Goodness, peace and bloggers


Last night I read a novel by a distinguished prizewinning writer. I polished it off in a few hours, turned over and went to sleep.

This morning I awoke thinking how depressing it was… not one man or woman who was inspirational, kind, or good – everyone ambivalent and self-absorbed. And then I remembered one peripheral historical character, whose real life contribution to the care of the wounded in World War One is one of the more fascinating true stories of that time. He was a man of integrity, compassion and genuine goodness.

And as I thought about him, I could feel my whole body relaxing, and a smile on my face. I thought to myself how much I love reading about goodness.

I thought about Mildred Norman, the Peace Pilgrim, that amazing woman who for twenty-eight years walked the length and breadth of the States seven times. She carried nothing but a few items in the pockets of her jerkin which was emblazoned with the words Peace Pilgrim. From 1953 to 1981 when she was killed in a car crash, she walked to remind people of peace.

She walked through the Korean War, all through the Vietnam War, and on through all the other conflicts, until the day she died. She had no means of sustenance, she ate when she was given food, and slept wherever she was, and usually people recognised her goodness and gave her a bed…” walking until given shelter, fasting until given food”. When she reached 25,000 miles in 1964, she gave up counting.

Wherever she went she talked of peace, saying: “We who work for peace must not falter. We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible.”

Ironically she was killed in a car crash while being taken to speak to a meeting. But her disciples carry on her message. She was seventy -one, a gentle, silver- haired blue-eyed woman with a tanned complexion.

Then there was Don Ritchie, ‘The Angel of the Gap’. I can’t read about this beautiful man without tears blurring my eyes. He retired as a salesman, bought a house with a marvellous view of the ocean just outside Sydney, which also overlooked a famous suicide spot. He spent the rest of his life looking out of the window at that famous view. Not to enjoy the view, but – “for a far greater purpose,” as one obituary put it – to rescue those who came to end their lives.

As soon as he saw someone lingering there, he walked across to them smiling, with his hands out, palms up (what a beautiful, instinctive gesture of peace and non-violence). “Is there something I can do to help you?” he asked.  He talked to them until they were ready to pick up their shoes and their wallet and their note, and to come back to his house where his wife had a cup of tea waiting for them.

Sometimes he risked his life struggling with those who were determined to jump. The official count of the lives he saved is 164, but those who knew him believe the figure to be nearer 500. Bottles of champagne and cards arrived for him for years after from those whose lives he’d saved.

He used to say: “never under-estimate the power of a kind word and a smile”. He died last year at eighty-six, proof that no-one needs special training to serve their world, that love makes a difference, that great goodness is to be found in ‘ordinary’ people ( if indeed they are ordinary) as well as in spiritual mentors…

And then there are some of the bloggers whose posts I never miss… not witty or intellectual or spiritual, but filled with a sweetness and a simple goodness that lights up my day… they make me think of that haunting little Shaker hymn ‘Simple Gifts’… because their goodness is a gift, and it’s a simple uncomplicated sort of goodness, spontaneous and undemanding. Reading these gentle blogs about ordinary events and everyday lives filled with weather and  animals and growing things is like smelling a flower.

But unless one is a Pollyanna, I have a shadow to face too – cyber-bullying. It’s hard to remember that we are all one, when  encountering words and actions of destructive malice, and this is when the words of the sages like the Peace Pilgrim help me keep my balance. It’s then that I try to be thankful for this shadow, because it shows me that there must be some place in me where I don’t love myself as my neighbour, and so some inner work to do. And it’s that test of one’s character and integrity to be unmoved by such psychic attacks.

Miguel Ruiz’s words carry me through these moments that could unbalance me. His second agreement reads: “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others do and say is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering”.

These words of wisdom are what can keep me on the path of peace… because though the Peace Pilgrim talked about world peace, and the end of war, the wars won’t end until our own lives are at peace and ‘peace is every step’, in the words of Thich Nhat Hahn… Peace to us all.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Summer means lots of tomatoes, and I often use them the way I remember from living in Vienne, Central France as a child. I remember huge – probably- beefsteak tomatoes, with their middles cut out, and filled with thick golden mayonnaise. If I do them today, one each is enough for us, for a light lunch, served with some crusty rolls. If I do them as a starter, I use smaller tomatoes, and surround them with glorious sweet smelling basil. I serve them on green plates, and they look gorgeous.

The mayonnaise is the usual. Using a stick beater, in the beaker break one whole egg – both yolk and white – plus salt, pepper, a good slurp of white wine vinegar or lemon juice and a good teasp of mixed mustard. Pour in some grape oil or other gentle tasting oil but Not olive oil, to just under halfway up the height of the beaker, and then press the button! Whizz, whizz, and mayonnaise is ready! This process spoils the taste of the olive oil – hence the need for alternatives.

Food for Thought

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside. And only she who listens can speak.

From ‘Markings’ by Dag Hammarskjold, second UN Secretary General. 1905 – 1961 Diplomat, and writer, son of a Swedish Prime Minister, descendant of generations who had served the Swedish crown and people since the 17th century.   A spiritual man, during his time at the UN he organised and supervised every detail of a meditation room there. His plane crashed in suspicious circumstances on a peace mission in Africa. He’s the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously.

I’m learning to take pictures, but haven’t got the hang of captions yet!  This is the crepuscule rose in my garden


Filed under bloggers, cookery/recipes, happiness, life and death, love, peace, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

59 responses to “Goodness, peace and bloggers

  1. The suicide watch guy gave me chills. We went to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and there is a suicide hotline at the top. Imaging answering that call.

    • Why did he give you the chills? I thoughts he was wonderful… the courage and the emotional fortitude to face each desperate person and help them turn around I found so moving….
      I suppose the suicide hotline you were talking about would be like the Samaritans who answer calls like that all the time, but they get training for it. Don Ritchie did it from the goodness of his heart….

  2. Love thus. Beautiful flowers and sentiment

  3. Every time I see that you have put up a post, I settle back for what I know will be an excellent read. This is no exception. I always learn. I was unfamiliar with the Peace Walker, even though I was fully involved in the demonstrations in the 60’s. I suppose without the internet, things just didn’t ‘get around’ like they do today. The man on the edge of the cliff is a simply beautiful story. What a wonderful man he must have been. Thank you, Valerie, for another enlightening post!

    • Kathy, thank you so much for your lovely comments, so much appreciated. You’re right about the Peace Pilgrim… we’d all know about her now wouldn’t we, with the internet?.
      I learned about her in the early seventies when she’d been walking for awhile… but at least we had heard of her here in NZ- a friend who was a Quaker put me on to her…

  4. Valerie, this is a beautiful post. We need peace in the world. The Quaker tradition of walking the talk began with John Woolman and his abolitionist position a hundred years before the Civil War. It is wonderful to see it is still alive and well. As we walk the talk, let us find peace in every step.

    • valeriedavies
      February 6, 2013 at 1:36 am (Edit)

      Ivon, so good to hear from you. I really value your lovely comments…Yes, John Woolman is one of my favourite Quakers.
      I also love the story of William Penn who died two years before Woolman was born and him agonising over wearing a sword when he was still living in England and in close contact with George Fox, founder of Quakerism. As a cavalier and new convert he was reluctant to stop wearing his sword, and discussing it with Fox, Fox said: “I advice thee to wear it as long as thou canst…”. When Fox saw him a little later with no sword, William Penn replied:” I took your advice . I wore it as long as I could”.
      Quakers were always so far ahead of their time in so much – not in just peace testimony,and abolition, but education and equal rights for women,

  5. I will probably think about the “Watcher” slash suicide preventer all night. My experiences in the Army, suggests that this a noble assignment to under take in retirement. Not all prevention needs a hotline or 3-digits to be effective. thanks for sharing

  6. Ivon, so good to hear from you. I really value your lovely comments…Yes, John Woolman is one of my favourite Quakers.
    I also love the story of William Penn who died two years before Woolman was born and him agonising over wearing a sword when he was still living in England and in close contact with George Fox, founder of Quakerism. As a cavalier and new convert he was reluctant to stop wearing his sword, and discussing it with Fox, Fox said: “I advice thee to wear it as long as thou canst…”. When Fox saw him a little later with no sword, William Penn replied:” I took your advice . I wore it as long as I could”.
    Quakers were always so far ahead of their time in so much – not in just peace testimony,and abolition, but education and equal rights for women, treatment of the insane and so on. I find them an inspiration… and love to know that others do too….

  7. What a fantastic piece of work valerie, and that wonderful man who would go and speak to those who were right at the worst moment of their lives.. our silent heroes.. fascinating piece.. c

    • Thank you so much Celi, I really value your appreciative words. And I also wonder how you find time to read blogs with all them animals an’ all waiting to be milked, fed, let in, let out and cuddled!

  8. Amy

    The stories of Mildred and Don are moving and heartwarming. Your posts are filled with wisdom, intelligence, and insights, yet you would appreciate “gentle blogs about ordinary events and everyday lives”. Beautiful post, lovely flower photo, Thank you so much, Valerie!

  9. What a beautiful post, so heartfelt and soulful, thank you!

  10. This was great, but I have to say, when I came to comment all I could think of was: you polished off a novel in 2 hours!!??

    • Gabriela I know what you mean! Several hours meant three and a bit!
      I felt the same when a reviewer I respected said she never re-read books.
      But I re-read and re-read again the books I love, The idea of all that labour and love having such a short life is awful, isn;t it… but my books are well worn from constantly being enjoyed again and again!

  11. Valerie, you are a peaceful sage – that’s how I think of you. I’m a little concerned by your mention of cyber-bullying – does this mean you have been attacked? I can’t imagine who in their right mind would do such a thing to you, so I hope this is not the case… Thanks for your perspective, as always. *hugs*

    • Dear Alarna, I’d love to feel like a peaceful sage, but I still have too many lessons to learn to have reached that safe haven!!!
      Yes, I have my very own little pet cyber-bully…so awful we just have to laugh!!!
      Lovely to hear from you… hope things are going well for you,but knowing that wherever you are, you’re in the right place at the right time.

      • This is terrible! Can I help? You might have to get good at the delete button…

        Thank you for your kind thoughts, always, Valerie. I am well…

      • Yes, delete button has been in use for the last nine months… but now the little pet has found a very destructive tactic, which I won’t go into here… Glad you’re good – I see a blog from you, which I haven’t got to yet…am on my way!!!

  12. Reblogged this on Teacher as Transformer and commented:
    Valerie posted a wonderful article yesterday about peace. I was reminded of the roots of the term “walk the talk”. It comes from the work of John Woolman, a Quaker, who walked and shared his belief that owning slaves in the 13 Colonies and then the US was immoral and God would disapprove. Parker Palmer tells this story in his books. The reference to the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” brought to mind the writings about peace of Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk, who is seen by many as instrumental in the the contemporary peace movement although he passed away in 1969. Valerie’s last reference was to Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen monk, who has written about peace that begins with me and extends outwards. Have a beautiful and peaceful day.

    • Dear Ivon,
      I’m blown away by your lovely words, and generosity. And thank you so much for re-blogging me on your widely read and respected blog. So many people have visited already, I feel quite moved…
      One never knows where the words will go and where they will take you when one begins to write, does one – and it’s so very much further than the words…Life is such a miracle…thanks and blessings to you

  13. That lovely, lovely man to save the lives of those so desperate and in need of care and love! Brought tears to my eyes.

    Cyber bullying is a horrible thing…you must have had some of it directed to you…surprisingly so have I. Would would think that a farming blog could stir up so much anger. I just put those people in my spam file and try to forget. I do believe in some way they are damaged also, to want to reach out and damage others.

    Love your post, Dear Friend. I’m so sorry about your drought…we really need lots of moisture in so many places on this dear earth of ours.


    • Lovely to hear from you Linda… you are one of my flowers… yes, I always cry when I read abut that lovely man, he was wonderful wasn’t he….
      Fancy your lovely column attracting that awful cyber-bullying.You’re so right about their need to reach out and damage others… it has been very damaging for us..for reasons I can’t explain here, as I never know when I’m being ‘monitored!”

      I hope your reservoirs are filling up after all your snow… is the news about your drought improving?.We of course don’t have a farm like you, but I feel such anguish for everyone else and thirsty hungry creatures more than anything….

      • We are at 72% of normal snow pack right now….but a huge storm is supposed to roll in tonight. I hope it dumps lots of snow up in the mountains…100% normal would be perfect.

        I so understand the monitored thing.


  14. Arguably one of the best posts I have ever read…thank you Val!

  15. Mimi, I’m blown away by your response, – thank you so much. As I said to Ivon, one never knows where the words will take you when one begins to write, and and it’s so much further than the words… thank you Mimi.
    ( PS I’m a Valerie, not Val – which doesn’t feel like me at all!!)…

  16. “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside.” Every day, I am given the opportunity to explore this Truth more deeply. Thank you, Valerie, for reminding me to dive in! xoxoM

    • Dear Margarita, So pleased you found him… he was such a deep man…I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone else like him at the UN. I also loved the way he used the word ‘she’….

      • Yes! You’re reminding me it’s been quite some time since I’ve been to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza here in New York. Perhaps it’s time for a photo op! xoxoM

  17. I learn so much from your posts and save them to when I can read thoughtfully and comment. You are a gentle soul with an amazing thirst for knowledge. Yes, the path of peace begins with each individual and requires utmost respect and tolerance. That is a difficult lesson for many, but worthy if we are to find our own inner peace.

  18. You are awesome & so is this post! Thank you.

  19. Let it begin with me.

    Hold out my palms. Smile. Give people my time and attention.

    You’ve just breathed on my ember, Valerie. Like a Quaker – quiet and with intent. I’m so grateful to know you. You feed me.

    • Dear Amy, you comment was like a poem – I just love those words, let it begin with me….Thank you for your beautiful words of appreciation, and know that I feel the same. I know that when I come to your blog I will find food for the soul…
      Quakers are some of my favourite people…I was an ‘attender ‘for years..XXX.

  20. Valerie, I must thank you. You have introduced me to two new people who have lifted my spirits and reminded me there are still great people which means there is still great hope.

    I do hope you know, you are one of those gentle and wonderful bloggers you talk about. Your spirit shines through your writing. I don’t know about others but for me, each time I see your name I know I will be lifted by your words. I am so glad you returned, you are such a blessing.

    • Dear Val, your words were like a blessing to me. thank you so much for the lovely things you say, it gives me the courage to write about the things I care about, knowing I am safe..that there are kindred spirits out there, with the same values and hopes.
      I hope you also know that your blog is an inspiration to others… I never miss it, to enjoy your piercing intelligence and passion. I sometimes read them aloud to my husband to show him the quality of bloggers…

  21. After a hard morning with my A level students in the chemistry lab; I settled in my office for a quick bite; instead, I decided to browse through my reader and visited your site. It was a realy treat. I enjoyed every bit of it. Each day I remind my students that there are more good people on the earth, and I believe you are one such good person for reblogging from valerie. By the way I will try the fresh tomatoes with Yogurt. Thanks for the yummy threadbare gourmet.

    • So good to hear from you, and thank you for your lovely comments… yes the world is full of good people – we just have to recognise them!. Glad you enjoyed the recipe… by the way I used home-made mayonnaise, not yogurt….

  22. I thanked my stars when I visited Ivon’s blog, thats how I happed upon your beautiful post. I am very pleased that you responded to my comment. I believe my junior high students will have new assignment for next months chemistry project on emulsions:.’Home-made mayonnaise’, It would be fun!

  23. The simplicity and power of kindness are inherent in this post. I love the Peace Pilgrim! Walking, holding out hands , or a smile make such a difference. To those of us with few resource–we are rich to help others.

  24. Hello Alice, yes, kindness is really the thing that makes the world go round, isn’t it… and you’re so right about how rich we are in our ability to give..

  25. Many thanks for the article, it was interesting.

  26. I have come back to read this 3 times! Beautiful, poignant, inspiring and life-affirming…

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