I followed three Chinese people through the riverwalk section of George Rogers Park. They were oblivious to the green bower through which they passed as they leaned into each other talking. They did not see the waterfall. They did not see the sculptural roots splayed across the hill. They did not peek at the panoramic views of the Willamette River. But then, all three stopped and took a picture. What, I wondered, finally distracted them? I caught up to their stopping point and found a peace pole, star-bright against the muted colors of nature. "May Peace Prevail on Earth" was written in Cantonese. Lake Oswego was acknowledging these walkers and their language.
The Rotary Club placed Peace Poles in our city around 2015. The poles stand in silent vigil reminding us to build good will and peace in the world. There are now more than a hundred poles in LO. I do notice each pole as I pass. I use the pole as a kind of North Star to remind me of the direction I want to walk in my life. During the time of slavery, it was the North Star that fugitives followed to freedom. Night after night, when the stars came out, the fugitives would walk in the direction of that star which kept a silent vigil of hope. The poles lead me in the direction of "May Peace Prevail on Earth." Obviously the slaves weren't going to reach the North Star just as noticing the poles isn't going to achieve world peace. But this one person can resolve to live in a way that reminds me and others that goodness exists.
Meghalaya, India is one of the rainiest spots on earth. The rivers flood the land each monsoon season. Hundreds of years ago people devised an ingenious way to cross the rivers no matter the season. They wove together the roots of rubber trees while the roots were young and still malleable. They were fashioning bridges from the roots. Of course, they had to wait for the roots to grow from one side of the riverbank to the other to be an effective bridge. This could take generations. So people formed these bridges knowing they might never walk on them. They were preparing a path for their children and children's children. In the same way, they knew that the bridges on which they presently walked were made for them decades before by their ancestors.
The small behaviors I do are part of the weave I do with others. We build bridges and find ways to foster resiliency for those who come after. The peace pole is a reminder to believe that those efforts make a difference.
I thank Rotarians for this silent vigil of poles. Their message of welcome to those from other countries and their invitation to walk toward the North Star of peace sets up an atmosphere that yields untold and unknown benefit.
Cherie Dupuis is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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