The past two weeks have been a departure from my usual routines of writing and woodworking, as I journeyed to research some family history at the old family home in Virginia and then took part in this year’s Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, followed by the semi-annual conference of the North Carolina Writer’s Network. In between I sandwiched in a memorable celebration of my birthday and the first anniversary of my infamous kidney operation. That’s why you haven’t seen any poetry – yet. This is a brief report on these doings.
My sister Lois, who maintains the old family farm house (minus the farm) in Loudoun County, Virginia, has also diligently assembled many of the family archives. These include pictures from my mother’s two-year stay on Cyprus in 1923-25 with her family. Her father was a mining engineer who helped re-open the old copper mines that the Romans had operated two thousand years ago. My mother often spoke of their experiences, and some of the artifacts they uncovered in the mines have passed down in the family. Some of them are in the Carlos Museum at Emory University. Sylvia and I decided to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary by going to Cyprus this coming May and try to find the old monastery they lived in, the Skouriatissa mine itself, and the mountains they used to have picnics in. Our trip to Virginia enabled me to scan the old pictures to guide us in our search. If all goes well, you’ll here more about this next summer!
The Peace Conference focused on Poverty, Abundance and Peace, drawing our attention to the impact of hunger and poverty on peacebuilding around the world. Sylvia and I set up her mobile of cranes and other art pieces she has made for the conference as a setting for the presentations and worship events. As always, the Conference took an interfaith perspective with the presence not only of Christian leaders like Bishop Ntambo from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also Rabbi Mordechai Liebling from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, and Dr. Ibrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. Their powerful presentations made it clear that any effort at peacebuilding and economic justice requires that our religious traditions recognize and affirm their interdependence, at theological as well as institutional levels. Bob Edgar, of Common Cause, drove home the desperate need to reform the financing of our political system, while David Beckman, of Bread for the World, delivered an impassioned plea for supporting efforts not only to alleviate hunger but to eliminate it in the next 20 years. With these and other events, the Conference demonstrated a maturity in vision, rhythm, and quality that lead it to next year’s focus on non-violent movements for peace and in 2013 on the ecological dimensions of peacebuiling.
At the Writer’s Network conference in Asheville I spent over three hours in a Master’s Poetry Class with Anthony Abbott, Professor of English at Davidson University, who led me into a new phase of my writing, namely memorization and performance. Yes, memorization for people over 70! In exploring the experience of memorized performance I could hear the cadences, rhymes, alliterations, and assonances that have so marked my poetry and that prepare it for use in worship. A couple of generations of students have benefited from his insight, enthusiasm, and encouragement. I may be in the caboose, but thankfully I’m on the train!
Here endeth the reportage. I won’t report on the double bevel sliding compound mitre saw that Sylvia authorized for my birthday. What a beauty she is. I can’t wait to get back in the shop.