In light rain this past Saturday evening we planted two pecan trees to mark the arrivals of our children, Auggie and Evie. Beneath the saplings we buried the placentas we’d saved from their births.

The ritual invited me to think about the meaning of home.

Home isn’t always a physical place, though it can be that, but it’s always, in my experience, something I return to. A dwelling space. A relationship. A state of heart, mind and being. Even an image and the feeling tone that image inspires.

Home, for me, is vulnerable, authentic, all-embracing, and intimate the way climbing vines twine together. As intimate as air is to breath.

By planting these trees here at Jonah House, along with the once living tissue that helped sustain Auggie and Evie in the womb, their first home, I feel I’m vowing to return to these trees, to both care for and be nourished by them.

IMG_3106All this makes me consider how birds home to a particular place. Habitats in physical space that orient their lives and journeys. Places of return and the innate sense to find them.

Emily and I have returned to Baltimore. We also home to other places — like New Mexico, South Dakota, and North Carolina — where we have family and where we’ve experienced transformations of the sort that sculpt soul and body, of the kind where I feel I’ve been folded into the landscape, worked into its soil.

And so it is, now with our family, tilled into the earth here, our lives and bodies knit with the growth of this soil.

Tucker Brown

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

Genevieve Therese Parr Brown was born at home, Jonah House, on Sunday, May 1st at 3:50 p.m.

IMG_3073

Auggie has handled his little sister’s homecoming with relative ease. He likes to practice his vocabulary by using her features as prompts: fingers, hands, mouth, ears, eyes and cheeks. He seems to know that Evie doesn’t replace him, but rather enlarges his life with all sorts of wonder and unexpected change!

image2

We are grateful for community. People have showed up in so many ways: washing dishes, preparing meals, spending time with Auggie, tending to Emily, and simply sitting with us and sharing in the reverie Evie inspires.

image4

With joy, sadness. Birth and death. Daniel Berrigan passed away. On Monday evening, two days after he’d died and less than 24 hours into Evie’s life, I reflected on some words he’d read during the Catonsville 9 trial:

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, for the burning of paper instead of children …”

Holding Evie in my arms, I’m aware that right now other newborns are being torn apart by war, deprivation, addiction, and neglect. I cannot love her without also calling to heart and mind their suffering. Violence in the world throughout fracturing the littlest and most fragile among us. In Syria. In San Antonio, where two kids are found tied up in a back yard, tethered like dogs, leashes around their necks, with scars and scratches all over their bodies. In Baltimore, a mother punishes and ultimately kills her stepchild by boiling his legs.

As I read about and hold these horrors in my heart I experience a great grief over the cycles of suffering and violence — and our world’s addiction to violence — that permeate our shared life. I invoke a passage from the Buddha’s discourse on good will: “just as a mother with her own life protects her child, her only child, from harm, so within yourself let grow a boundless love for all creatures.” It comes to me as a challenge: Do I embrace each being, especially those I’m averse to, as I would Evie?  I know I don’t.  

Evie is precious. She nurses and sleeps. Her needs are simple and direct, physical and intimate.

I practice a different kind of zazen when I hold her. She quiets and invites me into her stillness. Her eyes move underneath their lids and her face, completely relaxed one moment, in another twitches, wrinkles, frowns, grins and pouts.  I love watching her play of gestures.

image2 (1)

Auggie is precious. When he’s not “up with daddy,” I chase him around the house and outside. Auggie erupts with activity and a ceaseless stream of words until, exhausted, he declares: “baff, mup” and we take him upstairs to bed. He falls asleep right away, eats when he wakes up, and again we go, nonstop, until the nightime ritual of washing, brushing, book reading and fare-welling: Bye bye toys, moon, stars, stuffed animals, mommy and daddy.

IMG_4164

Life at Jonah House is full, in and out of doors, with the land greening and growing everywhere. The garden, the grass, the forest humming with movement. Bugs and birds. Vines climbing trees. Plants of all sorts sprouting skyward and every which way towards the light they can catch.

A few day’s ago I spotted a fox. A male, I think. He glided between the tomb stones near the house and disappeared behind a cluster of trees. I watched cats scatter because they gather there.

Dandelions can resurrect themselves over night! On the mornings after we mow, I marvel at their stalks rising upright out of the ground, inches above the cut grass, like thousands of twigs stuck there by some kind of nocturnal mischief.

Tucker Brown

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

Following the funeral of Dan Berrigan in New York City, Liz and Joe were able to attend the Atlantic Life Community (ALC) spring retreat, at the Mariandale retreat center, in Ossining, New York. (Tucker and Emily had to stay in Baltimore to tend to the newest community member at Jonah House – Genevieve, born May 1. And Ardeth and Carol stayed behind to tend to the three of them, and Genevieve’s big brother, Auggie.)

Located on a bluff on the east side of the Hudson River, Mariandale offers some breath-taking views.

hudsonriver

But more inspiring is the work of the 40+ dedicated peacemakers who attended the retreat. Many of those attending had come from Dan Berrigan’s funeral the day before. Dan was very much on people’s minds. In fact, one of the sessions was devoted to brain-storming public witness scenarios to commemorate Dan.

The retreat had all of the regular features of an ALC retreat. There was sharing about what folks are doing in their communities to bring about a more just and peaceful world. There were workshops on such topics as intentional communities, sustainability, centering prayer, and the Plowshares movement. And there was a talent show. Joe offered some of Dan Berrigan’s poetry and sang some songs in his honor, including Phil Ochs’s anthem “When I’m Gone.”

On Sunday Liz gave an impassioned presentation on Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. Without shying away from the dire state of the biosphere on the planet, Liz offered reasons to hope that God, through imperfect human beings, might prevent the destruction of the planet that God so lovingly created.

alc_lizpres

Liz’s presentation was followed by the traditional ALC retreat liturgy. Those gathered read the scriptures of the day and broke bread together.

Here is one of the altar decorations, done by one of the children who attended the retreat:

alc_kidcard

May God’s grace sustain the community until it meets again, in Camden, NJ, over Labor Day.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

On April 30, we received the sad news that Fr. Dan Berrigan, SJ, had died. Dan was a priest, poet, prophet, and protester; he was also a spiritual God-father of Jonah House, the brother and uncle and friend of Jonah House members, and an inspiration to thousands. Dan and Phil Berrigan were the prototypical “radical priests,” which was acknowledged by Time Magazine in 1971.

berrigans_timeLiz was asked to do a eulogy for Dan at his funeral, in New York City. Joe, who once entered a Catholic seminary with the aspiration to be a priest like Dan Berrigan, went up with Liz on Thursday, May 5.

The wake was held in the afternoon and evening of May 5 at St. Francis Xavier Church, a Jesuit church in Manhattan. The St. Francis Xavier school, next door to the church, put out a banner in tribute to Dan. The banner displayed one of Dan’s better-known poems, “Some.”

danb_some

Joe took the picture while walking to the church with members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community. Moments later a uniformed member of the school’s ROTC program walked by. Kathy Boylan of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker stopped him to point out the irony (hypocrisy?) of a Jesuit school with a ROTC program putting out a banner in tribute to one of the great Jesuit peacemakers. Kathy encouraged him to quit the ROTC program and convince all the other ROTC members at Xavier to do the same.

The wake offered a platform to many of Dan’s friends to commemorate this great voice and actor for peace. Many pictures of Dan were on display.

danb_wake_posters

Dan’s funeral was the following day. It began with a march from the New York Catholic Worker, where Dan spent time with his friend Dorothy Day and said mass for the Catholic Worker community, to St. Francis Xavier Church. Even though it was pouring rain, it was a raucous, joyful celebration of Dan’s life. The march was led by a rowdy brass band.

danb_funeral_march01

Here’s another shot of the march.

danb_funeral_march02

The celebration continued in the warm, dry, and very packed St. Francis Xavier Church. Steve Kelly SJ, a friend of Jonah House, gave an inspired homily at the funeral mass. He began by jokingly telling the FBI agents in the audience that they can finally close their file on Dan Berrigan. Though this might be premature, because Dan – like St. Therese, the Little Flower – will likely spend his time in heaven doing good (and making merry mischief) on earth.

stevekelly_dansfuneral

A highlight of the funeral mass was Liz’s eulogy of Dan, beginning with Dan’s famous statement concerning the Catonsville action in 1968. As a sign of appreciation for all Liz has done for peace, and in hopes that she will carry on the legacy of the Berrigan family, the audience gave Liz a standing ovation that lasted for a few minutes.

Jerry, Frida and Kate Berrigan – children of Liz and Phil, and nephew/nieces of Dan – also gave touching eulogies, as did their cousin Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.

liz_dansfuneral

 

The funeral mass was followed by a reception at St. Francis Xavier Church. There were many more pictures of Dan, and some of him with his brother Phil. The picture below features just Phil and a quote that is still very much apropos.

philb_poster

Dan Berrigan, along with his brother Phil and all the Berrigan clan, will forever be “presénte” at Jonah House.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

From April 20-23, Joe had the opportunity to join the 2016 Peace Walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji. The Nipponzan Myohoji is a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist order dedicated to the work of peace and justice.  It is the practice of the order to chant “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” (derived from the Lotus Sutra), and beat on hand drums, while walking for peace, human rights, and nuclear disarmament.

nipponzanmyohoji

The title of the 2016 Peace Walk was “Walk for a New Spring.”

The walk began at the beginning of March from Leverett Massachusetts, the location of the New England Peace Pagoda. Joe joined the March in Baltimore. On April 20, there was a potluck dinner and presentation by the Peace Walkers at the Friends Meeting House on Charles Street, in downtown Baltimore. Liz McAlister attended, with Joe.

friends_baltimore

The next day, the walkers proceeded from the Friends Meeting House and marched through Baltimore, then Catonsville, and ending up in Ellicott City. For part of the walk, the walkers went up North Avenue, passing just a few blocks away from Jonah House.

While walking through Catonsville, the walkers stopped for a few moments in front of the Knights of Columbus building, to commemorate the Catonsville 9 Draft-board raid in 1968. Jonah House co-founder Phil Berrigan participated in this action.

The following day, the walkers marched through Hagerstown, MD, and then went to the nearby Antietam Battlefield, to witness for peace. The battle of Antietam, also known as the battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest engagement during the American Civil War. The walkers left flowers at some monuments and walked up “Bloody Lane,” where the pile of dead was six feet high.

antietam_nm01

The Antietam phase of the Peace Walk ended up at the Dunker Church. During the battle, this white-washed church was used as a point of reference for both armies. This was bitterly ironic in that the building was a place where a Brethren church – a historic “peace” church – met to worship.  After the battle, the church was commandeered as a field hospital. The surgeons and their assistants dropped amputated limbs into piles outside the windows of the church.

dunkerchurch

The following day, the peace walkers went to Xa Loi Temple, in Frederick, MD. This is a Vietnamese “Pure Land” Buddhist temple where one of the Nipponzan Myohoji monks, Tim-Shonin, is building a Peace Pagoda. Here is a picture of a quarry pond on the property. The statues are representations of Kwan Yin (or Quan Te Am, in Vietnamese), who is an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and can be compared to the Catholic Virgin Mary.

xaloi01

There are many statues of Kwan Yin, the Buddha, and other Buddhist figures at the Temple. Joe’s favorite was made of plaster, and was just the head of a unfinished statue of massive proportions.

xaloi02

At Xa Loi, the peace walkers celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, known in Japan as Hanamatsuri, in the main meditation hall at the temple.

hanamatsuri

Below is a shot of Jean Chapman, a friend of the Jonah House community, bathing the baby Buddha in tea. This is a traditional ritual during Hanamatsuri.

hanamatsuri_jeanc

Joe spent the night in the hermitage built by Tim-Shonin. Tim-Shonin’s Ancestor Altar included a familiar face (and I’m not referring to Mr. Rogers!). Phil Berrigan was one of the peacemakers on Tim-Shonin’s altar.

timshonin_altar

After the ritual, Joe caught a ride to DC and from there got the train to Baltimore and was soon back where he began the peace walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji, at home at Jonah House.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

You’re probably seen tent caterpillar nests in trees in your yard, neighborhood, or at the side of roads, in wild cherry trees or crab-apple trees. They spin web-like nests and propagate. Each nest holds hundreds of caterpillars. During the day they come out and munch on the leaves of the tree or (we’ve discovered) sun themselves on cemetery monuments.

tentcaterpillar01

Tent caterpillars are bad news for fruit orchards, since they prefer to build their nests in fruit trees. Since we have many fruit trees on the property – cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, pears, and quite a few apples – we had to climb the fruit trees or stand on ladders with longs poles, to pull down the tent caterpillar nests.

After they were pulled down, they were deposited in a bucket.

tentcaterpillar02

Most of the tent caterpillars survived the ordeal. We decided not to kill them. Instead they were removed to another location where they would be no threat to our fruit trees. After they become moths, they are welcome to return.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

On April 16, four members of the Towson University Garden Club helped us get our garden ready for planting.

Here you can see Tucker plowing one of the plots with the roto-tiller.

tucker_garden_0416

Emily stands in front of one of the plots, which has just been weeded and manured with horse manure that we picked up at a horse farm in Ellicott City. You can see that Emily, like the garden behind her, will soon be bringing new life into the world.

emily_garden_0416

We have yet to plant the garden, but the asparagus is already producing spears. We’ll have fresh asparagus for the next six weeks or so.

asparagus_0416

We’ll be posting pictures of the garden as things develop during the spring in summer, so stay tuned.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

First Mowing

This past week we did the first mowing of St. Peter’s Cemetery. Here’s one view.

firstmowing01

The cemetery has 22 acres. We have to mow about 14 acres (the other 8 are forest). It takes 3 people on 3 mowers to do it all in one day.

On the east side, whoever’s mowing has to weave between flowering apple trees.

firstmow_apple01

Looks pretty but if you’re not paying attention, one of those lower branches could knock you off the mower!

firstmow_apple02

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

Tucker and I were quite busy last week chipping branches using a chipper provided by New Cathedral Cemetery.

chipper

The branches had been piling up for a couple years. Usually, the folks at New Cathedral do the chipping, but they’re understaffed at the moment. So they brought us the chipper and told us to use it as long as we needed it. We needed it ten days.

We’ll be using the chips to line the paths through the woods.

There were some logs too big to put through the chipper.

woodpile

We’ll use the chain saws to cut them down to log size. They’ll be heating the house next winter.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

At this year’s Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat, organized by Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community, four members of the Jonah House Community participated. Joe, Liz, Ardeth, and Carol traveled to St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 24 – the 36th anniversary of the assassination of the Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero – for the two-day retreat. We joined members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, students from Loras College in Iowa, the Atlantic Life Community, Pax Christi Metro DC and Baltimore, and other friends. The theme of the retreat was: “Put Away the Sword – Stop Crucifixion Today.”

On Thursday evening, we were present for an inspiring talk on Oscar Romero and the eucharist, by Cinnamon Sarver. After this, we participated in a foot-washing ritual, in which each of us in turn washed the feet of the person to our right, as all chanted “Let Me Be An Instrument Of Peace.” This was followed by an eucharistic bread-breaking. In our Holy Thursday activities, we joined the millions of Christians throughout the world also commemorating Jesus’s act of washing the feet of his disciples, followed by his last supper, before his arrest by Jewish religious authorities and his execution by the Roman state.

goodfriday2016_pentagon

We rose early the next morning to vigil for peace at the Pentagon, continuing a practice begun by faith-based peacemakers (including those at Jonah House) decades ago. We were there, on Good Friday, to remember the many who continue to be crucified by institutions of power and economic structures in our world today. While police looked on and Pentagon workers passed by, we read a statement, alternating with a verse from the old spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” As this was going on, four members of the group – dressed in black and enacting Jesus’s way of the cross – proceeded towards the Pentagon metro entrance. As they processed, they knelt and prayed three times the traditional prayer of Good Friday, “We Adore You O Christ and We Bless You, Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World,”  followed by the plea “Put Away the Sword!” These four, including Ardeth and Carol from Jonah House, were arrested, taken into custody, and await arraignment and trial in May.

We returned to the church to break our fast, to discuss our witness at the Pentagon, and to go over our witness at the White House, at noon. Before leaving for the White House, Dr. Ahn, a Korean scientist-turned-peace-activist, shared with us his story, which included his involvement in developing the cruise missile program, and his deep belief in the power of redemption. He also spoke about the “Cheonan” incident in March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 South Korean sailors.

goodfriday2016_whitehouseOur ritual witness at the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House fence, was in the form of a stationary Stations of the Cross. As many tourists looked on, eleven people, dressed in black, took turns mounting the cross to dramatize contemporary crucifixion. The eleven represented, respectively, Iraq war victims, Afghanistan war victims, drone bombing victims, victims of militarism and nuclearism, victims of racial violence, victims of poverty and economic exploitation, torture victims, victims killed as a result of nonviolent action, victims of imprisonment, immigrant victims, and our desecrated Earth.

For many more details, including the statements read, see Art Laffin’s account on the Dorothy Day House blog:

Report of March 24-25, 2016 Holy Thursday-Good Friday Faith and Resistance Retreat-Witness in D.C.–Four Arrested at Pentagon

Friend of Jonah House, Brian Barrett, at the White House.

Friend of Jonah House, Brian Barrett, at the White House.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrss

Contact Jonah House

babysitting certification