Emily’s parents, Therese and Terry, recently visited. They were a huge help and wonderful presence in our community! Therese spent a lot of time with Evie and Auggie, which freed us up to do some outdoor work. Terry mowed and weed whacked, hung our hammock and installed a ceiling fan in the living room. Therese volunteered in the food pantry, sewed curtains for Evie’s room, and planted flower boxes. Terry inspired us all with his guitar playing: One evening we invited the sisters over to join him in singing Irish folk songs. Therese inspired us too with her culinary talents: fresh baked bread, scrumptious meals, and lots of sweets! We will miss them and look forward to their next visit!


Above, Terry holding Auggie on his shoulders at the Maryland Zoo.


Above, Therese rocking Evie to sleep.


Above, Therese helping Auggie brush a goat.


Here are some photos of the cemetery and forest patch after our most recent mowing. It’s quite a bit of work to maintain the grounds, but we love it. Maia, who just finished her month-long stay with us, and Terry, Emily’s father, have been a huge help. Mowing, weeding, gardening, chainsaw work and bush whacking!


Above, our pasture area where we formerly kept goats, lamas, and donkeys. We hope to have animals again, once the kids are a bit older.


Above, a space we’ve cleared out in the forest patch. We hope to connect it with another clearing (below) and cover the ground with wood chips. It’s a great place for contemplation, a kind of forest refuge among the trees and wildlife.

IMG_3152Above, a space we’d like to clear out. It’ll be tough going considering the area is overgrown with vines and thick bushes. Poison ivy, too. The open canopy offers lots of sunlight and, once cleared, will provide another beautiful area to sit, rest, meditate and wonder at all the life in the forest patch.

IMG_3138Above, a section of the walking path that runs through the forest patch. In the early part of spring we spent several weeks collecting and chipping fallen trees and branches.

IMG_3137Above, the grounds along the south fence. While mowing this section, I (Tucker) came across what looked to be a rat snake sun bathing.

IMG_3134Above, the middle stretch of the cemetery that extends from the east gate all the way to the forest patch.

IMG_3133 (1)Above, Maia bouncing Evie.


Above, Terry, Emily’s father, helping dig a hole in which we set a large tire that became a sand box. Auggie loves it!

IMG_3093Above, Auggie sitting in his “mow tractor.” He prefers the Toro, but he’ll ride the Scag if it’s out. The Yazoo Kees doesn’t impress him much.


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


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


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!


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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


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.”


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.


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.


Here’s another shot of the march.


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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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



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