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The Face Under The Face When I first went to the Soviet Union in 1984, I expected to meet a hospitable people, if not outgoing. The first thing I learned was that Russians never smile. They look grim. They stare. The women especially would often stare at me and then turn away abruptly. In U.S. culture, this could be interpreted as distancing, judgmental, even hostile. It was definitely uncomfortable.

On Secrets (July 2020)

Alice Herz Was Remarkable Dear Editor: I was notified that one of our members, Sam Hays, sent you information about Alice Herz, in response to the poem that Carlos Valentin III wrote about her (“Ten Days,” Jan/Feb 2019) and regarding information I recently discovered in Detroit Friends Meeting’s old files. Sam informed you that Alice was asked to leave the meeting, but I felt the need to let you know that there are more facts about this situation that we may not be able to grasp from the limited data we have. We are making assumptions and probably lack of a true understanding of the situation.

On Secrets (July 2020)

Radical Vulnerability Revisited In moving from Claremont to Los Angeles this year, one of the hardest transitions has been to try to get used to the little signs that my new neighbors post in front of their houses: PROTECTED BY XXX SECURITY SYSTEM – ARMED RESPONSE. After ten months, I still flinch each time I see these signs. They weigh on my heart as constant reminders that we don’t quite trust each other, that we’re not quite ready to be in community.

On Secrets (July 2020)

Epistle of the Friends of Color Retreat 2020 To Friends Everywhere: We begin by remembering our ancestors who were strong enough to make a way for us. Friends of Color and their families met for Pre-Gathering Retreat on 26 Day through 28 Day Sixth Month 2020. This is the eighth year Friends of Color have met for our Pre- Gathering Retreat.  First-timers felt welcomed and validated.   This year, we met virtually with our largest attendance yet. There were 47 attendees, ranging in age from 11 months through 77 years from Canada, Mexico, Switzerland and the United States of America.

On Teachers (September 2020)

Win-Win-Win-Wins Not long into the COVID-19 lockdown of April 2020, I attended a video-conference headlined by Dahni Jones, an entrepreneur and former NFL linebacker. Jones brought his trademark energy and smile to his presentation, and he left me with a singular thought: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”

On Rules (November 2020)

Vision for the Day to Be Peace I ask of thee of river, Peace, Peace, Peace. When I learn to live serenely, cares will cease. From the hills I gather courage, vision for the day to be. Strength to lead and faith to follow, All are given unto me. Peace I ask of thee of river, Peace, Peace, Peace.                     by Gwyneth Walker

On Vision (January 2021)

Cassandra 2020 Part faux Republican presidential campaign, part art project, with its candidate drawn from Greek mythology, Cassandra 2020 resists categorization. It has taken the form of community conversations, performance protest, video art, and guerilla sign-drops. It has been supported by a constant flux of contributors and co-creators, many of whom are also Quaker. It has sparked amusement, concern, scorn, joy, connection, and most importantly, curiosity.

On Vision (January 2021)

Off the Shelves Last year, our Library Committee worked diligently to create a wonderfully complete online library catalog of all the books held by Santa Monica Friends Meeting. Then, the pandemic hit. Our meetinghouse closed in March 2020, and virtually all our books have been sitting idle for a year. I have a deep love of physical books: the smell when you crack one open, the texture of a page in your hand, the way you can find a passage you’ve read by remembering where it was on the page. Physical books are absolutely delightful. I believe that everything we treasure, we should use often and reverently, not tuck it away into oblivion. [pullquote]In using the things that we value, we are able to understand what their value is.[/pullquote]

On Relevance (March 2021)

Wisdom at One with the Earth Bring into your mind the Holy, the Mystery, always within us and always around us. This Holy Mystery, I call “Christ.” I feel Christ flowing like water, blowing like wind, surrounding us, penetrating us, flowing outward from us. In this awareness, we can know that all of us belong to one another and to all creation. Now imagine that we might pivot, all together, into caring for all creation – with immediate personal and corporate action.

On Relevance (March 2021)

Wild Diversity As I sit in Quaker silence, my mind roams back over the wild places I know – icy cold snow falling all around me at a favorite mountain lake, trees I have held and spoken with, and vistas where my gaze enfolds itself into the hills and valleys far off and far below. Wilderness speaks itself deep in my soul. The untamed beauty of coastal shores and mountains run through my body and connect me to an energy bigger than myself. And though I don’t know what this energy is, I continue to step back towards it, wanting to find out.

On Relevance (March 2021)