memorial Foundation.

Peace Has a Voice, and It Deserves To Be Heard.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Compassion & Tolerance?

No time to write these days. I feel like I'm echoing my sentiments from a previous blog. I'm looking forward to the end of the volleyball season, which marks the beginning of More Me. I need to get my thoughts back on track, back on paper, and out of my head... so that I can sleep again in peace and clarity.

Until then, I leave you with a quote to ponder:

"Every person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world..."