Monday, June 5, 2017

Love Letter to Central Coast Quakers

This spring I felt a leading of the Spirit to visit various Quaker Meetings in my capacity as clerk of the Pacific Yearly Meeting Peace and Social Order Committee to see how our Quaker Peace Testimony is faring among them, and also to worship and connect with  Friends in various parts of California. During this era of Trumpism, it seemed more important than ever for a Quaker peace activist like myself to travel in the ministry on behalf of peace and justice and our imperiled planet.

I had intended to write a report about my visits, but after an intense night of insomnia and prayer, I realized that I didn't feel moved to write a report, but rather a love letter. Like the eighteenth century Quaker John Woolman, who wrote a journal about his life as a Friend and his travels in the ministry, I have felt a "motion of love" that could not be resisted.

Dear Central Coast Friends,

It was pure joy to visit you with my wife Jill and my 86-year-old mother-in-law Donna, who both love Montaña de Oro, a state park where a meeting for worship took place in a lovely wild flower garden with a magnificent view of the ocean. We arrived late but were able to participate in the last fifteen minutes of worship. Around twenty mostly elderly Friends, along with a few young parents, and some delightful kids took part. I don't remember much about the messages, except that either I or someone else mentioned the phrase from the Gospel: "Consider the wild flowers of the field..."

At the rise of worship, several of us went for a walk along the bluffs to the tide pools, led by the children. It was a delightful experience, one that inspired me to write light verse in the spirit and somewhat in the manner of Emily Dickinson (I had just seen a charming one-woman show about Emily Dickinson called the "Belle of Amherst."). Along the way, I also had a chance to talk with old friends. It felt good to reconnect.

The highlight of the day was a "living history program" in a 19th century farm house owned
by the Spooner family. A docent acting the part of Mrs. Spooner made history come alive as she showed us around the house and shared her life with us. I am including an excerpt from what wikipedia says about this area. However, words don't do it justice. Montaña de Oro, one of the most unbelievable beautiful places in California, if not the world. But it also has a practical story. 
The property rights for Montaña de Oro State Park land area changed hands several times after California became a territory of the United States. It was used mostly for grazing sheep until 1892, when Alden B. Spooner, Jr., leased the land he later purchased around Islay Creek. He brought in dairy cattle, hogs and other agriculture. His two sons founded the Pecho Ranch Camp; Stock Co., and built a ranch house, a complex of barns, a creamery, stables, sheds, and a waterwheel for power. On the south bluff of Spooner's Cove they utilized a warehouse with a long chute that led down to a wharf and a loading boom to service coastal steamers.

I arrived late because I was writing poem, but I caught enough of the docent's presentation to be deeply impressed. When the tour ended, I felt the urge to share the poem with the group. I didn't want to steal any thunder from the docent, but I couldn't resist this impulse. Friends were very kind and receptive. 

I had great conversations with Friends afterwards and learned that Central Coast Peace Committee is struggling. Central Coast is a small meeting, but still full of life. Being with you at Montana de Oro was an unforgettable experience not only for me, but for my wife and mother-in-law as well. We will cherish this memory forever.

Montaña de Oro 
(For Lily and Remi)

Consider Lily in this field
And Remi on this dirt road—
Skipping along, enjoying
This heavenly abode.
Montaño de Oro it’s called,
Where vistas of sea and sky
More glorious than gold
Delight the heart and eye.
The children lead us on
Where ocean’s beckoning sounds
Fill the air with a gentle roar
And flowers all abound:
Rock rose and monkeyflower,
Black sage and golden yarrow
More glorious than the famous rich
Here now and gone tomorrow.
Descending down the bluff
We reach the tidal pools
Where hermit crabs and darting fish
Have no need of rules.
Everywhere we look
We make discoveries.
Each tidal pool is filled
With perfect mysteries.
Life in sheer abundance!
Shell fish, anemones,
Wonders upon wonders,
The gifts of boundless seas.
After too short a time,
We hear an awful sound:
The voice of an adult saying,
“It’s time to turn around.”

Reluctantly we listen,
Return to family and friends.
And share this good news with them:
Miracles never end!

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