The WILPF Gathering, August 14-16, 2020
… was smaller and shorter than previous ones, because of the pandemic, it was open only to Vermonters.
Attending in person were Laurie Larsen, Lesley Becker, Dorothy Tod, Sandy Baird, and Charlotte Dennett. A surprise visitor who stayed with us throughout the day Saturday was Glynnis Kevan, the daughter of my deceased friend Bill Kevan.
Saturday morning Dorothy spoke to us about the Bhagavad Gita. After a weekend session several months earlier with Beana Bern at Rootstock Retreat in the Northeast Kingdom (VT), Dorothy had renewed her fascination with this ancient wisdom text."The struggle with knowing what action to take, the toil of finding the right technique or method so that what to do next is clear, is the root of Arjuna's dilemma throughout the entire story of the Bhagavad Gita, "The Song of God."
Dorothy reminded us of the verse from the Bhagavad Gita(11:32) that came to Robert Oppenheimer when he witnessed the atomic bomb explode over Trinity in the summer of 1945: " I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds. I have come to consume the world.”
She added: “As we face a world of rampant decay what guidance can this ancient text hold for us today? Over the years, I find myself coming back to it, picking up different translations. Now as I learn to chant the Sanskrit, I am feeling the residue and experiencing my breath anew.”
That afternoon, we challenged ourselves to create three ‘hybrid’ zoom events:
1. Charlotte Dennett talked about her most recent book., What Really Happened in Beirut? This took place outside on
the lawn, with mixed audio reception.
2. We interviewed Elizabeth Shackelford, a former State
Department official who has semi-retired to Rochester VT. She zoomed with us from across the valley. She served in South Sudan and became aware of the corruption not only in South Sudan but in the State Department under Susan Rice. She saw how the people’s needs and aspirations were denied and she wrote a book about it: The Dissent Channel.
3. The next morning, we held a zoom conversation with Sameena Nazir, one of the founders of WILPF Pakistan, who had
visited us at the Gathering in 2018 but is now home in Pakistan. We discussed feminism and other verboten subjects.The conversation was edited into an article for our Peace and Freedom magazine which is on line only for the first time in WILPF history. https://wilpfus.org/resources/publications.
On Friday night, some of us gathered for dinner.
Laurie told us of a surprising family revelation. She recently did Ancestry.com and discovered that her father was not her biological father, her childhood dentist was. She found that her childhood classmate who had also registered with Ancestry was her half sister, as was her sister that she grew up with showing as a half sister. That could only mean that her childhood classmate and she shared a father. Laurie had built some of her identity on her father’s Saami heritage, and had visited Sweden to do some genealogy there, as well as stay for some weeks in Jokkmokk with the curator of the Saami museum there….and now, how will she reorient her thinking about her heritage? Laurie is a teacher of science and sociopolitics, but is also a spiritual person, more or less aligning her beliefs and practices with other pagans, viewing nature as sacred and our best teacher.
We also talked about our mothers. Barbara’s mother died when she was 19. She had a dream that helped her adjust to her loss.
Dorothy had dealt with the death of several friends in the last year. She talked about the ritual of wiping their bodies with a special oil and folding them in a shroud.
The pandemic upended the formality of our meals. On Saturday we made food together from the garden and added Dorothy’s delicious gazpacho cold soup, followed by more talking. Glynis stayed with us all the way. After dinner we walked around the barn and the Bone and Rag Shop and then we smoked a joint on the Captains Porch and went to bed at 10 pm.
Friday, August 14
Friday night: Bring your own food. Quiche provided from Sandy's Cafe. Coffee, wine and other drinks provided. Links on Saturday and Sunday conversations by zoom will be posted here by Friday.
Saturday, August 15
10 am: Welcome and Discussion with Dorothy Tod on the Bagavad-Gita. Face-to-face.
11 am: Charlotte Dennett: What really happened in Beirut? Charlotte was borne in Beirut. Face-to-face & Zoom (see Zoom instructions above).
12 pm: lunch - Salad from garden. Discussion of the recent Reparations Resolution passed unanimously by the Burlington City Council, plus Cancel Culture, how long will the shutdown last?, etc. Face-to-face.
2 pm: Zoom conversation with new resident of Rochester who has recently written a book about why she resigned from serving in the State Department in the South Sudan. Elizabeth Shackelford was a U.S. diplomat until December 2017 when she resigned in protest of the administration. She served in Somalia, South Sudan, Poland, and Washington, DC. Elizabeth is a fellow with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and author of "The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age," published in May 2020.
4 pm: Report from Marguerite on the Vt suffrage project, and the New England campaign to restrict toxic chemicals from our airports. Face-to-face & Zoom (smaller WILPF group - link not published publicly).
6:30 pm: Dinner. Stay Saturday night if you'd like.
Sunday, August 16
11 am: Conversation with Sameena Nazir from Pakistan. Zoom.