“Friends have always been very active in addressing our government and its rule. They had started out in the earliest days having to try and change laws that were affecting them directly. As time went by a century later they were among the most active lobbyists to end slavery, active in women’s suffrage, in temperance movements… many, many places where they were lobbying over the centuries.”
Quakers in the World is another source about Friends’ “long tradition of being active in, and seeking to make a difference to, the world in which they find themselves. In their actions they seek to put Quaker testimonies such as equality, peace and integrity into practice, as best they can.” The site’s overview of Quakers in Politics is good grounding for me as I serve my community as a commissioner for our new Public Hospital District.
Suffragist Alice Paul is one of those Quakers who worked diligently for equal rights for women. I don’t expect my entry into politics to be anywhere as demanding as Alice Paul’s efforts, but I look to her as an example of service.
*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.
After a sleepless night following the 2016 presidential election, I awoke the next morning with many questions: How? Why? What will happen? A few days later, I carried one with me to a workshop about active hope. That question was directed at me: What am I to do?
In January, I continued to grapple with the question in the online course We Were Made for This Moment, taught by Quaker teacher, writer, and activist Eileen Flanagan. In the company of 100 other participants, and with Eileen’s knowledge and skills with social change, clarity, and empowerment, I felt strengthened and heartened to discern and offer the skills and gifts we have to offer.
For me, that discernment took some time.
As I tried to remain open to direction about how to respond to the election of Donald Trump, I tested out a few actions. In the first three months of 2017, I sent more letters, postcards, and emails to state and federal representatives than I had in the previous, oh, twenty years. For the first time in decades, I lobbied state legislators and rallied at the state capitol for the Salish Sea, the water that surrounds my home and is threatened by increased oil transport between the U.S. and Canada.
I watched and listened to the ways the election energized people all over the country to speak out and become more politically involved. Some responded to the election results by urging people (particularly women) to run for office. Two such efforts that offer support and direction are She Should Run and Emily’s List. According to a Feb. 9, 2017 article in New York Magazine, those efforts have worked—13,000 women are planning to run for office.
I never dreamed I’d be one of them.
And then, in March, I learned that the rural health clinic in my community was in danger of closing. The hospital that the clinic had partnered with for nearly thirty years had decided to end the relationship, an action that would significantly decrease financial resources needed to keep it in operation. The nonprofit (Catherine Washburn Medical Association) that owns and maintains the clinic building and equipment went to work to find a solution and learned that if the voters approved creation of a Public Hospital District, the district could levy a property tax to help fund the clinic.
In Washington State, Public Hospital Districts are community-created, governmental entities authorized by state law to deliver health services. An elected Board of Commissioners governs such districts. Believing that the creation of a Public Hospital District was a sound and wise approach to preserve the outstanding health care available in my community, I wanted to do my part to assure that care continues. So, having recently retired from a forty-year nursing career, I threw my nurse’s cap into the ring to serve as one of five commissioners.
The first hurdle was to gain community approval of creation of the Public Hospital District. Clearly, I’m not the only one who values the clinic’s services. We needed 749 votes for the election to be valid, and then a simple majority of those votes for the measure to pass. The election result this week was stunning.As an unopposed candidate, I was voted in. Four other commissioners were elected, too, and all of them bring the kind of expertise the district needs to assure that the tax money is spent appropriately. Once we’re sworn in, we’ll be hard at work to assure a smooth transition from the current partnership to a new structure.
I know that my candidacy for elected office won’t impact the dangerous and harmful repercussions of the Trump administration. But, it will affect my family, friends, and neighbors, and those are mighty good reasons to run.
Here’s a sentence I never imagined saying: “I’m having dinner with my publisher.” It seemed like a line I’d heard in a movie, but never expected to utter myself. But I did—or more like shouted it from rooftops, wrote it in emails, and posted it on Facebook when my publisher, Leslie Browning, invited me to dinner earlier this month.
An award-winning independent publisher ensuring the mainstream isn’t the only stream.
“It is our intention at Homebound Publications to preserve contemplative storytelling.”
prompted me to click on the link to Homebound’s website and continue reading.
Evidently I wasn’t the only visitor who wondered what the press means by “contemplative literature.”It’s explained in the company’s philosophy:
“In this throwaway-culture where we buy a book in the supermarket, read it over the weekend, and then toss it, we publish books that you will have on your nightstand for a few years and return to again and again—books that nourish your mind and soul.”
I started to feel prickles of excitement.
One of the strongest characteristics of my MFA program at Whidbey Writers Workshop was the emphasis on the profession of writing. Homebound’s view on the business of publishing was right in line with mine:
“So often in this age of commerce, entertainment supersedes growth; books of lesser integrity but higher marketability are chosen over those with much-needed truth but smaller audience. Here at Homebound Publications, we focus on the quality of the truth and insight present within a project before any other considerations.”
Discovering that the press’s books are printed on paper certified by forest sustainability programs, and it donates 1% of its annual net profits to charity, was the chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream.
Homebound Publications justifiably claims it’s a small press with big ideas. It publishes between fifteen to twenty books each year and has almost seventy-five titles distributed worldwide. Over the years, its authors have received dozens of awards including: Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, Nautilus Book Awards, Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, and Saltire Literary Awards.
I didn’t lose any time checking out Homebound’s Submission Guidelines and soon sent the information and manuscript requested. That was in May 2015. I learned of the press’s desire to publish my memoir a couple of months later and soon after that, I had my first “meeting” with Leslie by phone. A month later, I signed a contract with the press with a publication date of Sept. 2017. Since then, Leslie and I have communicated regularly via email, a private Facebook page for authors, and Basecamp (an online project management tool). As promised in the contract, she’s consulted with me about important decisions (such as front and back cover design and interior design) and assisted in marketing and promotion.
Before our dinner, I’d gotten to know a good bit about Leslie through our ongoing virtual conversations and by reading her poems and novel. A proud native of New England, Leslie grew up in the small fishing village of Stonington, Connecticut. In her writing, she explores the confluence of the natural landscape and the interior landscape; her longtime study of philosophy, nature, and art is evident in the themes she explores through poetry and fiction.
In 2010, Leslie debuted with a three-title contemplative poetry series: Ruminations at Twilight, Oak Wise, and Barren Plain (here’s a sample of one of her poems, “Where the Story Left Off.”) Her most recent book, The Castoff Children, is a page-turning novel set in the wintry streets of 1850s Boston. A group of orphaned children struggles for survival in this cold world, finding their way together, with friendship, perseverance, and courage.
Leslie’s dedication to authors and readers is also evident in her service on the Board of Directors for both The Arts Café Mystic (a poetic arts venue in Mystic, CT) and Independent Book Publishers Association. And a milestone accomplishment for the press is Leslie’s recent agreement with Midpoint Trade Books to provide national distribution for all Homebound titles (you can see them all, including forthcoming books, in their 2017 catalog).
I won’t deny that I loved being “wined and dined” by my publisher at Imperial Restaurant. But the best part was spending time with someone I now consider a friend.
Parker Palmer is someone I often turn to for spiritual guidance. He’s a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. I’ve been reading his writing a lot lately (his wisdom about talking across ideological lines was the subject of my September 2016 Afterthought).
Now, a couple of months into the Trump administration, Parker wrestles with his feelings “…when it comes to this president and his staff who keep insisting that the emperor has new clothes, then blame and ban journalists for not telling the world how good he looks in them.” This is how his most recent post on the On Being blog begins:
I’m a Quaker. I stand in a religious tradition that asks me to live by such values as community, equality, simplicity, and non-violence. As a result, I frequently find myself in deep oatmeal — especially when it comes to politics, where I seem to have an anger management problem. Not long ago, a friend with whom I’d been having a heated political argument gave me a black t-shirt that says “One Mean Quaker.”
Does anger have a role to play in the life of someone who aspires to non-violence?
Parker goes on with much to ponder as he differs with the view that anger is “a spiritual flaw to be eliminated.” I’m examining my anger, too, so I’m spending some time with Parker’s words and hope you will, too. If you find commonality with what he has to say (or even if you don’t), you might want to read more of his weekly On Being columns.
I’ll end with Parker’s closing thought:
Spirituality and anger (and humor) are not necessarily at odds. Or so it seems to “One Mean Quaker” as I continue to stumble through life — well aware that, before too long, I’m likely to find myself in deep oatmeal again.
*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.