Blessed olive leaves, Kenyan olivewood bowl,
William Morris olive and oak leaf print


n the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47.12

hen the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22.1-2

he wrongdoers shall be sternly punished. As for those that have faith and do good works, they shall be admitted to gardens watered by running streams, in which, by their Lord's leave, they shall abide for ever. Their greeting shall be: 'Peace!' Koran 14.23



I found this in a web newspaper and wanted to share with you the beautiful calligraphy, the reverence with which this book is read.

The hand of honorary Sheik Amjad Abu Sadio, 13, is seen on the Quran as he reads prior to delivering the traditional Friday speech during prayers at the Al Imam Shafay Mosque in the Jebaliya Refugee Camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, June 3, 2005.
(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Years ago, when America wanted to 'nuke' Russia, I came to realize that part of the hatred was fear and part of the fear was the difference in the alphabet, the script. And that that same fear had lain at the roots of the Holocaust. Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, these alphabets are not really different. They are brothers and sisters, fathers and sons. I used to write participants' nametags at peace conferences in Cyrillic to help break down that fear, and give the names of family members in Russian - which are our own, mart, dorc, sistra, brat, mother, daughter, sister, brother. The names of the letters in Arabic and Hebrew are mostly the same, beginning with alef. Cyril and Methodius invented their Cyrillic after studying the newly vocalized Hebrew of the Crimea region, that Hebrew that had become vocalized to aid in the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, under the influence of the swiftly spreading Islam with its use of the Koran's vocalized Arabic.

Years ago, when I taught Medieval Studies I would include Mediterranean studies with a week on Islamic culture, Fred Denny, my colleague, explaining how the Koran was read, after first washing all the orifices of the body, as entering into sacred space. My son Jonathan's Quaker t-shirt proclaims 'Every person is a holy place'. My once student Brodie Neuenschwander says that Arabic calligraphy is far more 'beautiful writing' than are Hebrew or Roman script. I went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, before entering my convent, and saw there on the Temple Mount on beautiful carpets old grey bearded men in turbans teaching young men and boys sacredness, just as in medieval manuscripts we see images of Aristotle teaching his students, among them Alexander. Later, in Sweden, on a bus, I saw a beautiful young mother, a refugee from Somalia, with her ten-year-old daughter reading the Koran together, her two older sons looking at them adoringly, filled with admiration and reverence. Fred Denny had said the best Arabic reader of the Koran was a young girl in Malaya.

We need in the schools to teach alphabets, not only our own conventions, but also to explore and celebrate the otherness of the others' alphabets, seeing them a family, perhaps even learning from them for our own more effective conventions and technologies of communication for breakthroughs to peace, when we can beat our spears into pruning hooks, our swords into ploughshares. Children who see and hold tiny Hebrew English Psalters will never 'holocaust' Jews. Such Psalters are in our library, on the children's shelf, and they instinctively choose them first and delight in learning how to read the other way round. Peace is from the capacity to see, without fear, with love, the other way round from one's own fears.



Dearworthiest Godfriends, Carissimi Amici di Dio,
Some of what we discuss on Godfriends is trauma. From my own childhood in bombing in Bristol, London and Sussex I share a deep concern about the effects of war on civilians - which is illegal to wage. My mother had exquisite Dresden figurines in porcelein, most of which had been damaged in London bombs. I can remember worrying about their heads loosened on their wire supports. This morning the BBC broadcast on the web pictures of Dresden after its holocaust and today. These can be found lower down by clicking on 'In pictures' at the following URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4261263.stm
Con gli Amici di Dio talora discutiamo del trauma. A motivo dei miei ricordi di bambina a Bristol, a Londra e in Sussex ho una grande preoccupazione per gli effetti della guerra sui civili – è illegale coinvolgere la gente comune nella guerra. Mia madre possedeva delle bellissime statuette in porcellana di Dresda, la maggior parte delle quali sono state danneggiate durante i bombardamenti a Londra. Le loro teste rotte suscitavano in me  molta ansia. Proprio oggi la BBC ha pubblicato sul Web le immagini di Dresda dopo l'olocausto, e della città così come è al presente:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4261263.stm
Yesterday, we went up to Vincigliata, to visit another hermit who lives by the little church there that Amalia Ciardi Duprè has filled with her terra cotta sculpture, meeting in silence in its sacristy, where Amalia has figured Mary and her Child, the Lion, Ox, Eagle and Man, the Man holding the Tabernacle in his arms, the Crucifixion and the Dicing for his garments, and amongst that dying, scenes of teeming life, birds, a squirrel with a hazelnut, lilies, a cock and hen, like those there that lay eggs for my hermit friend each morning, an owl, like the owl hooting this morning in this cemetery in the midst of Florence! Lent is a time of remembering, converting, so as not to repeat past crimes and woes.
Ieri siamo state a Vincigliata per fare visita ad un altro eremita che vive vicino ad una chiesetta, che Amalia Ciardi Duprè ha colmato con la sua scultura in terra cotta. E' stato un incontro nel silenzio della sagrestia, dove Amalia ha rappresentato la Madonna col Bambino, il Leone, il Bue, l’Aquila e l’Uomo che porta il Tabernacolo nelle braccia, la Crocifissione di Gesù, l'episodio della Sua tunica tirata a sorte con il Gioco della Zara. In mezzo a queste scene di morte scene di fervida vita, uccelli, uno scoiattolo con una nocciola, gigli, un gallo e una gallina, come il gallo che ogni mattina canta all’alba e come le galline che depongono le uova per il mio amico eremita, un gufo, come il gufo il cui grido abbiamo udito questa mattina nel nostro cimitero in mezzo alla città! La Quaresima è il tempo della memoria, il tempodella conversione, così da non ripetere nel futuro i vecchi crimini e mali.
Bless you, Dio vi benedica,

Nelson Mandela, Trafalgar Square, 2/2/05: “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times ... that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said.// “L'immensa povertà e l'oscena ineguaglianza sono flagelli così terribili dei nostri tempi . . . da dover essere equiparati alla schiavitù e all’‘apartheid’, sono il male della società”.

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY
holloway.julia@tiscali.it http://www.umilta.net http://www.florin.ms


TUESDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2005: True stories, tree stories

From Brother Elia in the Holy Land:

Shalom Sr. Julia,  Both of the stories about trees were so encouraging.  We too started planting trees on a terrain that was devastated by war and devoid of trees.  Now there is a little forest where many find rest during retreat....and 100 olive trees that give a very pure oil as we hand pick them every season....and various citrus trees.  What was a wasteland with all the scars of burnt earth filled only with trenches and barbed wire has become transformed into a garden....very beautiful and peaceful filled with the atmosphere that only God's creative Spirit can add to our efforts since 1973.  All shall be well and all matter of thing shall be well.  In his presence and love, Br. Elia



These two true stories have come from Laura:

Two tree stories in a row

Subject: The Woman Who Planted Trees

What do trees have to do with peace?

Thirty years ago, in the country of Kenya, 90% of the forest had been chopped down. Without trees to hold the topsoil in place, the land became like a desert.

When the women and girls would go in search of firewood in order to prepare the meals, they would have to spend hours and hours looking for what few branches remained.

A woman named Wangari watched all of this happening. She decided that there must be a way to take better care of the land and take better care of the women and girls.

So she planted a tree. And then she planted another. She wanted to plant thousands of trees, but she realized that it would take a very long time if she was the only one doing it. So she taught the women who were looking for firewood to plant trees, and they were paid a small amount for each sapling they grew.

Soon she organized women all over the country to plant trees, and a movement took hold.  It was
called the Green Belt Movement, and with each passing year, more and more trees covered the land.

But something else was happening as the women planted those trees. Something else besides those trees was taking root. The women began to have confidence in themselves. They began to see that they could make a difference. They began to see that they were capable of many things, and that they were equal to the men. They began to recognize that they were deserving of being treated with respect and dignity.

Changes like these were threatening to some. The president of the country didn't like any of this.
So police were sent to intimidate and beat Wangari for planting trees, and for planting ideas of equality
and democracy in people's heads, especially in women's. She was accused of "subversion" and arrested many times.

Once, while Wangari was trying to plant trees, she was clubbed by guards hired by developers who wanted the lands cleared.  She was hospitalized with head injuries. But she survived, and it only made her realize that she was on the right path.

For almost thirty years, she was threatened physically, and she was often made fun of in the press.  But she didn't flinch.  She only had to look in the eyes of her three children, and in the eyes of the thousands of women and girls who were blossoming right along with the trees, and she found the strength to continue.

And that is how it came to be that 30 million trees have been planted in Africa, one tree at a time.
The landscapes -- both the external one of the land and the internal one of the people -- have been transformed.

In 2002, the people of Kenya held a democratic election, and the president who opposed Wangari and
her Green Belt Movement is no longer in office. And Wangari is now Kenya's Assistant Minister for the Environment.

She is 65 years old, and this year she planted one more tree in celebration and thanksgiving for being given a very great honor:

Wangari Maathai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is the first African woman to receive this award.

After she was notified, she gave a speech entitled, "What Do Trees Have To Do With Peace?"
She pointed out how most wars are fought over limited natural resources, such as oil, land, coal or diamonds.  She called for an end to corporate greed, and for leaders to build more just societies.  She added:

"Our recent experience in Kenya gives hope to all who have been struggling for a better future.
It shows it is possible to bring about positive change, and still do it peacefully.  All it takes is courage and
perseverance, and a belief that positive change is possible. That is why the slogan for our campaign was 'It is Possible!'"

"On behalf of all African women, I want to express my profound appreciation for this honor,
which will serve to encourage women in Kenya, in Africa, and around the world to raise their
voices and not to be deterred."

"When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.  We also secure the future
for our children.  I call on those around the world to celebrate by planting a tree wherever you are."

As she received the Nobel Peace Prize this week in Oslo, she invited us all to get involved:

"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds
and in the process heal our own."


The Man Who Planted Trees
by Jean G. Iono
[Translation from French by Peter Doyle]

In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, we must have the good fortune to observe its action over a long period of years.  If this action is devoid of all selfishness, if the idea that directs it is one of unqualified generosity, if it is absolutely certain that it has not sought recompense anywhere, and if moreover it has left visible marks on the world, then we are unquestionably dealing with an unforgettable character.

About forty years ago I went on a long hike, through hills absolutely unknown to tourists, in that very old region where the Alps penetrate into Provence.

This region is bounded to the south-east and south by the middle course of the Durance, between Sisteron and Mirabeau; to the north by the upper course of the Drôme, from its source down to Die; to the west by the plains of Comtat Venaissin and the outskirts of Mont Ventoux.  It includes all the northern part of the Département of Basses-Alpes, the south of Drôme and a little enclave of Vaucluse.

At the time I undertook my long walk through this deserted region, it consisted of barren and monotonous lands, at about 1200 to 1300 meters above sea level.  Nothing grew there except wild lavender.

I was crossing this country at its widest part, and after walking for three days, I found myself in the most complete desolation.  I was camped next to the skeleton of an abandoned village.  I had used the last of my water the day before, and I needed to find more.  Even though they were in ruins, these houses all huddled together and looking like an old wasps' nest, making me think that there must at one time have been a spring or a well there.  There was indeed a spring, but it was dry.  The five or six roofless houses, ravaged by sun and wind, and the small chapel with its tumble-down belfry, were arrayed like the houses and chapels of living villages, but all life had disappeared.

It was a beautiful June day with plenty of sun, but on these shelterless lands, high up in the sky, the wind whistled with an unendurable brutality.  Its growling in the carcasses of the houses was like that of a wild beast disturbed during its meal.

I had to move my camp.  After five hours of walking, I still hadn't found water, and nothing gave me hope of finding any.  Everywhere there was the same dryness, the same stiff, woody plants.  I thought I saw in the distance a small black silhouette.  On a chance, I headed towards it.  It was a shepherd.  Thirty lambs or so were resting near him on the scorching ground.

He gave me a drink from his gourd, and a little later he led me to his shepherd's cottage, tucked down in an undulation of the plateau.  He drew his water -- excellent -- from a natural hole, very deep, above which he had installed a rudimentary windlass.

This man spoke little.  This is common among those who live alone, but he seemed sure of himself, and confident in this assurance, which seemed remarkable in this land shorn of everything.  He lived not in a cabin but in a real house of stone, from the looks of which it was clear that his own labor had restored the ruins he had found on his arrival.  His roof was solid and water-tight.  The wind struck against the roof tiles with the sound of the sea crashing on the beach.

His household was in order, his dishes washed, his floor swept, his rifle greased; his soup boiled over the fire; I noticed then that he was also freshly shaven, that all his buttons were solidly sewn, and that his clothes were mended with such care as to make the patches invisible.

He shared his soup with me, and when afterwards I offered him my tobacco pouch, he told me that he didn't smoke.  His dog, as silent as he, was friendly without being fawning.

It had been agreed immediately that I would pass the night there, the closest village being still more than a day and a half farther on.  Furthermore, I understood perfectly well the character of the rare villages of that region.  There are four or five of them dispersed far from one another on the flanks of the hills, in groves of white oaks at the very ends of roads passable by carriage.  They are inhabited by woodcutters who make charcoal.  They are places where the living is poor.  The families, pressed together in close quarters by a climate that is exceedingly harsh, in summer as well as in winter, struggle ever more selfishly against each other.  Irrational contention grows beyond all bounds, fueled by a continuous struggle to escape from that place.  The men carry their charcoal to the cities in their trucks, and then return.  The most solid qualities crack under this perpetual Scottish shower.  The women stir up bitterness.  There is competition over everything, from the sale of charcoal to the benches at church.  The virtues fight amongst themselves, the vices fight amongst themselves, and there is a ceaseless general combat between the vices and the virtues.  On top of all that, the equally ceaseless wind irritates the nerves.  There are epidemics of suicides and numerous cases of insanity, almost always murderous.

The shepherd, who did not smoke, took out a bag and poured a pile of acorns out onto the table.  He began to examine them one after another with a great deal of attention, separating the good ones from the bad.  I smoked my pipe.  I offered to help him, but he told me it was his own business.  Indeed, seeing the care that he devoted to this job, I did not insist.  This was our whole conversation.  When he had in the good pile a fair number of acorns, he counted them out into packets of ten.  In doing this he eliminated some more of the acorns, discarding the smaller ones and those that showed even the slightest crack, for he examined them very closely.  When he had before him one hundred perfect acorns he stopped, and we went to bed.

The company of this man brought me a feeling of peace.  I asked him the next morning if I might stay and rest the whole day with him.  He found that perfectly natural.  Or more exactly, he gave me the impression that nothing could disturb him.  This rest was not absolutely necessary to me, but I was intrigued and I wanted to find out more about this man.  He let out his flock and took them to the pasture.  Before leaving, he soaked in a bucket of water the little sack containing the acorns that he had so carefully chosen and counted.

I noted that he carried as a sort of walking stick an iron rod as thick as his thumb and about one and a half meters long.  I set off like someone out for a stroll, following a route parallel to his.  His sheep pasture lay at the bottom of a small valley.  He left his flock in the charge of his dog, and climbed up towards the spot where I was standing.  I was afraid that he was coming to reproach me for my indiscretion, but not at all -- it was his own route, and he invited me to come along with him if I had nothing better to do.  He continued on another two hundred meters up the hill.

Having arrived at the place he had been heading for, he begin to pound his iron rod into the ground.  This made a hole in which he placed an acorn, whereupon he covered over the hole again.  He was planting oak trees.  I asked him if the land belonged to him.  He answered no.  Did he know whose land it was?  He did not know.  He supposed that it was communal land, or perhaps it belonged to someone who did not care about it.  He himself did not care to know who the owners were.  In this way, he planted his one hundred acorns with great care.

After the noon meal, he began once more to pick over his acorns.  I must have put enough insistence into my questions, because he answered them.  For three years now, he had been planting trees in this solitary way.  He had planted one hundred thousand.  Of these one hundred thousand, twenty thousand had come up.  He counted on losing another half of them to rodents and to everything else that is unpredictable in the designs of Providence.  That left ten thousand oaks that would grow in this place where before there was nothing.

It was at this moment that I began to wonder about his age.  He was clearly more than fifty.  Fifty-five, he told me.  His name was Elzéard Bouffier.  He had owned a farm in the plains, where he lived most of his life.  He had lost his only son, and then his wife.  He had retired into this solitude, where he took pleasure in living slowly, with his flock of sheep and his dog.  He had concluded that this country was dying for lack of trees.  He added that, having nothing more important to do, he had resolved to remedy the situation.

Leading as I did at the time a solitary life, despite my youth, I knew how to treat the souls of solitary people with delicacy.  Still, I made a mistake.  It was precisely my youth that forced me to imagine the future in my own terms, including a certain search for happiness.  I told him that in thirty years, these ten thousand trees would be magnificent.  He replied very simply that, if God gave him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many other trees that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.

He had also begun to study the propagation of beeches. and he had near his house a nursery filled with seedlings grown from beechnuts.  His little wards, which he had protected from his sheep by a screen fence, were growing beautifully.  He was also considering birches for the valley bottoms where, he told me, moisture lay slumbering just a few meters beneath the surface of the soil.

We parted the next day.

The next year the war of 1914 came, in which I was engaged for five years.  An infantryman could hardly think about trees.  To tell the truth, the whole business hadn't made a very deep impression on me; I took it to be a hobby, like a stamp collection, and forgot about it.

With the war behind me, I found myself with a small demobilization bonus and a great desire to breathe a little pure air.  Without any preconceived notion beyond that, I struck out again along the trail through that deserted country.

The land had not changed.  Nonetheless, beyond that dead village I perceived in the distance a sort of gray fog that covered the hills like a carpet.  Ever since the day before, I had been thinking about the shepherd who planted trees.  "Ten thousand oaks", I had said to myself, "must really take up a lot of space."

I had seen too many people die during those five years not to be able to imagine easily the death of Elzéard Bouffier, especially since when a man is twenty he thinks of a man of fifty as an old codger for whom nothing remains but to die.  He was not dead.  In fact, he was very spry.  He had changed his job.  He only had four sheep now, but to make up for this he had about a hundred beehives.  He had gotten rid of the sheep because they threatened his crop of trees.  He told me (as indeed I could see for myself) that the war had not disturbed him at all.  He had continued imperturbably with his planting.

The oaks of 1910 were now ten years old and were taller than me and than him.  The spectacle was impressive.  I was literally speechless and, as he didn't speak himself, we passed the whole day in silence, walking through his forest.  It was in three sections, eleven kilometers long overall and, at its widest point, three kilometers wide.  When I considered that this had all sprung from the hands and from the soul of this one man -- without technical aids -- it struck me that men could be as effective as God in domains other than destruction.

He had followed his idea, and the beeches that reached up to my shoulders and extending as far as the eye could see bore witness to it.  The oaks were now good and thick, and had passed the age where they were at the mercy of rodents; as for the designs of Providence, to destroy the work that had been created would henceforth require a cyclone.  He showed me admirable stands of birches that dated from five years ago, that is to say from 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun.  He had planted them in the valley bottoms where he had suspected, correctly, that there was water close to the surface.  They were as tender as young girls, and very determined.

This creation had the air, moreover, of working by a chain reaction.  He had not troubled about it; he went on obstinately with his simple task.  But, in going back down to the village, I saw water running in streams that, within living memory, had always been dry.  It was the most striking revival that he had shown me.  These streams had borne water before, in ancient days.  Certain of the sad villages that I spoke of at the beginning of my account had been built on the sites of ancient Gallo-Roman villages, of which there still remained traces; archeologists digging there had found fishhooks in places where in more recent times cisterns were required in order to have a little water.

The wind had also been at work, dispersing certain seeds.  As the water reappeared, so too did willows, osiers, meadows, gardens, flowers ... and a certain reason to live.

But the transformation had taken place so slowly that it had been taken for granted, without provoking surprise.  The hunters who climbed the hills in search of hares or wild boars had noticed the spreading of the little trees, but they set it down to the natural spitefulness of the earth.  That is why no one had touched the work of this man.  If they had suspected him, they would have tried to thwart him.  But he never came under suspicion: Who among the villagers or the administrators would ever have suspected that anyone could show such obstinacy in carrying out this magnificent act of generosity?

Beginning in 1920, I never let more than a year go by without paying a visit to Elzéard Bouffier.  I never saw him waver or doubt, though God alone can tell when God's own hand is in a thing!  I have said nothing of his disappointments, but you can easily imagine that, for such an accomplishment, it was necessary to conquer adversity; that, to assure the victory of such a passion, it was necessary to fight against despair.  One year, he had planted ten thousand maples.  They all died.  The next year, he gave up on maples and went back to beeches, which did even better than the oaks.

To get a true idea of this exceptional character, one must not forget that he worked in total solitude; so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of talking.  Or maybe he just didn't see the need for it.

In 1933, he received the visit of an astonished forest ranger.  This functionary ordered him to cease building fires outdoors, for fear of endangering this natural forest.  It was the first time, this naive man told him, that a forest had been observed to grow up entirely on its own.  At the time of this incident, he was thinking of planting beeches at a spot twelve kilometers from his house.  To avoid the coming and going -- because at the time he was seventy-five years old -- he planned to build a cabin of stone out where he was doing his planting.  This he did, the next year.

In 1935, a veritable administrative delegation went to examine this "natural forest".  There was an important personage from Waters and Forests, a deputy, and some technicians.  Many useless words were spoken.  It was decided to do something, but luckily nothing was done, except for one truly useful thing: placing the forest under the protection of the State and forbidding anyone from coming there to make charcoal.  For it was impossible not to be taken with the beauty of these young trees in full health.  And the forest exercised its seductive powers even on the deputy himself.

I had a friend among the chief foresters who were with the delegation.  I explained the mystery to him.  One day the next week, we went off together to look for Elzéard Bouffier.  We found him hard at work, twenty kilometers away from the place where the inspection had taken place.

This chief forester was not my friend for nothing.  He understood the value of things.  He knew how to remain silent.  I offered up some eggs I had brought with me as a gift.  We split our snack three ways, and then passed several hours in mute contemplation of the landscape.

The hillside whence we had come was covered with trees six or seven meters high.  I remembered the look of the place in 1913: a desert ... The peaceful and steady labor, the vibrant highland air, his frugality, and above all, the serenity of his soul had given the old man a kind of solemn good health.  He was an athlete of God.  I asked myself how many hectares he had yet to cover with trees.

Before leaving, my friend made a simple suggestion concerning certain species of trees to which the terrain seemed to be particularly well suited.  He was not insistent, "for the very good reason", he told me afterwards, "that this fellow knows a lot more about this sort of thing than I do."  After another hour of walking, this thought having travelled along with him, he added, "He knows a lot more about this sort of thing than anybody -- and he has found a jolly good way of being happy!"

It was thanks to the efforts of this chief forester that the forest was protected, and with it, the happiness of this man.  He designated three forest rangers for their protection, and terrorized them to such an extent that they remained indifferent to any jugs of wine that the woodcutters might offer as bribes.

The forest did not run any grave risks except during the war of 1939.  Then automobiles were being run on wood alcohol, and there was never enough wood.  They began to cut some of the stands of the oaks of 1910, but the trees stood so far from any useful road that the enterprise turned out to be bad from a financial point of view, and was soon abandoned.  The shepherd never knew anything about it.  He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his task, as untroubled by the war of 39 as he had been of the war of 14.

I saw Elzéard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945.  He was then eighty-seven years old.  I had once more set off along my trail through the wilderness, only to find that now, in spite of the shambles in which the war had left the whole country, there was a motor coach running between the valley of the Durance and the mountain.  I set down to this relatively rapid means of transportation the fact that I no longer recognized the landmarks I knew from my earlier visits.  It also seemed that the route was taking me through entirely new places.  I had to ask the name of a village to be sure that I was indeed passing through that same region, once so ruined and desolate.

The coach set me down at Vergons.  In 1913, this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had merely three inhabitants.  They were savages, hating each other, and earning their living by trapping: Physically and morally, they resembled prehistoric men.  The nettles devoured the abandoned houses that surrounded them.  Their lives were without hope, it was only a matter of waiting for death to come: a situation that hardly predisposes one to virtue.

All that had changed, even to the air itself.  In place of the dry, brutal gusts that had greeted me long ago, a gentle breeze whispered to me, bearing sweet odors.  A sound like that of running water came from the heights above:  it was the sound of the wind in the trees.  And most astonishing of all, I heard the sound of real water running into a pool.  I saw that they had built a fountain, that it was full of water, and what touched me most, that next to it they had planted a lime-tree that must be at least four years old, already grown thick, an incontestable symbol of resurrection.

Furthermore, Vergons showed the signs of labors for which hope is a requirement:  Hope must therefore have returned.  They had cleared out the ruins, knocked down the broken walls, and rebuilt five houses.  The hamlet now counted twenty-eight inhabitants, including four young families.  The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens that bore, mixed in with each other but still carefully laid out, vegetables and flowers, cabbages and rosebushes, leeks and gueules-de-loup, celery and anemones.  It was now a place where anyone would be glad to live.

  From there, I continued on foot.  The war from which we had just barely emerged had not permitted life to vanish completely, and now Lazarus was out of his tomb.  On the lower flanks of the mountain, I saw small fields of barley and rye; in the bottoms of the narrow valleys, meadowlands were just turning green.

It has taken only the eight years that now separate us from that time for the whole country around there to blossom with splendor and ease.  On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 there are now well-kept farms, the sign of a happy and comfortable life.  The old springs, fed by rain and snow now that are now retained by the forests, have once again begun to flow.  The brooks have been channelled.  Beside each farm, amid groves of maples, the pools of fountains are bordered by carpets of fresh mint.  Little by little, the villages have been rebuilt.  Yuppies have come from the plains, where land is expensive, bringing with them youth, movement, and a spirit of adventure.  Walking along the roads you will meet men and women in full health, and boys and girls who know how to laugh, and who have regained the taste for the traditional rustic festivals.  Counting both the previous inhabitants of the area, now unrecognizable from living in plenty, and the new arrivals, more than ten thousand persons owe their happiness to Elzéard Bouffier.

When I consider that a single man, relying only on his own simple physical and moral resources, was able to transform a desert into this land of Canaan, I am convinced that despite everything, the human condition is truly admirable.  But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God.

Elzéard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.



Dearworthy Godfriends,

Am reading, re-reading, a marvellous book, Stephen Graham, With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem, published just before the Revolution, and which had inspired my own pilgrimage to the Holy Land before entering my convent. Bought it off the web, a much scuffed copy, but can re-bind it, still using the image in gold on its cover of a Russian peasant pilgrim with his lantern with the Jerusalem Holy Fire to carry back to Holy Russia to light candles with before icons.

Hedera's marbled papers are in great use in the Library at the moment, fine but tattered old Italian school books filled with engravings and photographs of fine Italian art are now being covered with them, and looking elegant again. Plus have just re-bound another scuffed book, belonging to Giannozzo, in his family since the nineteenth century, by Hugh Macmillan, Bible Teachings in Nature. It reads like poetry, like science, all rolled in one, it is Protestant theology. It has chapters on the exquisite beauty and usefulness of leaves - before they knew about chlorophyl - and so I have rebound it in green with green marbled end papers. And today will go to Enrico Giannini for him to make a label on leather in gold letters for it. [Later: Have cycled through snowflakes and the book is now really beautiful, with a green and gold leather label, handcrafted by Giannini, and I could watch the whole process to learn how to do it myself. He was praising our marbled papers. We were talking abut the economic situation, how the artisans have to pay so much rent and tax they barely survive, only breaking even. And I realized that with the Vow of Poverty that is all I need to do, not make a profit, but simply break even. A nun with a bicycle and a computer.]

Yesterday, in our now bitter cold, Jamie Rotherham, who is from Yorkshire, educated by the Benedictines, and I went to the Antico Setificio Fiorentino to see if they could commission a painting from him using their silks. See http://www.florin.ms/rotherham.html The silk dyeing and weaving factory still uses the ancient techniques, materials, equipment. In the old days Florentines in their country places would plant six mulberry trees for their silkworms. I've come away dreaming of how we can embroider on strips of this shot silk (warp and woof in slightly different colours so the effect when the fabric is shifted in the light is gorgeous) for placing on chasubles. And Karen is sending some heavy white silk. So at Mass this morning I was designing such a chasuble in my mind. And the Servite who was celebrating is the one who dances. Yes, the Mass should be joy and beauty, like David before the Ark.

And after the Setificio we took clothing in this very cold weather to the gypsy camp outside Florence at Poderaccio where they now all have new wooden houses. Alas, the sense of a village is lost. These Rom are from Albania and Yugoslavia and are Muslim. The Imam's wife, who is very beautiful, begged to show us the mosque, explaining the men are in one room, the women in another, and its library. She also said, very movingly, 'We are praying here five times daily for peace in the world. We want peace so much'. The Rom Imam is Sufi.

And the day before the Olivetan monk, Bernardo Francesco, had come with books and a beeswax candle from Mount Athos, which has now joined Father Nathanel's candles and those given me from Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre. Bernardo asked to see our prayer space and I shyly said, 'No', because it is my cell. But at least I can describe it. I have the icon I painted of the Madonna and Child, where I modelled her on a Jewish mother I saw at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on a Friday. I have the Penitente Crucifix, hand carved in New Mexico. I have the candles before it and two hazel nuts, one Australian and huge, the other English, wild and very small, and an olive branch. In the drawer of the prayer tables are relics of the two Fatima shepherd children, of Padre Pio, of St Anthony of Padua, of St Cuthbert. The pride of place is Father Nathanael's icon of Julian of Norwich. On the floor is a carpet which was a Morroccan woman's shawl in red and white and black. The linen on the prayer table is handwoven in Farfa Sabina from traditional Byzantine designs with two birds flanking a chalice, symbolizing the Shekinah. We have breviaries in English, Italian, Latin, and Anglican ones as well. Father Matthew has celebrated Mass here. And we have baptized Leonardo here. And Bernardo says it may be possible to sell our marbled papers up in the shop at San Miniato's monastery to help Hedera and her family. That would be splendid.
And so here come together so many religions, really all one, as our Sufi Rom Imam said, 'We all worship the one God'. With God there are no boundaries. Likewise his Creation, our blue marble. My Anglican convent in Sussex, about which I have written at http://www.florin.ms/holmhurst.html, was a block away from where Teilhard de Chardin lived and wrote. De Chardin in some of his writings described being in China studying paleantology and there was no Mass wafer. So he celebrated Mass with the whole world, the Mass on the World. Our library had all of his books.

Bless you,

If thou intendest and seekest nothing else but the good pleasure of God and the profit of thy neighbour, thou wilt enjoy internal liberty. If thy heart were right, then every creature would be to thee as a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine./ Ove tu non voglia nè cerchi altro che il beneplacito di Dio, e il vantaggio del prossimo, godrai della libertà interiore. Se il tuo cuore fosse retto, ogni creatura ti sarebbe specchio di vita, e libro di santa dottrina. De Imitatione Christi II.iv

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY
holloway.julia@tiscali.it http://www.umilta.net http://www.florin.ms

TUESDAY, 11 JANUARY 2005: The essay, Oliveleaf Chronicle (http://www.umilta.net/chronicle.html, 09/08/98-28/04/99) was a weblog from before there were weblogs. It was cut and pasted together from letters on the Internet, letters from Kenya, letters from Sweden, letters from Russia, letters from Italy, letters from America, letters from Israel, letters from Ireland, letters from around our blue marble. These letters were about trauma abuse and its healing following the bombs in Nairobi and Omagh, following the copy-cat school massacres in Dunblane, Littleton and Beslan. Then, in 2002, I was writing more normal e-mails and decided to put them, too, into a weblog, for which see below.

Since Oliveleaf Chronicle was written there have been in succession the 9/11 Twin Towers, and the revenge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the shift in the global axis from Communism/Capitalism to Islam/'Christendom', followed by the natural disaster of the Indian Ocean's tsunami affecting Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, exactly a year after Bam's earthquake in Iran. As I write these words there is the stench of rotting humanity in Falluja, in Sri Lanka, in Thailand, in Sumatra. Court martials are proceeding on prison abuse in Iraq but not yet on Guantànamo. In Africa cheap arms have led to the use and abuse of child soldiers, to displacement and genocide. Only one story gives hope, a child soldier under Pol Pot now clearing land mines and teaching others how to do so. Even the earth itself is jarred and shaking. I remember once reading a book written by English women Rabbis, and how they spoke of the need to heal the cracks of the earth, to bring it back to wholeness.

I have put together some news stories about abuse - which we can see as 'crimes against humanity' - and trauma, which can arise from human abuse or from natural disaster. These can be accessed at http://www.florin.ms/weblog1.html. There are also the essays: http://www.umilta.net/mercy.html, http://www.umilta.net/abuse.html, http://www.umilta.net/apron.html, http://www.umilta.net/nairobiomagh.html and others which may be found on the Oliveleaf Website.

Here is a child in Thailand whose identity is being sought by Phuket Hospital:

He is us. An orphan at Christmas. He is every child who lives through every war or natural disaster. With wells of loneliness. Of lostness. Numbed by terror.

In such great need of oliveleaf healing.


SUNDAY, 14 JULY 2002: Arezzo for Helena and Egeria

Yesterday was spent going to Arezzo, to see the manuscript containing the only surviving version of Egeria's pilgrimage to the Holy Places. She had done the pilgrimage in the fourth century, copying the Empress Helena. The manuscript is eleventh century from Montecassino. When I got there, despite appointment and all, the librarians on duty said the one who needed to give permission was not there. So I was allowed the microfilm and some books but not the manuscript. It's not a beautiful one, no illuminations.

But in a sense it is illuminated in Arezzo by Piero della Francesca's frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross, about Adam and Seth, Solomon and Sheba, Helena and Constantine. And these I did see for the first time in reality, not as mere reproduction. They are very lovely.

I had done Egeria's pilgrimages, before entering my convent now twelve years ago, except to Constantinople, for they are also Helena of York's, Paula and Eustochium's of Rome, Birgitta of Sweden's, Margery Kempe's of Lynn.

Arezzo is Ghibelline, rather than Guelf, meaning its history is oligarchical, not republican. The architecture in Italy spells out the politics, swallow tailed battlements for Ghibellines, square ones for Guelfs. The Guelfs supported the Pope, the Ghibellines the Emperor. Arezzo is lovely but aristocratic, not a city for commoners, unlike Florence. All banners and coats of arms. When I go from library to library I get there early in the morning, seeing these cities in the early morning light, the air filled with swallows.

When Marianne/Hedera this morning at Mass heard there is possibly help from Godfriends she was so happy! Her dream of the room and the cradle. I took up the gypsy children at Eucharist for them to be blessed and the young priest was delighted. Then the three little boys went and knelt in prayer in front of the small icon the Jerusalem Community has by the altar. Spontaneously. It is part of their tradition in Romania. Then giving blessed bread in the streets of Florence to more such families.

The Guardian was discussing weblogs and some of you have written saying you want these letters saved. I don't write them to be kept, but it would be possible to make a weblog of them, with the last letter always first, on the website so that if one of you wanted to retrieve a letter it could be found. It would also be possible to put images on the weblog that I can't send in e-mails. For instance here I could scan the Arezzo tickets to see the Piero Della Francesca frescoes, the Cimabue Crucifix, and the black and white photograph of the gypsy family and their cradle with the swaddled baby in it.

The weather here, hot and damp, and will get worse come August. We keep going with fruit juice and with opening the windows at night to bring in the cooler air, then during the day keeping the shutters closed. Horrible travelling by train, as if the earth wanted to burn up. Global warming. But lovely being on my bicycle getting to the station and then on foot in the medieval/Renaissance streets of Arezzo.

Bless you,

WEDNESDAY, 10 JULY 2002: Priors and Beggars

It's all right! Padre priore is in favour of their presence! Keep up your prayers for Marianne/Hedera. She's begging on the steps of the Badia with a photograph of Robert, and very pregnant with this next one. I shared lunch with her. After a lovely long contemplative wait to speak with padre priore in the abbey's choir stalls, knowing that she was sitting on the abbey steps. I am longing for her to see the cradle. Padre priore was grateful for what I could tell him. And I left with his blessing.

WEDNESDAY, 10 JULY 2002: Rom

Your prayers, please. Today I speak with padre priore of the Jerusalem Community. There is upset about the Rom coming to Mass. Their side saying they mustn't come up to receive the Eucharist and that they are making the Badia dirty. Since Marianne/Maria/Hedera started to come last year, when I gave her blessed bread and you sent her baby clothes, the group has grown to about thirty five each Sunday, women in their lovely full skirts aglow with colour, in their very best, two small boys whom I take up for a blessing, and the men, who cross themselves not once but three times kneeling on the ground, who are respectful, and who ask for the postcards, kissing them. They are from Romania, Orthodox, and they live on the streets, the poorest of all the gypsies. The Badia was dirty before they came. Tomorrow I speak with the Romanian Orthodox priest who is also librarian of the theological faculty in Florence. When we heard about the upset, Assunta and I went to the Rumanian Orthodox church for its Eucharist aglow with candles and babies and friendship to ask the priest if we could speak for the Rom. Everyone says they ought to work, not beg, not steal, ought to assimilate into society. This is the first place they have sought to assimilate, and I would have thought the very best. It is a miracle. They are coming for the spirituality, the blessed bread, they are hungry, spiritually, physically. They are surprisingly clean, never smelling, sometimes saying 'Someone here hasn't washed' of one of the poor Florentines or Albanians, and I've seen them trying to clean up the cigarette buts of the Florentines and Albanians in the cloister. They have a love of beauty, of God. It's that the Rom are our Samaritans, our lepers, our scapegoat. The other Rom, from Kosovo, who are Moslem, who at least have a camp, last week had fifteen of their slum shelters bulldozed as a health hazard, precisely those rooms I had described with no furniture but a baby cradle, where the whole family gathers and sits together, without their shoes to keep the floor clean. Their dignified Sufi leader, looking about him at the squalor they have to live in, had said to me 'We are all contemplatives of one God, and this life but a passage'. Another camp has become all Pentecostal. In the midst of this greater problem I have been listening to Marianne/Hedera who says 'Don't go to the Assistenza Sociale for help. They will take my baby away from me as they earlier tried with Robert'. Her husband is seeking work and a room for them where they can have the new-born and its cradle. I keep thinking of Mary and her new-born in Bethlehem, of Miriam, Moses, and Pharoah's daughter in Egypt, where the midwives were instructed to kill the babies. Pray that I can be persuasive on their behalf. If only we could live Christ's Gospel.

TUESDAY, 2 JULY 2002: Bricolage

Petter writes from northern Europe:

Dearworthy Julia,

Was reading this and thinking of the patterns I am looking into now, Rangoli, the common Indians' version of yantras, or sacred geometry. Taken care of as Rangoli designs by woman...They are incredibly beautiful, I saw some of them in early mornings outside villagehouses myself. Mostly done with powdered white chalk, the one done in rice etc. are reserved for more special occasions I think. It is the ephemereal part of it that made the connection with me. Our own transience as bodies, as God's spirit never ceases to move...These woman in India are artists, blessed with the absence of such "knowledge" themself, I dare say...,these patterns of extraordinary beauty lasts rarely a day, drawn with powdered chalk as they are, usually early in the morning. The claim for a lasting self in attaching ownership or signature to such a work is obviously doomed to failure. Even the buddhist craftsmen in not signing their monumental Buddha statues, that lasts for centuries and millennias, were of the same understanding...And perhaps, this is the very thing that enable uniqueness to enter and embody itself in a given form. The paradox being that the artist as being so, a doer of art, has to undo himself as creator in his own image, before the work can stand autonomous and reflect precisely what the viewer put in...Lets face it, experiencing art is a refined act of projection, not then thinking of the possible sources for the material one projects. All sort of problems arise when reflection of this kind starts...The exact opposite of drawing the Kolam on the floor while the cow in the next moment trottles over and disperse the whole pattern, thats how it is, it lasts a minute, or longer, no one knows, just like with us humans...So there is a lot to learn about "attitude" from the "folk" artists, those who carry the visual language of a cultural tradition without claiming to a sovereign cultural self for doing so. A lot...

Thanks for existing,---

Julia adds: Then I looked back and realized I was writing about making cradles, coffins . . .  A friend of mine at Berkeley wrote a book called 'Poems without Names', about medieval poetry, which is usually unsigned, anonymous, in praise of God. Am remembering the pilgrim prayer from Walter Hilton in the fourteenth century, from Augustine Baker in the seventeenth century, 'I have nought, I am nought, I seek nought but sweet Jesus in Jerusalem'. A lovely mantra. It used to be my prayer those hour-long walks in the mountains to Mass, which I now miss so much.

MONDAY, 1 JULY 2002: Bricolage

Dearworthy Godfriends,

Bricolage is a French word and concept, meaning you make do, you create, with what you have lying around. I've just made a Rom cradle. Its rockers I am having to have re-done. The thrown-away door wood I used for them broke, being too hollow inside to hold. But this cradle gives us a pattern. And it's for Marianne/Hedera's baby. These are the cradles that are at the centre of the Roms' slums, beautiful handmade cradles with babies in swaddling bands, having rockers and a curved headpiece. Not easy to make! Because you have to cut curves in the wood and even curve the wood itself for the cradle's hood, making wood fit the tiny human form and most protect and soothe it. In those rooms in the camps there is no other furniture for they sit on the floor, having taken off their shoes to keep everything clean. We're talking about the possibility of the Rom making more cradles that we can sell for them, to help Florentines like them better, to help them help their children better. In a cooperative. The Fierucola as market. Where we also want to be selling Alice and Isabelle's Rosaries.

Marianne's Robert is in hospital in Romania, and she is having to beg for him because in Romanian hospitals even the food must be paid for or the patients starve. It is expensive to be poor, I used to say to my children. I saw Marianne Thursday in hospital here where they were trying to stop her contractions. She's eight months pregnant. Then on Sunday at Mass at the Badia. We are all trying to find her a place where she can stay when her third baby is born. Perhaps the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Tomorrow I go to Assistenza Sociale with her and we see what can be done. Prayers for her. Her dream is to have a small room, her husband, her three children and herself in it. Not much to ask. But legally impossible in Italy. Her husband, who kissed my hand, lacks papers. They don't even have a place in the camps, living just in the streets, the Romanian gypsies, who are Orthodox, being the poorest of them all. And yet so courteous, and so very lovely. Why I've made the cradle as inexpensively as I could, for my money has gone for Robert in Romania and for the Albanian family's mother's sewing. Then someone gave me 7 Euro and that is exactly the cost for cutting the rockers properly for it out of more decent wood!

There was the most beautiful Tudor cradle in my family that I had begged for when my children were born but I wasn't allowed to have. In the end my uncle threw it away. But my grandfather, an artist, had painted his children in it. Like the gypsy cradles it had rockers and a hood, but its hood was like a gabled roof, like the headdresses of Henry VIII's wives, all of black oak. So it feels great to have made a similar cradle for a baby!

This morning I posted the translation of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love off to the Liturgical Press who are going to be printing it in red and black, the red for Christ's words to Julian as in the Paris Manuscript, their publishing it in America, with Darton Longman Todd publishing it in England. Remember how the Westminster Manuscript begins with Julian contemplating Mary contemplating her not-yet-born child with the Advent Great O Antiphon to Wisdom. Marianne's name really is Mary. Julian's real name perhaps was 'Mary'.

Westminster Manuscript of Julian's Showing of Love

Was thinking while I made this cradle, about Giannozzo's conference at Sasso, and one speaker saying of us we do not produce, only consume, thinking perhaps we ought to make our babies' cradles, our parents' coffins, out of love. When I was staying in the Chianti I was finding furniture there all made by hand, huge wardrobes, where each piece of wood fitted. into the other, could be taken apart, rebuilt, without a single nail. I am so glad my Scottish foster father during the war, himself a carpenter, taught me carpentry. The greatest gift, apart from God's gift of life to me, apart from my parents' dedicating their dual biography to me, apart from my three sons's births, that I have been given. And the gift I could in turn give them.

Bless you,

SUNDAY, 23 JUNE 2002:The Boy who Kissed the Soldier
From Alifa in Jerusalem. And on pot banging, look at the ending of Zechariah. It's glorious.

To Godfriends all--

The situation in the Holy Land is nothing but a complete waste, brought on by the usual prime causes of suffering: greed and ignorance.

One of my biggest beefs about Arafat is that he spit in the faces of the Palestinian working class. In September 2000 when the violence of Intifada II began, I thought (how naive it seems now!!) that the Palestinian economy was stabilizing, and the Palestinians had been building infrastructure, building hotels for tourists, and developing democratic institutions. Really, I used to think that the Palestinians would lead the Arab world in showing how a democratic state could be created and prosper.

How very wrong I was. How very naive.

A glimmer of hope: On Friday morning (June 21) on the 7 a.m. English news on Kol Israel, I learned that the previous day there was a demonstration by Palestinian workers in Ramallah. They held up bread as a symbol of their hunger --- unemployment is rife throughout the Palestinian Authority --- and they began banging on pots.

This is a powerful symbol: in Argentina, when the whole economy collapsed, the people began to protest by going out en masse into the streets and banging on pots. My coworker Sara, who is from Buenos Aires, said that in Argentina, the idea of such public protest had been unheard of; she sees the pot-banging as a profound awakening of the public, and a realization that they have to take charge of their destiny.

Can something similar happen in Palestinian society? I don't know. The whole society seems to be falling apart, and as far as I can tell, is becoming more and more run by armed gangs and Islamic fanatics. Last week there was a news report about Palestinian youngsters now collecting "martyr cards" --- like baseball cards or Pokemon, but with the photos of murderer-heroes. "These are our idols," some child was reported as saying, "we worship them." Assuming that this statement was correctly translated from Arabic, one can only wonder where are the Islamic leaders who have fostered this cult of death? I thought Islam was adamantly opposed to idol-worship. Why aren't the murderous ideologues who spout what they claim is pure Islam taking issue with this new collectors item for Palestinian children? When are the Palestinians, like the Irish before them, going to realize that a society that harbours murderers in its midst and calls them heroes are laying the seeds of that society's destruction?

These months of Intifada II have been very difficult. On a personal level, I've lost a good friend --- murdered in cold blood by the Al-Aqsa "martyrs"; I worry constantly about my daughters travelling around by bus (me, too, for that matter), and I realize, sadly, that in the profound stresses of this period, we have reached a time when neither side wants to allow themselves to feel the pain of the other side. Some brave Israeli reporters, such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy of the newspaper Haaretz try to make the Israeli public aware of what the Palestinians are going through. As usual, it is the working class on both sides that is paying the bills for this madness.

Personally, I have run out of sympathy for the Palestinians. When Israel was celebrating its 50th anniversary, they, too, could have been celebrating theirs. But they have clung to the idea (for more than fifty years!) that Arab "honor" demands that they murder and/or somehow expel the Jews, even if it means killing themselves in the process. Until the Palestinians get out of this spiritual and political deadlock, they will never be able to form a state, let alone make it something viable and potentially prosperous. And until they stop blaming "the Jewish" or Israel, or the "Zionist Conspiracy" for all their problems and take some responsibility for what is happening to them (as, perhaps, the working class protesters did last Thursday), then quite frankly I don't see much hope for Palestine. I was profoundly shocked, for example, when Fr. Labib Kobti, who has a Palestinian news service called Al-Bushra, passed on a call by some Palestinian activists that demanded that collaborators with Israel should be murdered (as has happened -- people tortured and killed without trial and then hung in such public spots as Manger Square). How can a Catholic priest, for all love, pass on a call to murder "collaborators" without trial?

How many of you reading these words realize that nearly three-quarters of Israelis believe there should be a Palestinian state? And, at the same time, Israelis cannot help but wonder if that's even possible: a Palestinian state with sovereignty is only going to spend its donated Euros purchasing weapons. And if those weapons are not turned onto Israel, then they will be turned on dissenters within Palestine itself. Okay, okay, I know that last part is none of my business, but it infuriates me nevertheless, because if I want anything for the Palestinians it is that they should have a viable, prosperous state, with internal stability, and a chance for everyone to enjoy the good life, the "Mediterranean" lifestyle.

I am getting a little sick and tired of hearing European and American liberals offer up their politically correct and simplified solutions for a complex problem with too much history behind it. Come live here for twenty or thirty years and then tell us how well you think those dingbat proposals would work. Those of us who actually live in this region are real people, not idealized "victims" or demonized "oppressors."

Jerusalem, Israel

SUNDAY, 23 JUNE 2002: Orthodox and Catholic

Dearworthy Godfriends,

Laura and Kate and Julie certainly have us thinking. Crucial thinking in our day. Then Father Nathanael's e-mail about the Irish gathering of Greek Orthodox in Ohio. Have been thinking on the Gospel, how Christ himself kept learning how to break down the boundaries between 'us' and 'them', being taught by women how to do so, being taught by lepers how to do so, his own marvelling at their faith, convincing him they - and now he - were right. Religions seem to have these two opposing strands, one, that we are one, the other, that they are wrong.

At our Mass for the Poor those whom we help traditionally hate each other, the Albanians hating the gypsies, being hated by the Italians, the Rom hated by everybody, the Florentines hating the outsiders being helped. And I myself the outsider, not Florentine, the foreigner who can't speak Italian well. Somehow the Gospel's spell helps. And it is Julian's Showing of Love, not always working, not always capable of miracles. We couldn't find Maria a place in Florence so she and her husband are far apart when she and the children need him. We haven't helped Ferdinando get his house in order so the Tribunal may take away his ten-year old granddaughter about whom he is grieving along with his Parkinson's. We haven't yet got the press for Bruno for his print-making. Am hoping Hedera can get a room for six months for herself and her soon-to-be new-born. If not, could we take her in? And then Maria will be crushed. Hedera's Robert in Romania is in hospital, likewise another baby whom we saw in the camp in its cradle.

We talk of these people as much beloved by us to Florentines. Who learn to love them through us. Already what we say about the Rom is being listened to. And bags and bags of clothing come for them from Florentines. What touches the Florentines is the Rom's love of beauty and their love of holiness and their love of family. What touches Florentines is Maria's fine sewing without a machine. Until we tell them these things they think of gypsies only as thieves and angry and ugly and criminal, of Albanians as only wanting things without working and criminal. But in both Maria and Hedera I see Mary in Bethlehem, with no room at the inn. Crushed by wars and empires. But nevertheless with the Magnificat that becomes her child's Beatitudes. Teaching us to care for people rather than things, for families rather than power, for donkeys and bicycles rather than horses and chariots and cars. For tools instead of weapons. For the things we need to be made by hand not machine. For all children and women and men to say 'Stop' to the global arms trade and to the hatreds it must whip up for its own profits.

It has been lovely reading Isaiah. Whose message Jesus himself gave in the Nazareth synagogue. Whose message is infinitely modern, for our times, for India and Pakistan, for Eire and Northern Ireland, for the Aborigines and the Australians, for the Russians and the Americans. for the Peoples of the Book, Islam, Christendom, Judaism, for Catholic and Protestant, for Orthodox and Catholic, for Native Americans and Americans, for Blacks and whites. One thing we have been trying to do is enlist the help of the Orthodox churches in Florence, the Greek and Russian one, and the Rumanian one, to help the Rom from Rumania who are Rumanian Orthodox. Why they love and kiss the Giottos and the Fra Angelicos and come to the Mass at the Badia.


Dearworthy Godfriends, especially Kate,

Still wish we could go back to chess for war. Back in graduate school in Berkeley when I was TA-ing, I was having GIs fighting on and off in Vietnam, taking courses in between, telling me you had to kill a child running towards you as he might have a grenade behind his back to kill you. And then there are wars and wars. In South Africa there was apartheid, fought with paper. If you didn't have the papers, the documents, you had no right to exist. This is today in Italy for Albanians, for gypsies. I've managed to get the papers which allow me to be here. Because I have an American pension. I've then stood in line for many hours helping others without Italian, without money, with small children, get theirs. Embroidering Father Matthew's chasuble. How do we return to Melchisadek and Abraham sharing the blessing of bread and wine, of hospitality, of the land?

Given this horror - and Kate is right in seeing that it upsets all the conventions of war - more than ever we must meet the stranger not with hate but love, with blessed olive leaves, with Giotto and Fra Angelico postcards, with the willingness to stand in the Questura line, with the willingness to share the other's hospitality. I'm remembering when I was a young mother, with my first child, visiting Italy in 1960. And being put to bed with my child with the mother and her child in the cradle beside her, the father sleeping elsewhere for the night, twice, in two different families. And these families telling me, who am English and American, in tears of what the British and American and German soldiers did to them, prisoners who were captured soldiers starved, civilians' possessions deliberately blown up. I'm thinking of the hospitality we were given in the gypsy camp, where now a baby we saw is deadly ill, where they found chairs and a table and glasses and Coca Cola for us, and insisted we keep on our shoes, when they sit on the floor, without shoes to keep their floors clean.

I've not seen Tea with Mussolini, though it was filmed here. But everyone tells me of the scene of the Englishwoman placing herself in the way when they are going to blow up San Gimignano.

What goes wrong is when people treat people as rubbish. Perhaps from thinking of themselves as rubbish, perhaps from internalizing projections. How can we return to the sacredness of every one in the image of God? Which is blasphemy to destroy.

We are not junk. What goes wrong is that we treat others - and ourselves - like machines that become junk. When instead life cannot be replicated by us or our machines. Nor can love. Machines are simply tools. When they are not useful they are weapons.

They can only assist life, or damage it. Not be it.

How I wish we could teach the littlest children the alphabet, with the lovely names of the letters in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, which are the same, for we are one cultural family. Have been scanning and printing in full colour Giotto's use of all these alphabets in his Santa Maria Novella Crucifix, where the words are in gold on the deepest red. My computers have been behaving like nomads' tents, wearing out. But the words they convey have not worn out.

Kate wrote:

I was very moved by this post.  Last night, however, I was thinking of  the wider context that make such things possible, no necessary.

In the 19th century war took place on open fields...with soldiers and horses. The cannon's destruction was that if you were hit with a rolling cannon ball you would likely die of your broken leg because field medicine and antibiotics were unknown.

Then came the first world war [or the first capitalist  European war as my Latin American friends say - they were not part of it at all]. It had a new weapon - the trench, mustard gas and armored vehicles [primitive] The war lasted as long as it did because no army knew how to deal with these new  weapons.  The armed slaughter was great and there were many broken men at the end.At the end of this war, armies changed strategies to deal with such new weapons [Maginot line etc.]

Hitler introduced another new weapon, Blitzkrieg.  No army knew how to deal with this weapon and he was successful - until the counter use of air wepons were adopted and we had the awful bombing of Dresden, the destruction on Berlin and the terrible bombing on Hiroshima, Nagasaki that introduced another new weapon. Widespread slaughter and psychological breaking not only of combatants but of civilians was the mark of this war.

The Palestinians have perfected  a new weapon, civilians. So now both the target is civilians [Israelis] and the weapon is civilians - suicide bombers. .  Civilian men , women and children are weapon and the army does not know how to counter this new weapon yet. They have moved from the stage of seeing it as aberration to thinking that every civilian is a potential bomb....and they react against these civilian weapons as they have been taught to react against weapons and the places to store weapons. You go in and take apart, destroy the compound [as the English are destroying cave caches in Afganistan].

One of the terrible things about this new weapon is that not only is every civilian a potential target of the weapon [and there is no defense yet for that as there is no defense against the H bomb] but that every civilian is a potential weapon - every  man...but now more and more...every child and woman is perceived as a potential weapon.

With such weaponry there is brought upon civilians all the horrors of being treated as a combatant.  BUT civilians, like the good woman in the vignette, have no preparation, no training for such horror and they are ground down and chewed up by this  conflict.  I do not know if any army can figure out a way to counter this new weapon. Maybe it is impossible - just as countering the H bomb is impossible. But until they do, they will fight against weaponry the way they have done up until now...as is the Israeli army. [In effectual to ending the conflict but deadly to those in the area]

That to me is simply the GREAT NECESSITY that Simone Weil speaks of...the use of this new weapon has unleashed a horror - just as the US use of nuclear bombs unleashed a new horror.  ...and everyone involved armies, civilian targets and civilian weapons and civilians who might be targets or weapons is suffering...no, are being dehumanized in the process.

That, to me, is the context for this story. Good mothers  are broken by the machine of necessity ...good soldiers are broken by the machine of necessity..good children, good men and good women.  The weapon has changed the mode of battle and the armies have not caught up with it yet.


FRIDAY, 21 JUNE 2002:The Boy who Kissed the Soldier, A Story from a Palestinian Refugee Camp

Laura sends this. I found myself in tears reading it. So vivid are the memories of the gypsy camps. Of their interior room as sanctuary, for family. Today the world is impoverishing more and more people. This tremendous disparity is in itself violent. I remember those shuttered buildings in Bethlehem of eleven years ago. When we have talked about abuse trauma in the past, war was seen as a major cause, an evil cradling of further wars, violence and despair.

Asking for you to join me in prayer.  I don't know what else we can do.  I do know prayer makes a difference.


The Boy Who Kissed the Soldier: Balata Camp

By Starhawk

"What source can you believe in order to create peace there?" a friend writes when I come back from Palestine.  I have no answer, only this story:

June 1, 2002:  I am in Balata refugee camp in occupied Palestine, where  the Israeli Defense Forces have rounded up four thousand men, leaving the camp to women and children.  The men have offered no resistance, no battle.

The camp is deathly quiet.  All the shops are shuttered, all the windows  closed.  Women, children and a few old men hide in their homes.

The quiet is shattered by sporadic bursts of gunfire, bangs and explosions.  All day we have been encountering soldiers who all look like my  brother or cousins or the sons I never had, so young they are barely more than boys armed with big guns.  We've been standing with the terrified  inhabitants as the soldiers search their houses, walking patients who are  afraid to be alone on the streets to the U.N. Clinic.   Earlier in the  evening, eight of our friends were arrested, and we know that we could be caught at any moment.

It is nearly dark, and Jessica and Melissa and I are looking for a place to  spend the night.  Jessica, with her pale, narrow face, dark eyes and curly  hair, could be my sister or my daughter.  Melissa is a bit more punk,  androgynous in her dyed-blond ducktail.

We are hurrying through the streets, worried.  We need to be indoors before  true dark, and curfew.  "Go into any house," we've been told.  "Anyone will be glad to take you in."  But we feel a bit shy.

From a narrow, metal staircase, Samar, a young woman with a wide, beautiful smile beckons us up.  "Welcome, welcome!"  We are given refuge in the three small rooms that  house her family:  her mother, big bodied and sad, her small nieces and  nephews, her brother's wife Hanin, round-faced and pale and six months  pregnant.

We sit down on big, overstuffed couches.  The women serve us tea. I  look around at the pine wood paneling that adds soft curves and warmth to  the concrete, at the porcelain birds and artificial flowers that decorate a  ledge.  The ceilings are carefully painted in simple geometric designs.

They have poured love and care into their home, and it feels like a sanctuary.  Outside we can hear sporadic shooting, the deep 'boom' of houses being  blown up by the soldiers. But here in these rooms, we are safe, in the  tentative sense that word can be used in this place.  "Inshallah', "God  willing', follows every statement of good here or every commitment to a  plan.

"Yahoud!" the women say when we hear explosions.  It is the Arabic word for  Jew, the word used for the soldiers of the invading army.  It is a word of  warning and alarm:  don't go down that alley, out into that street.  "Yahoud!"

But no one invades our refuge this night.  We talk and laugh with the women.  I have a pocket-sized packet of Tarot cards, and we read for what the next  day will bring.  Samar wants a reading, and then Hanin.   I don't much like  what I see in their cards:  death, betrayal, sleepless nights of sorrow and  regret.  But I can't explain that in Arabic anyway, so I focus on what I see  that is good.

"Baby?"  Hanin asks.

"Babies, yes,"

"Boy?  Son?"

The card of the Sun comes up, with a small boy-child riding on a white  house.  "Yes, I think it is a boy," I say.

She shows me the picture of her first baby, who died at a year and a half.  Around us young men are prowling with guns, houses are exploding,  lives are being shattered.  And we are in an intimate world of women. Hanin brushes my hair, ties it back in a band to control its wildness.  We try to talk about our lives.  We can write down our ages on paper.  I am fifty,   Hanin is twenty-three.  Jessica and Melissa are twenty-two: all of them older than most of the soldiers.  Samar is seventeen, the children are eight   and ten and the baby is four.  I show them pictures of my family, my garden,  my step-grandaughter.  I think they understand that my husband has four  daughters but I have none of my own, and that I am his third wife.  I'm not  sure they understand that those wives are sequential, not concurrent-but  maybe they do.  The women of this camp are educated, sophisticated-many we  have met throughout the day are professionals, teachers, nurses, students  when the Occupation allows them to go to school.

"Are you Christian?" Hanin finally asks us at the end of the night. Melissa, Jessica and I look at each other.  All of us are Jewish, and we're  not sure what the reaction will be if we admit it.  Jessica speaks for us.  "Jewish," she says.  The women don't understand the word.  We try  several variations, but finally are forced to the blunt and dreaded  "Yahoud."

"Yahoud!" Hanin says.  She gives a little surprised laugh, looks at the other women.  "Beautiful!"

And that is all.  Her welcome to us is undiminished.  She shows me the  shower, dresses me in her own flowered nightgown and robe, and puts me to  bed in the empty side of the double bed she shares with her husband, who has been arrested by the Yahoud.  Mats are brought out for the others.  Two of  the children sleep with us. Ahmed, the little four year old boy, snuggles next to me.  He sleeps fiercely, kicking and thrashing in his dreams, and  each time an explosion comes, hurls himself into my arms.

I can't sleep at all.  How have I come here, at an age when I should be home  making plum jam and doll clothes for grandchildren, to be cradling a little  Palestinian boy whose sleep is already shattered by gunshots and shells? I  am thinking about the summer I spent in Israel when I was fifteen, learning  Hebrew, working on a kibbutz, touring every memorial to the Holocaust and  every site of a battle in what we called the War of Independence.  I am thinking of one day when we were brought to the Israel/Lebanon border. The  Israeli side was green, the other side barren and brown.

"You see what we have made of this land," we were told.  "And that- that's  what they've done in two thousand years.  Nothing."   I am old enough now to question the world of assumptions behind that statement, to recognize one of the prime justifications the colonizers have always used against the colonized.  "They weren't doing anything with the  land: they weren't using it."  They are not, somehow, as deserving as we  are, as fully human.  They are animals, they hate us.

All of that is shattered by the sound of by Hanin's laugh, called into question by a small boy squirming and twisting in his sleep.  I lie there in  awe at the trust that has been given me, one of the people of the enemy, put  to bed to sleep with the children.  It seems to me, at that moment, that  there are indeed powers greater than the guns I can hear all around me: the  power of Hanin's trust, the power that creates sanctuary, the great surging  compassionate power that overcomes prejudice and hate.

One night later, we again go back to our family just as dark is falling, together with Linda and Neta, two other volunteers.  We have narrowly  escaped a party of soldiers, but no sooner do we arrive than a troop comes to the door.  At least they have come to the door: we are grateful for that for all day they have been breaking through people's walls, knocking out the  concrete with sledgehammers, bursting through into rooms of terrified people to search, or worse, use the house as a thoroughfare, a safe route that allows them to move through the camp without venturing into the streets. We  have been in houses turned into surreal passageways, with directions spray painted on their walls, where there is no sanctuary because all night long soldiers are passing back and forth.

We come forward to meet these soldiers, to talk with them and witness what they will do.  One of the men, with owlish glasses, knows Jessica and  Melissa: they have had a long conversation with him standing beside his tank.  He is uncomfortable with his role.

Ahmed, the little boy, is terrified of the soldiers.  He cries and screams and points at them, and we try to comfort him, to carry him away into  another room.  But he won't go.  He is terrified, but he can't bear to be  out of their sight.  He runs toward them crying.

"Take off your helmet," Jessica tells the soldiers.  "Shake hands with him,  show him you're a human being.  Help him to be not so afraid." The owlish soldier takes off his helmet, holds out his hand.  Ahmed's sobs subside.  The soldiers file out to search the upstairs.  Samar and Ahmed  follow them.  Samar holds the little boy up to the owlish soldier's face, tells him to give the soldier a kiss.  She doesn't want Ahmed to be afraid,  to hate.  The little boy kisses the soldier, and the soldier kisses him back, and hands him a small Palestinian flag.

This is the moment to end this story, on a high note of hope, to let it be a story of how simple human warmth, a child's kiss, can for a moment overcome  oppression and hate. But it is a characteristic of the relentless quality  of this occupation that the story doesn't end here.

The soldiers order us all into one room. They close the door, and begin to search the house.  We can hear banging and crashing and loud thuds against  the walls.  I am trying to think of something to sing, to do to distract us, to keep the spirits of the children up.  I cannot think of anything that  makes sense.  My voice won't work. But Neta teaches us a silly children's  song in Arabic. To me, it sounds like:

"Babouli raizh, raizh, babouli jai,
Babouli ham melo sucar o shai,"
["The train comes, the train goes, the train is full of sugar and tea."]

The children are delighted, and begin to sing.  Hanin and I drum on the  tables.  The soldiers are throwing things around in the other room and the  children are singing and Ahmed begins to dance.  We put him up on the table  and he smiles and swings his hips and makes us all laugh.

When the soldiers finally leave, we emerge to examine the damage. Every single object has been pulled off the walls, out of the closets, thrown in huge piles on the floor.  The couches have been overturned and their bottoms  ripped off.  The wood paneling is full of holes knocked into every curve and  corner.  Bags of grain have been emptied into the sink.  Broken glass and china covers the floor.

We begin to clean up.  Melissa sweeps: Jessica tries to corral the barefoot children until we can get the glass off the floor.  I help Hanin clear a path in the bedroom, folding the clothes of her absent husband, hanging up her own things, finding the secret sexy underwear the soldiers have  obviously examined.  By the time it is done, I know every intimate object of her life.

We are a houseful of women: we know how to clean and restore order.  When the house is back together, Hanin and Samar and the sister cook.  The  grandmother is having a high blood pressure attack:  we lay her down on the couch, I bring her a pillow. She rests. I sit down, utterly exhausted, as Hanin and the women serve us up a meal.  A few china birds are back on the  ledge.  The artificial flowers have reappeared.  Some of the loose boards of the paneling have been pushed back.  Somehow once again the house feels like  a sanctuary.

"You are amazing," I tell Hanin.  "I am completely exhausted: you're six months pregnant, it's your house that has just been trashed, and you're able to stand there cooking for all of us."

Hanin shrugs.  "For us, this is normal," she says.

And this is where I would like to end this story, celebrating the resilience  of these women, full of faith in their power to renew their lives again and  again.

But the story doesn't end here.

The  third night.  Melissa and Jessica go back to stay with our family. I  am staying with another family who has asked for support.  The soldiers have  searched their house three times, and have promised that they will continue to come back every night.  We are sleeping in our clothes, boots ready. We get a call.

The soldiers have come back to Hanin's house.  Again, they lock everyone in  one room.  Again, they search.  This time, the soldier who kissed the baby  is not with them.  They have some secret intelligence report that tells them  there is something to find, although they have not found it.  They rip the  paneling off the walls. They knock holes in the tiles and the concrete  beneath.  They smash and destroy, and when they are done, they piss on the mess they have left.

Nothing has been found, but something is lost.  The sanctuary is destroyed,  the house turned into a wrecking yard.  No one kisses these soldiers: no one sings.

When Hanin emerges and sees what they have done, she goes into shock.  She is resilient and strong, but this assault has gone beyond 'normal', and she breaks.  She is hyperventilating, her pulse is racing and thready.  She  could lose the baby, or even die.

Jessica, who is trained as a Street Medic for actions, informs the soldiers  that Hanin needs immediate medical care.  The soldiers are reluctant, "We'll  be done soon," they say.  But one is a paramedic, and Melissa and Jessica  are able to make him see the seriousness of the situation.  They allow the  two of them to violate curfew, to run through the dark streets to the clinic, come back with two nurses who somehow get Hanin and the family into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.

This story could be worse.  Because Jessica and Melissa were there, Hanin and the baby survive.  That is, after all, why we've come: to make things  not quite as bad as they would be otherwise.

But there is no happy ending to this story, no cheerful resolution.When the soldiers pull out, I go back to say goodbye to Hanin, who has come back  from the hospital. She is looking dull, depressed: something is broken. I don't know if it can be repaired, if she will ever be the same. Her resilience is gone; her eyes have lost their light. She writes her name and  phone number for me, writes "Hnin love you."  I don't know how the story  will ultimately end for her. I still see in the cards destruction, sleepless nights of anguish, death.

This is not a story of some grand atrocity.  It is a story about 'normal', about what it's like to under an everyday, relentless assault on any sense of safety or sanctuary.

"What was that song about the train?" I ask Neta after the soldiers are  gone.

"Didn't you hear?" she asks me.  "The soldiers came and got the old woman, at one o'clock in the morning, and made her sing the song. I don't think I'll ever be able to sing it again."

"What source can you believe in order to create peace there?" a friend writes. I have no answer. Every song is tainted; every story goes on too long and turns nasty. A boy whose baby dreams are disturbed by gunfire kisses a soldier. A soldier kisses a boy, and then destroys his home. Or maybe he simply stands by as others do the destruction, in silence, that same silence too many of us have kept for too long.

And if there are forces that can nurture peace they must first create an uproar, a vast breaking of silence, a refusal to stand by as the boot stomps down.


copyright © Starhawk 2002

(This story carries my copyright to protect my rights to future publication.  You have permission to send it on, post it on the Internet, reprint it in relevant newsletters, etc. I can be contacted through the website above, Starhawk)


Children's services  

My brother went to Shrewsbury and died young, destroying himself with alcohol, cigarettes, a kind of Bramwell Bronte. My youngest son has died this March 1, sodomized at Princeton when he was ten years old, battling all his short life struggling to be ideal, feeding thousands of homeless with his project, from one van, 'Everybody's Kitchen', in Washington, Philadephia and New York, but with this hidden horror and betrayal, by everyone, causing him to abuse alcohol and drugs, to attempt suicide again and again, finally to overdose. His perpetrator teaches at an exclusive boarding school.

Big issue: children's services

Peel's child rape revelation praised by campaigners

Alex Kumi
Monday October 10, 2005
The Guardian

The decision by the late DJ John Peel to reveal in his autobiography that he had been raped by an older pupil at boarding school has been welcomed by children's rights campaigners.

Peel, who died a year ago at the age of 65 from a heart attack during a holiday in Peru, described being subjected to humiliating sexual demands from study monitors who were four or five years older than him. The abuse took place during Peel's time at Shrewsbury school in Shropshire, where he studied from the age of 13.

In his autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, serialised in the Sunday Telegraph, Peel described how the treatment culminated in his being raped in a public toilet by an older pupil.

He wrote: "Another study monitor obliged me to perform an even more unwelcome service during what was supposed to be a period for doing homework. This period, during which we were confined to our studies, was called top school but for my study monitor it was hand jobs.

"If for some reason my tormentor didn't require a hand job, possibly because he had already compelled a poor boy to give him one, he loaned me to one of his two friends and I was obliged to service them instead.

"This man - and although it is tempting to name him, I'm not going to - was, I think, the only genuinely amoral person I've ever met. Towards the end of our time together, he compelled me to agree to meet him in a public toilet in the cemetery on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, where he raped me."

The NSPCC welcomed Peel's decision to provide a frank account of the abuse he suffered. The charity said celebrities could play a "vital role" in encouraging children to speak out about maltreatment and help to "break down the silence of abuse" and encourage youngsters to seek help.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: "Celebrities can help break down the silence of abuse. Three-quarters of sexually abused children don't speak out at the time." She said youngsters exhibited the symptoms of abuse in a number of ways, such as drug overdoses, self-harm or angry outbursts.

Peel's death led to an outpouring of grief for generations of music fans who had grown up listening to his radio show, which featured music from a variety of obscure bands during his 40-year career.

He has been honoured with a number of posthumous tributes.

Thursday will be the first ever John Peel day and a stage at the Glastonbury festival has been named after him.

Go to Oliveleaf Chronicle weblog 09/08/98-28/04/99

I have been thinking much on what could be called conspiracy theories. Link together in your mind apron lodges, Outward Bound programmes and their near death trauma, the use of cells by pseudo-religion against religion, for instance the suiciding in Switzerland, in Jonestown, in Waco, then the violence of Dunblane, of Columbine, of Beslan, the bombs of Niarobi and Omagh, then the convenient finding of passports around the Twin Towers. Remember the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Tower was by an apron, not by an Arab. And this ultimate absurdity where my friend, not allowed her contact lenses, had her luggage lost and, unable to read the numbers, gave them incorrectly, so her luggage continued to be lost for nine days, while receiving news that her brother, working for Homeland Security, was dying from a heart attack, from stress.

Governments, to keep themselves in power, need to ratchet up stress amongst the people they govern, with war, with fear of an unknown enemy, the 'Red' Scare switching overnight to Islamic Fundamentalists. Is it possible they have created cells that suicide-bomb in order to prevent peace between Palestine and Israel, between Islam (Iraq and Iran) and the English-speaking world? Are they using 'religion' against religion?