another women in black friday
The Women in Black groups have been standing (and sometimes walking, sometimes singing, sometimes being very silent, sometimes weeping) for many years, all over the world, starting first in Palestine/Israel. Our own little group started after 9/11, and not really as women in black at first--there were just a couple women thinking it was really important to hold a space and time for peace. The woman I first stood with left the area after the first several months, and for a while I stood mostly by myself. But she, Michele, noted that we often wore black, and there was this group, and anyone could declare themselves part of it. That December day, in the snow, we laughed and declared, aloud over our candles, "okay, we are women in black!" These days I have one friend who often comes, and who is so punctilious she lets me know if she won't be here, and assorted people who come for a moment or for the hour as they feel moved to do so.
Although many, if not most, women in black groups hold silent vigils, our group will talk, and listen. It was a conscious choice for us, and makes sense to us, though we honor the power of the silent vigils. In my first months standing, I heard a lot of harsh comments. There were wishes that I be blown up, that I go to Afghanistan or Iraq and see how I liked it there, that someone simply shoot me. There was one kid who blew out my candle and stood to see what I'd do. (I relit the candle. A year later he came to me to talk about whether it was a good idea to join the army.). There were veterans who came to talk with me, swaggering and somewhat bellicose. I remember my first conversations with one of them particularly vividly, because he began with "I killed people in 'Nam. I had to. It was my orders. I'll bet you think I'm a really bad person, huh?" We talked a long time. He said "when I returned, no one was there to meet me". I'm so sorry, I said, I'm so sorry you went through all that. I hope no one else has to, ever.
We are not adverse to having men stand with us. This veteran stood with us for months, before he became too ill to stand.
Another vet never stands quite with us, but brings his violin and plays, leaning against the post office, carefully watching the street. His son is serving in Iraq right now.
When I stand alone, in the rain or in the snow or in the beautiful spring and summer evenings, I watch the trees, and the birds settling down, and think. I try to hold all the struggling souls in my thoughts, keeping the little candle in my lantern lit. Sure, I often wonder if it does any ultimate good--but then I think, that's not the point. It's just a contract I've made with myself, a little break from the rush of my life, a very small standing for the right to stand, as well as for peace on this planet.
A few months ago we had six women standing, dear friends all: the environmental healer, who spends her days hauling stones and planting trees and making the land, this logged over but still beautiful land, better; the young craftswoman who works in fabric and silver and keeps a small herd of much loved goats; the elder who had to sit in a wheelchair who had stories of journeys to Africa and China; the activist who has taken water treatment equipment to Iraq; Sara, my faithful writer friend who simply showed up one summer evening and has come back almost every week; and me.
There were also three dogs.
That was the week the plainclothes guys took photos. Well, I hope they came out nicely.
It's punctuation for my week.
The UPS truck driver asked last month "what's the proper etiquette? Can I wave at you?" Sure thing, I said. So he honks as he passes, and gives a thumbs up. Some evenings there are lots of cars and lots of honks and waves and signals. Sara sometimes notices middle-finger salutes; without my glasses I can't tell exactly what the signal is, and I tell her I simply assume they are all peace signs, all positive.
I also assume, someday, someday the world will grow up. Kids won't be sent to kill other mother's children. People will disagree--and converse about their disagreements. We will learn to love one another.