News Update October 2013
So much has happened since last we wrote – the Bronze Age, the Renaissance… Actually, it’s only been half a year. We’ve just passed the first day of Autumn, a most beautiful time here in Shelburne Falls, leaves ablaze, sky clear, crisp & blue. When last we wrote we were looking forward to the coming of Spring. Here’s what the first day of Spring looked like outside our window.
We ran our woodstove into June and wore down our wood supply but laid in a good supply for the winter to come.
As in many years past we took an Easter weekend retreat to the Benedictine Priory in Weston VT. We’ve built a family around the annual retreat
and we are drawn back each year to the simple beauty of the spiritual practice of the Weston Brothers, their prayer, song and imagery.
As promised, our annual Duopalooza concert was with Magpie this year.
The rich sound they generate from 2 voices and elegant acoustic instrumentation made for a remarkable evening. For 2014, Greg & Terri have signed on as the official Artists in Residence for the People’s Music Network. You can enjoy and study with them at our PMN gatherings in January & June.
We both enjoyed last June’s PMN gathering with its usual militant panache,
but spent much of the Spring and Summer on separate paths. For individual details see our personal news below.
Of the events we did as a duo, highlights include celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the War Resisters League at Georgetown University.
Charlie’s been in touch with WRL since he was of draft age, so roughly half of those 90 years. In addition to presenting our historical performance piece “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round" we got to sing and listen to wonderful panel discussions such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Mab Segrest & Mandy Carter
sharing perspectives on Militarism, class gender & race.
Labor Day had us singing at the Bread & Roses Festival in Lawrence MA
We have been performing “Occupy Lawrence 1912,” the story of the Great Lawrence textile strike,
often for the past year and a half and it was great to return to Lawrence for this wonderful free folk festival.
From there we drifted away to beautiful College Pond,
to the family cottage where we spend our summer vacation. Three lovely weeks experiencing the peace and terror of life without wifi. When times got tough we drove out to the fast food joint at the local highway rest stop just to get plugged back in.
Vacation over, we hit the ground running and performed the above mentioned “Occupy Lawrence 1912” as half of our evening concert for the Greater New Haven Labor History Association. We look forward to working with GNHLHA in the future bringing labor history in story & song to general audiences and schools in Connecticut.
That GNHLHA concert was the premiere release party for our latest recording, the Double CD So Far, So Good – 40 Songs For 40 years celebrating Charlie’s 40 years as a songwriter.
We hope you’ll order or download a copy today.
So for the foreseeable future we’ll be traveling all over singing the songs from this CD, some old, some new, and hope to see you in our audience. First destination is Indiana for the 20th anniversary of the Journey of Hope. Check out our full concert schedule . If you don’t see a listing for a city or campus near you (we’re continually adding more) contact us about arranging for a concert in your area.
And to see how Karen & Charlie spent their somewhat separate summer days, read on…
Charlie's Personal News
The Lure of the Open Road
Karen & I have been reading The Wind In the Willows to each other & it just might be the example of Toad… I’ve been covering ground for the past 6 months. If you squint at the picture above you just might see tiny walkers wending their way up the highway. It was that kind of summer.
It all started with the recurring realization that Charlie has a pension and Social Security and Karen doesn’t. This means Charlie can say yes to pro bono invitations and Karen needs to pursue a livelihood which often precludes that option. This meant I had to create a solo repertoire, something I hadn’t done for a dozen years or more. After a credible launch singing for Earth Day at Quinnipiac Valley Community College in CT I drove on to Syracuse NY for the Resisting Drones Conference, April 26 - 28. This brought together anti-drone activists from around the country & the world.
I was invited to do an opening concert, political songs of the past 40 years. It was a joy to put it together and a good feeling to know I had written some of them. We’ve put an MP3 of one of them (“Send In the Drones)” here on the website.
While at the conference Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence invited me to join a walk in Iowa, Covering Ground To Ground the Drones, in mid-June and I said “Yes!” Meanwhile I responded to an invitation to come to Knoxville TN and sing at events surrounding the trial of the Transform Now Plowshares.
I hope you click on their link – there’s so much good information there, more than I have room to tell. Suffice it to say activists Michael Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed penetrated the high security Y-12 Complex at Oak Ridge Nuclear Weapons facility
and made it to the warehouse where the warheads are stored where they had time to decorate the walls with words of peace and sing songs of hope before finally being arrested. This Plowshares action so infuriated & embarrassed the government & corporate authorities that they have thrown the book at these 3 brave souls who were convicted, imprisoned and, since early May, have awaited sentence.
That has been continuously delayed and is now scheduled for late January, 2014. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers and do something today for peace.
While I was at the Plowshares trial Bill Ramsey from Asheville NC invited me to join the 2013 Walk for Our Grandchildren in late July, and I said “Yes!” This was one of many actions of Summer Heat a project of 350.org. But first, I was off to Iowa for 5 days, 3 of them walking in blazing heat surrounded by endless fields of corn. I joined Kathy Kelly, Buddy Bell
and other organizers and walkers on this 100+ mile march to protest the development and deployment of Drones in Iowa. I spent 3 days walking 50 miles, on highways & byways,
singing in the towns & cities en route. A Newton IA family offered their spacious backyard to us as an overnight campground though they knew little or nothing about us. Our hostess
(2nd from left) even joined us to walk a dozen hot highway miles the following day!
My feet were tired, but my soul was rested.
Back home & getting ready for Walk for Our Grandchildren, Karen & I actually got to spend some time with OUR granddaughter. Viviana Jo brought her Mom & Dad up from Louisville KY for 3 weeks at the family cottage at College Pond. Go Viviana!
The grandparents walk was from Harpers Ferry to the Whitehouse. I was able to join them for two days, one strolling with longtime friend Vicki Wood along the shaded banks of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
& the second marching thru DC to the White House.
I walked with a picture of Viviana Jo around my neck
which was a great conversation starter with strangers along the route. It even caught the eye of 350.org organizer Bill McKibben.
My last solo jaunt of the summer was a memorable journey for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Just a week before the March I received an e-mail announcing that there was room on a UAW bus departing at Friday night 11 PM from UMass Amherst (UAW has organized the Graduate Assistants and other campus workers there), driving through the night in time for the March then driving back through the night, a 26 hour jaunt. And I said “Yes!”
It was a beautiful day filled with beautiful marchers
There were a ton of speakers raising the spirits of the crowd.
I never heard a confident crowd estimate but we stretched as far as the eye could see
This was my fourth trip to DC in two months and I’m pleased to say I only drove once. Two delightful Amtrak rides and one demanding but rewarding trip on the UAW bus helped keep my carbon footprint right-sized. Were it ever thus!
As I write this I’m gearing up for the Indiana Journey of Hope (see above) and when Karen & I get back from that we’ll be gearing up for a 2 week tour with the Southern Terminus being the SOA Watch protests at the gates of Ft. Benning GA. We’re hoping to see you somewhere along the way. Check our calendar for dates & places. Carry it on!
Karen's Personal News
I have thoroughly enjoyed these months of warmth and opportunities to play outdoors in the garden, biking, kayaking and walking by the ocean. In a sense I’ve been making up for last year when I spent many months recovering from surgery and was unable to do these things. I grew up being actively discouraged by my parents from doing much in the way of outdoor play (too dangerous!) so it’s a shift in my self-image to perceive of myself as becoming a jock in my mid to late fifties! I am not a lover of winter, so am going to try snowshoeing this year to see if I can embrace a winter sport and spend less time in front of the computer during the colder months.
My Buddhist practice was a focus of these past months. In April I went on a 5 day retreat for members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, as those of us in the pre-ordination process were invited to be there as well. It was great to get a sense of the larger community and to meet some of the inspiring leaders and teachers in this Order. On August 29th I participated in the Ordination Ceremony at the Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York. Making a public commitment to study and practice 14 ethical principles for living was profound, and made more special by the fact that hundreds of retreat participants came to support the 25 of us who were being ordained. If you’re interested, you can read those 14 principles, called Mindfulness Trainings, here. Charlie was kind enough to attend the ceremony, even though it’s not his spiritual practice, it was a 4 hour trip each way, and it was at 6am! The two people who had been my spiritual mentors for the past two years were also there. One was Pru Grand, here she is with me and Charlie.
At its simplest, we are a bunch of people trying to live ethical and compassionate lives and supporting each other in doing the same. I am happy to be part of such a community. A couple of weeks later I went to Boston’s Copley Square for a large public meditation gathering led by Thich Nhat Hanh and members of the monastic community from around the world. It was a beautiful day, and a unique experience to participate in a group meditation surrounded by noises of traffic and people going to work. This was at a time when the U.S. military intervention was still uncertain, many of us present were aware of that possibility, and Thich Nhat Hanh addressed it in his remarks following the meditation.
Due to the combination of an increase in my desire to spend time at home and a decrease in invitations to perform or do Spanish interpreting/translating, I have turned my attention to seeking other avenues of employment that allow me to share my gifts in the context of social justice. At the urging of a friend, I have more actively pursued opportunities to do spiritual and psychological counseling for activists and for people engaged in social service work. I have been welcomed into the family of an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT),
who have peace teams doing accompaniment work in countries in conflict (currently Palestine, Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Canada, where they work with native communities). I have been a friend of and donor to CPT for years, based on my own experience doing accompaniment work in Guatemala from 1986-1994. I am now offering counseling to team members and support staff, to help them do this work in ways that sustain their personal and organizational well-being. In July I went to Chicago to offer a training for new accompaniers and support staff on issues of self-care, preventing burnout and dealing with trauma. I am honored and excited to be part of this effort, and encourage you to consider donating to CPT to support their work.
I also opened a private counseling practice, and have been slowly building that practice to offer services to people here in person and by phone/Skype to people elsewhere. I am loving this work and am drawing upon the skills I’ve acquired and life experiences I’ve had over the past decades. If you know of people who might be interested in exploring this with me, please send them my way!
I am also surprised to find myself doing some administrative work for Charlie’s son Jamie in his law practice. The wonders of the Internet allow us to work in this way even though he lives in Louisville and I in Western MA. We’ve been collaborating for 2 months now, and it has gone well to be in-laws and work together. As Charlie’s CD says, So Far, So Good!
I got to revisit important parts my past on two occasions in recent months. I attended a reunion of people who had been involved in Movement for a New Society, a network of social activists based in Philadelphia that spread to other parts of the U.S. This reunion was for folks who were based in Boston, but I snuck in as a guest because I’d attended an MNS training program and co-led a training with other MNS’ers at a rural commune in Missouri back in 1981. We had good conversations about our personal lives, our current engagement in activism and our sense of where the larger social justice movement stands now.
In May, my aunt and I spent two days in Atlantic City, where she and my parents grew up, and where I spent all of my summers during childhood visiting my grandmothers. This was in pre-casino days, so it was a friendlier place back then. In searching for the lowest cost overnight housing for me and my Aunt, I found the best deal was at the Showboat Casino, so off we went.
It was a perfect choice – we spent time together walking the boardwalk, then she went to play poker while I sat at the beach. For me it was like visiting another planet (the casino,not the beach), and I was able to approach it with a kind of anthropological curiosity rather than cringing at my environment. We hope to make this an annual trip.
Every time we write these updates there is a new list of friends who have recently died. In the past few months I have lost three dear people in my life. One was best friend from college, Tobi Sisman
who I visited whenever I travelled to Michigan
and with whom I had annual long phone conversations on the day between our two birthdays (September 3). Another was my long-time colleague in labor solidarity work in Guatemala, Stephen Coats
Most recently was the person with whom I laughed the most during my eight years living in a country besieged by war and corruption, my friend Bill Latham.
I am grateful each day to be alive and healthy after facing cancer last year, and hope to be with you for a long time.
Posted: to General News on Wed, Mar 13, 2013
Updated: Mon, Apr 7, 2014
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