What I Did with My Summer Vacation

Picture of Peace Pole

By Katherine Murray.

The last week of June, I took four days off with the intention of enjoying a quiet “staycation” full of gardening, hummingbirds, and long walks with my dogs. I envisioned this break as a time of silent retreat, with plenty of room for relaxing into the quiet and listening to the stirrings and nudges of spirit.

The morning of the third day, I awoke with a colorful idea that seemed to have a lot of energy attached to it, so after I had my coffee, I went to the hardware store, bought a single fence post (for $5.99), and brought it home.

I spread a tarp out on my garage floor, gathered up all the colorful cans of paint I had (including some green paint with glitter) and I found brushes I had left over from other projects. I also got a piece of paper and a pen and sat down on the tarp, with all the tools for creativity organized around me.

Then, I let myself get quiet for a few minutes. Soon I saw in my mind’s eye colorful and creative designs for the project. The ideas filled my mind faster than I could write or sketch them. After just a few minutes, I had the plan: I was going to make a peace pole for my garden. This seemed to me to be a perfect, active prayer for the growing sense of alarm and sadness I was feeling because of what felt like growing unrest in the world, the violence and heartbreak of terrorist attacks, and the vitriol being spewed in the political arena.

The peace pole, I thought, could be at least one point on the globe consistently offering a visual prayer of peace for the world. And who knows? Maybe it would radiate outward and bless my neighborhood, my city, my region, the world.

I did a little research and decided I would use the four colors of the directions according to Chief Seattle (white for north, red for east, yellow for south, and black for west), and I chose the prayer words “peace” for the west, “zhi-bde” for east (Tibetan), “asudai” for Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan, and “shalom” for the middle east. Plus I included as many chakra colors as I had on hand, in order from root (at the base of the pole) to crown.

As I began the work of creating the vision, I soon learned it was an object lesson, rich in connections to my ideas about peace. For example, I’m not an artist, so I was tempted to give up several times when things got blobby and the paint went on unevenly.But then I thought, “Well, peace isn’t easy or perfect either, is it?”

And when the design didn’t look exactly the way I’d envisioned it in my head, I realized that’s the same frustration I feel when I struggle with news of war and violence and exploitation of our planet.

After a little hesitation, I decided to go ahead put the pole up, imperfect as it was, and continue to work on it, add to it, and change it as I feel inspired. Kinda’ like peace work. You use what you have at hand, do your best, and keep at it as long as you can.

The result? The peace pole stands quietly between the German thyme and rosemary in the herb garden outside my back door. I have fallen in love with it. I no longer want to change it or judge it or make it be something it isn’t. It radiates good intention, which inspires my prayers and comforts my heart every time I see it. And that brings peace, even if only to one heart and mind at a time.