A Hot “Love In” Peace Day in Morro Bay

It’s rare to have a day over 80 degrees in Morro Bay, California so it was with some concern when upon rising in the morning we found the temperature already at 85. Plans were for a 1960s style Love in Peace Celebration in a city park located directly on the waterfront. Wind was blowing steadily from off the land, thus the rise in temperature. Would we be comfortable? Would enough people show up in the heat? Yes!

We spread our picnic tables, our chairs, and blankets under the shade of an enormous tree. We hung our signs of statements: Peace is Possible, Nonviolence or Nonexistence, No More War, on the backs of benches and on a fence along the road. The park area was packed with visitors and locals out for a day of fun in the sunshine. We could tell that we were going to attract an audience. We did as soon as the drumming circle gathered, passed out all the drums and other percussion instruments and we set down to drum for peace! Leslie Thompson, our drumming expert and leader, guided 40 of us through a variety of rhythms and added chants and songs. People began to cluster around our group. Everyone swayed with the beat in the heat. It didn’t matter that it was hot. Peace, or the lack of it, is a hot subject.

For me, International Peace Day is a reminder of how many places in the world live in conflict, poverty and destruction. Even here the eroding of our freedoms is taking place all too often and is little noticed by us until it is too late. Peace is not to be taken lightly. As a peace builder group, we believe the only way to a lasting world peace is through the principles of nonviolence practiced daily in our lives. Nonviolence is not easy. It requires constant dedication and awareness. How easy it is to fall back into self-interests, greed, and retaliation for suffered wrongs. How hard it is to open our minds and hearts to understanding those who believe differently than we do. How often we immediately react with harsh words instead of listening. How very difficult to be compassionate to those doing what we believe is evil.

Peace is a wonderful word, but without the actions of nonviolence it is rather meaningless. Most of us in Morro Bay live in peaceful neighborhoods. There is not a lot of crime, not a lot of disturbance especially when compared to larger metropolitan areas in the country. Our violence is more of an insidious nature; backbiting, racial slurs on social media, silent prejudice, inability to get along with coworkers or family members, lack of compassion for the homeless and marginalized in our community. So, it is not truly peaceful.

One day out of the year doing peace and nonviolent actions is not enough. So, this was our message for those gathered around the drumming circle as we launched into listening to a young high school singer/songwriter perform songs she wrote in reference to the world she finds herself in today, a world of gun violence and planet destruction. Amalia Fleming sang to us the words of her original song, “Renegades,” that she performed for the Women’s March and recorded on the CD “Raise Your Voice, the Sound of Student Protest.” Her haunting music is only matched by her words: “No one’s ever had to save the world before. They’re giving us something we can’t ignore . . . No one’s ever known what it’s like to run out of time, it’s like being at the scene of a crime, rushing to cover up the lies . . . Some may say we chose this life of renegades, that our hearts beat black and grey, that we will never win the day. To hell with their games, we were born to be renegades.”

Renegades indeed! We felt her pain as we joined together with Yarrow Nelson and the Peace Choir to sing songs of hope, songs of peace. We swayed in the breeze and danced on the grass. We were having a Love In!

Then high above us circling in the clear blue sky a large bird flew. We stood up and raised our eyes heavenward watching amazed as a bald eagle which is rarely seen in Morro Bay seemed to be sending a message. “The gentle dove is not the bird of peace. For too long my image has been used to foster a false patriotism, an unhealthy nationalism, a litany of war. This is not what I stand for. I am the true bird of peace through nonviolence. Seek the truth and then peace will be with you.”

Yes, it was a hot day for Morro Bay.