January 19, 2021

Give Peace a Chance

After watching a video clip of armed people swarming the U.S. Capitol, breaking windows, and rampaging through halls and offices, I heard John Lennon’s lyrics repeat like a mantra in my head. “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

I remembered a tense protest against the Vietnam War in Washington DC in October 1967. We walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon where young soldiers with guns stood at attention surrounding the buildings. Vic and I got a whiff of tear gas, but didn’t get close enough to feel the burn. We were interested in peace, not violence—and we were afraid.

By the end of that day in 1967, 700 people were arrested for civil disobedience. About a dozen unarmed protestors got inside the Pentagon doors, but were swiftly arrested and removed. No one was killed.

How can I forget the January 6, 2021 images of people climbing the US Capital walls carrying weapons and wrapped in American flags? Is this my country? Are we choosing this? Our history has been bloody and cruel from the beginning, but the Gates of Hell feel wide open now. What will we do with images and proof we can no longer deny?

On January 7, still in a state of disbelief, I walk under the tallest oak trees in my forest. The lyrics repeat in my head: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” I go to my husband Vic’s cairn and pray. “Please, Divine Mother of the Forest. Help us choose peace. Help us stay calm.”

When Vic died in June 2008, I walked with grief many times a day. I noticed the beauty of every wildflower, butterfly, tree, and bird. I gave thanks for love and life, as I wept for what was gone.

This week, I walk with grief again, this time in bleak winter, but green moss thrives under the snow and water gurgles over icy rocks. Small signs of life bring glimmers of hope while I grieve for the rage and betrayal that pollutes my country.

During this agitated time, the forest is my chapel. I walk under old trees protected by a conservation easement, knowing they’ll never be logged, even after I die. Their massive trunks and sky-touching branches calm me.

I lean into the massive trunk of a Red Oak and lay my head against her bark.

“Save us, Mother Oak. Show us the way of peace even if we don’t deserve it. Save us from ourselves.”


At Women’s March 2017

How have you survived this tense period? There are so many disheartening issues from covid-19 to insurrection to alarming inequality. As I write this, the new inauguration site is being set up, more like an armed camp than the celebration I hoped for. I hope there won’t be more violence and pray we are entering a period of positive transformation.

For an article about peaceful protest, see Give Hope a Seat between Anxiety and Grief: Women’s March on Washington. For an article about the power of peaceful protest and witnessing for human rights and justice (2018), see The Power of Witnessing: Lessons from Quakers and from Life.


  1. January 31, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    anne danford


    Dear Elaine, I am so glad that you wrote this when you did, and I am also grateful that since then, we have had the relief of the inauguration, including Amanda Gorman’s magnificent verse, spoken with, as you wrote, surprising “power, poise, and eloquence.” Although there is far to go, hope is in the air.

    In a book I am reading, it mentions the Druidic calendar and that spring begins on February 1, when the first tiny white flowers of the early snowdrops show. So I am going with that and feeling happy that spring is almost here!

    1. February 1, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Anne. As we’ve seen since the election, there are no magic fixes and we have to hope for sanity and a desire for peace.

      On a more promising note, I love the Celtic/Druidic calendar cross-quarters because they reflect the changes in the weather and the position of the sun. At this time 0f Imbolc or Candlemas or St. Brigid’s Day, the days are noticeably longer where I live–despite a big snowstorm right now. I watch the sun move north on the horizon since my land has a full view of the horizon on the western side of Seneca Lake. It moves quickly this time of year–and under the snow, the roots and seeds are awakening. Maple sap will begin running when we have a warm spell in February. Spring blessings to you.

  2. January 25, 2021 at 11:34 am

    Jean Raffa


    The inauguration was a huge relief to me too. I spent the whole day watching it. Like most of the people I’ve spoken to since, I was especially heartened by Amanda Gorman’s poetry and poise. I guess I didn’t realize how badly I needed to seem something positive and hopeful after so much bitterness and discord. I felt as if a heavy weight had been removed from my shoulders and heart.

    We think alike. It’s interesting that we both had John Lennon songs running through our minds. My favorite is “Imagine.” I also think of Kris Kristofferson’s “‘Love is the Reason,” just about my favorite song ever:

    Deep in the heart of the infinite darkness
    A tiny blue marble is spinnin’ through space
    Born in the splendor of God’s holy vision
    And sliding away like a tear down His face

    Closer you see the whole wide holy wonder
    Of oceans and mountains and rivers and trees
    And the strangest creation of many the human
    A creature of laughter and freedom and dreams

    Now the warriors are waving their old rusty sabers
    The preaches are preaching a gospel of hate
    By their behavior determined to teach us
    A lesson we’re soon to be learning too late

    Look closer my brother, we’re killing each other
    We’d better stop and get started today
    Because life is the question and life is the answer
    And God is the reason and love is the way.

    These are people who have managed to transcend their limited world view to see the miracle of life everywhere. You are one of them. May your reverence for life and love carry you safely through the years to come. Love, Jeanie

    1. January 25, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Jeanie. I don’t see an alternative. Anger and rage feel so terrible and do so much harm to others and to my own body. My marriage to Vic was unusually peaceful because he had grown up with a fighting family and didn’t want to live with that energy. He broke the chain.
      “Because life is the question and life is the answer
      And God is the reason and love is the way.”
      May we turn the boat around and learn to compromise and talk to “the other side” again.

  3. January 25, 2021 at 4:27 am

    Aladin Fazel


    And I wish there were many like you, my dear wise and good-hearted friend.

    1. January 25, 2021 at 11:59 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      We’ll keep working on increasing the size of the tribe. Thanks, Aladin.

  4. January 21, 2021 at 2:16 am

    susan scott


    Word. May we remember those words and try to live up to the ideal. We watched the inauguration last night and it was very inspiring. As was Amanda Gorman. Biden’s got a lot on his plate post the last administration. Hopefully the the Dems and Republicans can work TOGETHER. Wish it would happen here – that all the opposition parties to our current presidency banded together and got this corrupt one out.

    Thankfully Mother Nature provides for the soul what politicians and people can’t. I give deep thanks for that.

    Be safe Elaine. And thank you for the reminder of Peace.

    1. January 21, 2021 at 6:05 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      The inauguration was inclusive and positive and such a relief. Amanda Gorman was the best possible way to end the ritual. A FB friend, poet, and editor who contacted me after reading my book sent me an article and a poem by Amanda Gorman before I had heard of her (it’s shared on my FB page). I thought I was ready, but nothing could have prepared me for her power, poise, and eloquence.

      I don’t know if the political parties can work together. We’re on a high right now and if anyone can do it, Biden can with his compassionate tone. He’s also creating an amazing administration with many women and minorities. Will the Republicans let this happen? That remains to be seen. And you’re right about Mother Nature–and I’m glad Biden is also concerned about climate change and rejoining world organizations for health and the environment. It’s like emerging from the longest nightmare possible. You stay safe, too, Susan. We’re having to begin fresh here with covid vaccination plans because there were no plans–and the death toll is alarming in cities and group housing of all kinds.

  5. January 20, 2021 at 8:23 am

    Aladin Fazel


    All we’re saying… It is a long time ago! As we can see, my dear wise friend, how the world or, better to say, how people have been changed. Those days, they were all for Peace and yet!? Anyway, hope is still there. Take care, dear Elaine, and I wish that the inauguration today will be a good and peaceful one.

    1. January 20, 2021 at 1:16 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Yes, a long time ago, but I never forgot the words or the idealism. It’s been a rough time in our world and my government has been more and more alarming the last 4 years, but I have hope for the first time in a long time. Will we be perfect? I don’t expect perfection, but I believe in the power of compassion and tolerance. I believe we can heal and move forward. I’m grateful it was a safe inauguration even though it was sad we had to worry about safety. Peace and safety to all of us in this struggling world.

  6. January 20, 2021 at 7:54 am

    Marian Beaman


    Good morning, Elaine! I say AMEN to “Give peace a chance.” As you know, the Mennonite heritage I come from is peace-loving, anti-war, pacifistic. I denounce violence of any kind, and hope for a kinder, gentler mood in the country beginning today. As I type this, I remember the legacy of our 41st president, President George H. W. Bush and his appeal for a “kinder, gentler nation” and the 1000 points of light, his metaphor for positivity and hope. The departing president has left a harsh legacy, a blot upon our democracy.

    Nevertheless, Democratic or Republican, I pray for each administration to succeed. Why wouldn’t I? When presidents fail, we all lose. Thus, I am praying for incoming President Biden and his administration. May the transition – and the accompanying ceremonies – be peaceful.

    I will not fret. My hope is in God, my Rock in these tumultuous time. Peace and hope to you, Elaine, and to all your readers of this fine post.

    1. January 20, 2021 at 1:08 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Dear Marian, thank you for being a woman of peace. I also pray for each administration to succeed whether or not I voted for the winner. I hoped the one before this would soften, mellow and grow in wisdom and compassion, but it went a different direction. I pray for peace and tolerance and helping hands. I am deeply moved by Amanda Gorman. She’s a wise woman at 22 years old! I am deeply moved by the ethnic diversity exhibited today because we are a diverse country. There is so much hard work to be done, but hope is a powerful motivator and President Biden gave me that today.

      1. January 20, 2021 at 1:31 pm

        Marian Beaman


        Yes, I too was impressed by Amanda Gorman’s poem, simply beautiful. She will go far with her dreams!

  7. January 19, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Dearest Elaine,

    Watching those recent riots was absolutely heart-breaking! It felt surreal, like I was watching a movie or drama in complete shock, especially when I saw police officers … I repeat police officers … unlocking doors to let the angry mob in. I just I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

    Especially now as the world struggles with deadly and more dangerous second and third waves of the coronavirus. Tears flowed! Oh, how fragile and vulnerable we all are, like Aladin, I thought! John Lennon’s music and lyrics have come to mind often during these past 12 months.

    All last weekend I felt on tenterhooks, anticipating more rioting by the same angry mob, so my boots were also pulled on as we headed outdoors to seek sanctuary in nature. The sense of disgust and condemnation that these riots even took place and people died is world-wide.

    Walking in grief does bring our attention to the beauty of the world, be it just a glimpse. As new snowdrops, tiny quince flowers and early daffodils caught my attention and reminded me of the glimmers of hope you talk about and how much we all need to hold on to them at the moment.

    Every January for as long as I can remember I’ve always dedicated it to poetry, I think this is how I’m surviving down here in my cosy rabbit hole surrounded by books and warm blankets. Lastly, even though I live in the UK, tomorrow’s inauguration cannot come soon enough!

    Sending you much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us, Deborah.

    1. January 19, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      I posted early and you responded early, Deborah. I wanted this out a day early while we’re in transition in this country. I also couldn’t believe what I was seeing and still can’t. I can look at Disco’s behavior and see I’m still carrying lots of tension (she destroyed a wool sock and an old couch pillow which is not something she’s done for at least half a year).

      After seeing wild-eyed looters rushing up the Capital steps, I went to a Zoom writing class where I could let off steam–and a few hours later was relieved to find the verification vote had resumed. What a mess we’re in where people can’t differentiate reliable from unreliable information and where anything is a cause for anger and violence. Sadly, the federal government area of Washington, DC now looks like an armed encampment–but I hope it works and there is no more violence and people take deep breaths and calm down. It will help to get the Head Instigator out of the capital–or I hope it will.

      We are far from flowers here, but the snow is bright and many colorful woodpeckers come to my suet feeder. They make me happy. I’m giving Disco lots of soothing attention. Her submissive behavior and soft eyes seemed to say, “I’m sorry. If you’re scared, then I’m scared.” I don’t seem to be dedicating my life to much of anything except fretting and waiting–so I vowed to clean out a closet this afternoon and then begin painting an image of Osiris. Here I go. Love and light in your rabbit hole from across the oak tops and over the sea.

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