International Peace Day, coming soon on September 21, is an annual occasion worth observing in several ways. One way is to gather around our local Peace Pole with people who care, as we do, about generating peace within and extending it beyond ourselves into the world.
What is a Peace Pole? It is an upright column 4-8 inches in diameter and 6-8 feet tall. The number of sides varies from four to eight, all with the Peace Message: “May Peace Prevail On Earth,” inscribed in various languages chosen by those who plant one in a special place of acknowledgement. Peace Poles are now the most recognized international peace symbol and monument the world over with more than 200,000 standing in almost every country.
One special local Peace Pole stands at La Casa de Maria, given by Jolene DeLisa, with whom I spoke in May.
Could you tell me about the reason you donated this Peace Pole to La Casa de Maria?
I found out about Peace Poles through Dave at Peace Pole Makers when we went to Russia in 1987 and planted a Peace Pole in Moscow. I had met Dave during the Great Peace March in 1986. This one at La Casa was dedicated in 1997 to commemorate my son’s 40th birthday. He was killed in Hawaii in a helicopter crash on September 11, 1991. He was my only son, my only close family. It’s a long story. I wrote about it in Unmasked.
I’m so sorry. I can see you have done something special here for him.
Yes, I planted Kirk’s garden with five gingko trees, which are the oldest living trees on Earth. I learned about them when I went to China in 1979. I also planted roses of the varieties Kennedy, Peace, and Love, plus lovely geraniums around the bird bath.
Could you tell me why you chose these languages for the Peace Pole?
I chose English and Spanish because those are the prevalent languages spoken here. I chose Tibetan for the little girl, Passang Lhamo, whose education I sponsored in Tibet, and Hawaiian because I lived in Hawaii for 17 years. The first tree was planted on January 16, 1997, for Kirk’s 40th birthday. He was a wonderful compassionate man and a great athlete. He had so much heart. He taught me a lot.
What do you envision for the future, and how do you think we can get there?
Peace making is hard work. It happens one step at a time — just like we walked across America one step at a time [for peace]. It was a difficult journey, living in tents, walking for nine months. In Iowa it was 104 degrees. I was nearly 60 at the time. It was 3,701 miles from Los Angeles to New York to Washington D.C.
Are there any experiences of synchronicity (meaningful coincidences) that occurred in connection with your work for peace?
Oh yes! On the 10th anniversary of Kirk’s death, I wanted to do something special. I knew some friends I had met on the Great Peace March lived near Yosemite, so I asked them if we could plant a Peace Pole on their property. They said, “Wonderful! Of course!” We chose the languages English, Spanish, Arabic, and Mituk, the Native American language of the area. Taking the train up, I arrived on September 10, 2001, enjoyed a wonderful evening together and planned to plant the pole the next day at 4 p.m.
I was up early the next morning and saw on the news the plane fly into the tower in New York. I thought what a terrible accident! Then with horror I saw the next plane fly into the second building. I woke my friends and they watched, as everyone else did, the terrible events. I had already had my own 9/11 with the loss of my son. Now thousands of other people would have their 9/11. I told my friends that they could take off the Arabic panel. But they said absolutely not. It’s exactly what’s needed now. A lot of hate will be thrown today; it will be at those who speak Arabic. They asked me how I came to choose Arabic. I said it was what was needed.
Please tell me more about Kirk’s Garden.
People leave messages, beautiful messages. A woman comes here from Scotland every year. Children come here. People take their dogs here. The energy draws them. People sit and write and draw here. One woman had lost her daughter and was grieving very much. This garden gave her peace. She thought she could create one for her daughter. Other people want to plant their own Peace Poles. This is what peace is about. It resonates. It expands. It inspires more peace.
Is there more you would like to say about peace?
People need to stop going to war. When the conscientious objector who is willing to go to prison for the cause of peace is given as much honor as the soldier, then perhaps we will have peace. The message of the Peace Pole, “Let Peace Prevail on Earth,” is what my life is about. This is what my life stands for. In every language.
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After reading her three books, Unmasked, Kirk, and The Children’s Peace Book, I gained even more respect for this remarkable and courageous woman who has endured physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships and transformed them into inspirational vitality. I was glad to have the chance to interview her as a part of my graduate studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
On September 21, please help celebrate International Peace Day by gathering with your friends around a Peace Pole in your community reciting the words, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” One step at a time, we can make it happen.