Joyfield Farm, Indiana
I write from the kitchen table of Cliff and Arlene Kindy. Mark is reading ancient copies of Plain magazine, and Cliff is sat against the refrigerator, in front of the window to catch the breeze, reading the latest disturbing tome by Helen Caldicott. For a while, every so often, Cliff would share with us some random horror, like the fact that the U.S. can use a series of lasers to recreate the pressure and heat conditions at the center of the sun, thus creating nuclear fusion. Or the fact that, in contravention of numerous treaties, the U.S. has found a way to use a computer to simulate a plutonium trigger, thus facilitating ongoing testing and development of more and more deadly nuclear warheads. He tells me that, according to Dr. Helen, Plutonium is not the most deadly element. Something called Americium 241 is. “Americium, spelled like America?” I ask, writing it down, thinking that this horrific piece of trivia is something a peace activist should know.
But Cliff has stopped sharing stories with me now. Perhaps because I’m not giving him much response. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the stories, and it’s certainly not that I don’t care. I’m just not sure what an appropriate response is. There are words and phrase like “more deadly nuclear warheads” which just don’t make a great deal of sense to me. I was a child when I learned that the US and USSR already possessed sufficient nuclear capacity to destroy the world seven times over. I thought then and I think now that having developed the capacity to destroy the world once is insane, inexplicably hideous, beyond criminal, and shouldn‘t grown-ups of all people know better? “Why don’t we just take all the missiles and bury them on the moon?” twelve-year-old me asked.
“We could bury the technology,” my sage, leftist, ex-Marine 7th grade social studies teacher, Todd Behrens, taught me. “But we can’t bury the knowledge.”
“But just because you know how to build something doesn’t mean you have to, doesn’t mean you should. That’s just stupid.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
The tree frogs are chorusing aplenty. They’ve had a banner day; we all have. Mark’s and my knack for bringing rain with us hasn’t failed us in Indiana. Joyfield Farm received more than an inch today. Everyone is happy--they have needed the rain. No complaints of being “assaulted by another storm!” here. Cliff and Arlene make their living selling organic vegetables from their front porch and at farmer’s markets. We helped pick peas today, and do a few broccoli transplants; we spent most of the day trimming and cleaning garlic, putting it up in the barn to cure. We got wet and muddy and wet and muddy and it was all glorious and delicious and fine. It wasn’t unbearably hot and humid, and that is a blessing in July.
As we sat working together, with Cliff, Arlene, and Cliff’s father, Cliff told us stories from his work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), www.cpt.org. By the time we’d heard two of his stories, I was convinced that Cliff is a non-violent, Arab-philic Indiana Jones, and that Harrison Ford should redeem himself for all those ghastly Tom Clancy-ish roles by playing him in the movie. Indiana Kindy. He told us stories of adventurous walking for days through the conflict zone to mountain villages in Colombia, to visit a community facing impending massacre, so that he might take their story to the world, or at least the UN; a forced expulsion from Iraq in the days of Shock and Awe when he nearly lost his life in a car accident; another expulsion, this time from Palestine, by the Israeli immigration authorities, for his nonviolent activism. And we spoke of Tom Fox, softly, but with respect not remorse, who gave Quakers our first 21st century martyr when he was killed in March of this year by unknown persons, and his CPT colleagues, Harmeet, Jim and Norman. Cliff shared stories with us, gleaned from their debrief, of their days as hostages in Iraq.
Arlene, in between raising two healthy, happy daughters and keeping the farm going while Cliff is traipsing all over the world, has co-directed hurricane relief efforts for the Church of the Brethren, worked in Columbia with CPT, and co-runs a soup supper sponsored by a local food bank. Arlene’s most magnificent accomplishment in my opinion, though, is her faith: she has watched her husband walk into war zones over and over again, and rather than panic or get eaten alive with worry, she supports his leadings and work completely and keeps their family going in his absence. Cliff’s faith seems to be equally central to his balance and sanity. They are wonderfully joy-filled, kind, compassionate people, the Kindys. Clear on their leadings, without being doctrinaire, hard-working without being addicted to work, clear-seeing in their convictions yet deeply respectful of the differences in people’s gifts and struggles. We feel enormously privileged to have this time as guests in their home, partaking of their very generous hospitality (and Arlene’s fantastic cooking), to work and learn beside them.
With CPT partners across the country, Cliff is helping to develop a campaign to stop DU (depleted uranium) use and production. He humbly asks Mark’s and my advice, as well as that of other activists, Sox and Lisa, who come to volunteer on the farm (“Now how did you and Sox meet again?” “Oh, we were in jail together a while back.”). But as wise as he is to get as much information as possible, I sense there’s a subterfuge afoot here. Cliff isn’t some hotshot drama-dude who flits in and out of war zones for the photo-ops. He’s an organizer, and I remember in the back of my mind the advice he gave Mark and me about building our community: make sure all the members are invested from the get-go, co-creating the community, not coming in later to something you’ve already built. I realize, after marveling again that this accomplished experienced elder-in-work is asking the opinion of less-experienced, less-successful activists, that this is exactly what he’s doing. Both the fact that he has solicited our opinion, and that CPT really seems to have their act together and to be building an essential, well-thought-out campaign that maybe really could prove a turning point for the war, makes me feel like this is something I want to be a part of. I don’t know how, given Mark’s and my current path, but I want to. And then I realize what Cliff’s done, intentionally or no, and I have to chuckle myself. It is good, deeply good, to be among and learning from such gifted, wise, good people.
We are learning lots about organic gardening (there is always more to learn) and sustainable-building practices/living practices (I write from a converted drive-thru corn-crib, now a very well-insulated, lovely home). More on those soon. Love, Val