Peace Pilgrim continues her pilgrimage.
Three weeks ago, there was some news rumblings that President Trump was going to attack North Korea with a nuclear or at least, big bomb. Someone emailed me and said, “World War III has begun”.
What does one do in the face of imminent world war? I decided to go to the University for Peace…the place where Costa Rica tries to educate future peace leaders. And, there is a monument there to many well known Costa Rican Peace makers. And, supposedly, somewhere there, a monument to the Peace Pilgrim, an older woman who walked 25,000 miles thought the US for years, talking to small groups, individuals and fellow travellers about peace and its importance. I had recently learned about her mission and her message and was quite taken with it.
I asked around, “Where is Peace Pilgrim” . Everyone just kind of shrugged and responded with great ambivalence. This is not possible, I thought. How can there be all these great statues to a lot of people, but the Peace PIlgrim, whose $18000 statue had been placed here over 17 years ago was missing Many people had sacrificed and worked hard to raise the money and make the ceremony for the installation of the statue under a huge Guanacaste tree in the park of the university.
Finally, I found an older caretaker of the property who told me that the statue had been taken down and for the last THREE years, it was in a storage área. How is this possible? A Peace Pilgrim who worked for peace relagated to a stoarge área for three years .
After some more investigative work and the collaboration of the groundskeepers I finally found her. Indeed. Stuck in a storage shed along with piles of old chairs and desks and the grounds lawnmower. When I saw her in the dark of the shed, it took my breath away. She was just standing there, abandoned. And her arms were broken off. And here she had been for three years. At the University of PEACE for heaven’s sake.
I decided that this could not be and that it was necessary to get her out of there. A few phone calls, a lot of friendly banter with the keeper of the keys and last Friday we went at 8 am with a group of four very good friends from Piedades to pick up Peace. She is a small person, but when made out of bronze we are talking about a lot of weight. When they opened the door to the shed, once again, I felt so mournful to see someone who dedicated so much of her life to peace and peaceful messages stuck in this place.
The lawnmower was removed, the pickup truck backed into place and seven men so gently and good naturedly picked her up and placed her in the back of the truck laying her down on a thick quilt I had brought.
The guard opened the gate and magically we were allowed out of the grounds with the statue.Off we went on our journey though Little villages to take Peace to a temporary home to be fixed up while we look for a more permanent site for her.
You see, she was a teacher, giving lessons to children and adults alike about the message of peace. Something that seems to be missing in the environmnet of today. Good.
We got her to the home in the mountains where we were told she could stay. But, the owner of the home took one look at her laying in the back of that pickup truck and said, “She looks so scary”. And indeed she did – dark and armless and with stains on her head and face. And since she is a statue she had those eyes without eyeballs that a statue is has.
I began to walk around the front of the house. There was a large and long staircase and no way were only four men going to be able to take her up the stairs.
And then, right before my eyes, right in front of the house I saw this Little protected ares. A concrete slab with plants all around it. Flowers, Green ferns, and even a Little palm tree exactly the same size as Peace. Right next to the truck.
This is the place I said, She needs to be here, in the sun, surrounded by plants and growng things, welcoming people to this house. And, the owner of the house said, this is symbolic. Peace seems to be broken and fractured now and the Peace Pilgrim comes here with no arms.
We are her arms, I told her. We are the ones to do the work now that she left behind. The presence of this statue is going to bring great blessings on your house. She can heal here and you will be part of that.
When she is better, we will take her to her permanent home.
In tears, I watched as the men set the statue gently on the concrete, made sure she balanced. And I felt as if Peace herself was so grateful and relieved to be out of that storage shed.
It was as if this statue were a symbol of so many things that are not right in 2017. The times we live in. Women and their wisdom has been relegated to the dark hidden places and locked up. Older women are placed in lonely nursing homes where they sit in wheelchairs in the hallway waiting. Waiting. The valuable contributions of the elderly are ignored or mocked and not honored. Life goes on. But in what direction? Where are we headed now?
And suddenly I thought…this could be why I’ve been feeling so melonchaly lately.
The sense of impending doom from the political scene. The failure of a peace institution to care for one of its spokespeople. The sadness of the aging process and the battle to stay pertinent and active. Who are our models for this part of the human experience? How many wise and gentle people like Peace are being put away and forgotten, their lives not mattering and their accumulated experience not honored?
Yes, this statue for me was political and personal historical and epic. She is a symbol of so much that could be right in our human condition and is not right as we are living it now.
I plan to work on a teaching curriculum about this fine lady and when we place her in her permanent home, we will give classes about her message and her life. The rising up, as at Easter, of the spirit in a way that can be seen by many