Saturday, December 9, 2023

Give Peace a Chance

Perhaps you've never heard of the The War of the Leaves (also known as The Great Girl Fight of 1964.)

But, before I tell you about the days of strife, I want to tell you about the days of peace. It began with the discovery of The Memory Rock. While the boys were playing war in the woods, hunting and skirmishing through the swampy bogs, fake rifles at the ready, my best friend and I discovered a separate peace. And this peace came to us on the site of a big rock. A boulder, really. This rock--in the middle of a clearing, under the silent branches of an old maple tree--was our solace and shelter in a time of tumult. We read Anne of Green Gables while sitting side by side of this rock. We discussed the day’s event and a future where we sang songs of peace and played guitars. All summer long, we met at The Memory rock. We shared peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, perhaps an apple, and sometimes, cookies. We shared stories of everything we remembered from the past twenty-four hours. And we named the rock--The Memory Rock--because we decided that it held our thoughts and dreams and our shared history within its molten core. And to commemorate each passing day, we took the largest, prettiest leaf and etched out the date beside our initials and finally placed it on top of the rock, along with some pretty wild flowers.

Next came autumn and the start of a new school year. A chill descended over our little neighborhood. At home we were were busy helping our parents put the vegetable garden to bed and weeding and raking the yard. At school, we learned about the cycle of the natural world and how as the weather grew colder, the leaves fell from the trees, died and then decomposed. Our teacher told us about composting and how the leaves should be put on top of our gardens, because in this way all the nutrients are given over to the earth and turned into good rich soil, promising an abundant harvest for the following year. 

As it happened, I had a big maple tree in my very own backyard, which shed an abundant amount of leaves. Too many, really, but I was proud of my maple tree and her generous gift. I helped rake every day after school and on weekends. We made piles of leaves and jumped into them, as if they were great feather beds. I inhaled the fragrance of fall, the softness of the changing season and emerged with bits of brown leaves tangled in my hair, my cheeks red, feeling breathless and at one with all of nature.

I bragged about my tree at school to a girl named JoAnne and she said she would help me gather the leaves into the wheel barrow so that I could bring them to the garden for composting. I pictured this composting process as money in the bank. I would be rich with vegetables the next spring--all because of my investment of fallen leaves.

And then, just before the Saturday JoAnne was to come over and help me, we had a fight. I cannot remember what it was about, because all thoughts of the reason behind our fight were usurped by the fact that she teamed up with my neighborhood Memory Rock friend--against me! 

And so began The War of the Leaves. I awoke in the early morning to discover the treachery. I heard the rakish sound of a whisk-whisk-crash and metal tines scraping against my back lawn. This was accompanied by a series of scratching sounds and rustling, whispers and then laughter and screams as my leaves were taken by these two girl-hooligans. No longer could I call them friends as I stood there looking out my bedroom window, watching them bundle up my maple leaves into white sheets and run away with them.

My father said, they're just leaves. They did us a favor. And besides, my Memory Rock friend didn't have a tree in her backyard and why wouldn't I want to share my leaves with her?

I will admit I was not persuaded by this logic. They were my leaves!

However, I did keep going into the woods to visit the Memory Rock. Every day. And then one day--perhaps a year later, perhaps just a week later, my friend and I happened to be there at the exact same time and we talked. We didn't talk about The War of the Leaves. We talked about Anne of Green Gables. We talked about the book Half Magic by Edward Eager. And Caddie Woodlawn.

We never referred to the War of the Leaves again. 

But during the following spring, all of our gardens were fulsome and there was a new kind of peace through the land--that is--Belltown, Connecticut, where I grew up.

Creative Friends--Your assignment for this week is to re-look at your favorite book from childhood—the one that taught you about goodwill and friendship. Next, plant seeds of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. This is how you grow your peace garden.

Shanti, shanti, shanti.



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