Friday, July 11, 2008

On the Northwest frontier of New Hampshire

Last night I joined in a writing activity with Pakistani educators who are attending an institute at our local university. It is teachers-teaching-teachers in the finest tradition -- global in nature, respectful, and open.

We wrote about our cultures' traditions and ceremonies, and then shared our writing pieces with those at our table. We listened to one another's reflections on weddings, funerals, Thanksgiving, the Solstice. We spoke of big changes happening in our countries. We said later, you see how many things we have in common.

One man wrote of his homeland in what the British named the "North-West Frontier". It's where Pakistan and Afghanistan share a border, a place of long-lasting conflict and struggle. It's also a place of beauty and contrasts. It will soon be renamed Pukhtunkwa to cut away another mark of colonial rule.

Today, Barry and I rode to northwest New Hampshire to explore and kayak. We found a small lake with a noisy beaver, a silent loon, and a quiet family of Canada geese. We paddled there much of the afternoon, just the two of us with a chorus of birdsong from the trees that crowded to the shore.

It was a place of beauty and peace. How utterly different from the northwest province of Pakistan where my government, its allies, and local rivalry wage war even today.

In our history, this corner of New Hampshire would have seen war between French, Indian, English and colonists. The Connecticut River was a marker, a way to move people and goods. The indigenous peoples were driven out and the rich bottom land became the immigrants' farms and created wealth and power for a few.

It is an ancient struggle and a question to be answered by each generation. How do we live with one another without killing and coveting what they have? What is peace? And why is it so difficult to live.

I wonder if one day, a man and wife in northwest Pakistan will be able to walk freely in those mountains. Stop for a picnic. Admire the views and the quiet day. And return home with the full hearts and peacefulness that comes from such simple, human pleasures.

May this come to pass -- and may we all in the world do our part to make this happen for all peoples.