Having seen the problem, in this section we now ask, what can we do? This first article describes the kind of small scale effort that may yet move mountains of misunderstanding and distrust.
Chris Roberts is a long-time member of the Sunbow Community, which she described in the Winter 1983 issue of IN CONTEXT. She lives in Auburn, Washington.
THE PAST MONTHS have been filled with a myriad of global events, political and military actions and media statements that have shaken our world and reinforced the habits of fear and separation of our human family. Although such events are not new to us, somehow it seems more and more deeply important that our response be effective, immediate and reflective of the emerging values of wholeness, peace and mutual respect. It seems a gigantic task considering the magnitude of these actions and their instantaneous and often biased coverage by global media networks. What could an individual or small group of people possibly do to in some way influence, change or transform these patterns of separation? What action taken by so few could have the potency to even remotely effect such enormous and entrenched forces?
At times I personally have been gripped by a sense of impotency and helplessness when considering the structures now in motion. I assume most of us have had similar experiences when the cries of fear seem to drown out the song of peace and goodwill. I would like to share with you an unfolding true story of one small effort that seems to be penetrating the ominous barriers of bias and separation. It is a simple example of doing something out of sheer love and enjoyment and integrating that somewhat common and innocent activity with the larger intention of healing ourselves and our planet. It gives a bit of testimony to the ancient teaching that the whole is in some way affected and transformed by the quiet simple motions of daily life; that quality and intention have an effect upon the larger pattern, and that actual evidence of that effect is nice but not really important!
A few years ago a couple who were friends of many of us at Sunbow happily announced they were expecting their first child. We decided to surprise them with a hand-made quilt in celebration of the event! Friends and relatives came forward to design and make individual squares that would later be put into a larger pattern and quilted together. We each meditated on the new family and the mother’s experience of blue light at conception. The image that presented itself was then made into a square. The collective result was far beyond our expectations. The individual images and colors came together in a dance of harmony, beauty and joy. Many pleasurable hours were shared completing the quilt – each stitch filled with good wishes for our friends and their new little one a ‘coming. At last the baby was born and with great love we presented the quilt to our friends and welcomed a new little soul into our family.
We learned a great deal from that experience. We gained a trust of our intuitive creativity and were struck by the way such diverse approaches carried within them a current of harmony in design, color and intent. We had also sharpened our more practical skills with the simple tools of needle, thread and fabric and were eager to press on to another project. Yet the greatest fulfillment of all was the heartfelt response of the family to a gift of love.
As we meditated on the second quilt project we sensed the theme of transformation as its symbolic basis. We decided to give the finished work to a person or place in need of healing although we had no specific situation in mind at that time. Well before the project neared completion a friend of one of the quilters was seriously injured in a fall. We knew immediately we had been creating the quilt for her and a great tide of new energy and love flowed through our hands and hearts. The finished quilt was given to her in a moving ceremony at our Winter Solstice Celebration. Again the greatest fulfillment for us was seeing her smiling through tears of joy with the quilt resting lovingly around her.
The next quilts to be completed were pivotal for many of us individually and for our community, as well. The Earthstewards Network in California launched a "People To People" program to bring together citizens of the United States and the Soviet Union in personal, heart connecting ways. Ideologies, politics and military postures would be carefully bypassed with the intention of sharing on more human themes that are universal and transcend the differences that are so often emphasized by political interests. Lou Halligan, who had endlessly helped to teach us the skills and art of quilting, proposed that Sunbow make a quilt to send to the people of the Soviet Union as a gesture of peace and good will. The response was instantaneous and enthusiastic. Again our attunement presented a theme. We wanted to give them something that would tell them about us, about the beautiful Northwest region with its holy mountains, lush forests and vibrant natural order. We decided to each select something that grows abundantly here and create a square with that as the primary design. The common name of the species would be embroidered in Russian beneath each square. In the center would be a rainbow and a heart with the inscription, again in Russian, "From American friends from our hearts, Sunbow 1983."
Because it was going to a place and a people so crucial to the wellbeing of the Earth, we all felt the desire to do our very best – to give a gift of love and quality that could truly be treasured by those who received it. Each of us, through thousands of tiny stitches, began to heal ourselves, disarm ourselves. Making the gift became a mantra that connected our hearts with people who are like us in so many ways, people we have yet to meet but with whom we now feel gentle bonds of hope and a vast desire for peace and understanding. We could feel ourselves changing, growing and experiencing a deep, genuine welling up of good will from our very hearts toward the people of Russia and all populations of Earth.
As this quilt progressed another of our group, Rahima Wade, helped her kindergarten class make a painted quilt to be given to an orphanage in Russia. With Rahima’s gentle guidance the children worked through many fears and questions and as the quilt progressed again, a healing took place. The Earthstewards presented it to the Soviet ambassador in San Francisco for placement inside of Russia. He was moved to tears by the innocence and purity of this gift of love made by children to be given to other children far away.
Jeff Haig, who is also affiliated with a Sufi order in Seattle focalized a peace quilt project there and the result was a beautiful symbol story in handstitched pictures portraying the Sufi path of peace. This quilt and the Sunbow quilt were displayed as the altarpieces at Jeff and Rahima’s wedding at Sunbow in August to symbolize the dedication of their lives together as stewards of a more peaceful world. The ceremony took place in a meadow with Mt. Rainier and the quilts providing an inspiring altar for the occasion. The community had also made a special "Angel Quilt" for them and it was presented at the end of the ceremony.
The Sunbow Peace Quilt for the people of the Soviet Union has provided a catalyst for several related projects in the area as well. On July 16th it was on display at "The Crystal Connection," a Unity Church retreat at Mt. Rainier and plans are now being made by participants to make their own friendship quilt for Russia. One of the attendees was from a Mennonite community near Chicago and inspired her group to create a peace quilt as well! The following week the Sunbow quilt was viewed by hundreds of people at the King County Fair in Enumclaw, Washington, and it won a blue ribbon in the open class division! It will be displayed at the Northwest Peace Festival in Seattle, September 24th and 25th. Many other seeds have been sown and we hear of ideas and potential related projects frequently.
Other quilts have already begun! One has the theme, "Butterflies In the Garden" – the butterflies symbolize transformation, the garden represents the seeds we can sow as positive action for peace on Earth. It will be completed in time to be auctioned off at the NW Peace Festival to raise funds for the many fine groups who are sponsoring the event. Those bidding will understand that the quilt they buy will be taken to the Soviet Union and placed there in their name as a personal gesture of friendship and goodwill.
A children’s quilt has been started using denim squares from treasured, old jeans. Another is being considered by the Earthstewards based on their "Sevenfold Path of Peace."
The quilts will be carried personally to Russia by Sunbow and Earthstewards friends on their "People To People" tour in April 1984. We intend to go as stewards of peace and friendship; to learn from and share with our brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union as people seeking a common ground for a world that affirms life and goodwill. We will share pictures of our families, gardens, pets and areas of common interest in our global human family. The one expectation we hold is the faith that we may meet and touch hearts with even a few of our neighbors and replace fear with warm memories of friendship.
The Peace Quilt project is flourishing into a life of its own. Its seed was sown simply, quietly and nourished by the path of the heart. The journey to Russia is just one of many steps this path has revealed to us. There will be others to come which we may now be unaware of, but we will continue to trust that simple, everyday actions done with love are as potent a force as any on Earth. Such gifts of friendship may find their way to people like you and me in other parts of the world. Whatever the outcome of this beginning we feel this "patchwork" path has been a great blessing to many of us. It’s been given a healing, planetary dimension through its dedication to nurture friendship and goodwill among ordinary people of the world. What a wonderful reason to do what we love to do. …Have you ever received a hand made quilt? If you have, didn’t you think, "You made this for me? You must love me."
For information on the Sunbow Peace Quilt Project call or write to Sunbow Peace Quilt Project, c/o Lou Halligan, 11520 22nd NE, Seattle, WA 98125 (206) 364-8033.
For information about the Earthstewards’ "People to People" program and goodwill mission to the Soviet Union, call or write: Danaan Parry, Box 399, Monte Rio, CA 95462, (707) 865-2567.