May 30th 2016 Memorial Day Wal along the Highlands Beach Winthro 026.JPGLooking out my window on a cold damp day in March, I’m watching a family of squirrels chase each other up and around the trees that soon will be in full bloom, cocooning my little place on the edge of the woods.  The branches are close enough that if I could jump like the squirrels, I would leap from my window to a branch. Until the trees become full, I can see across the large field that leads into the salt marsh and wildlife preserve, which in the summer is all but hidden. I like both views.

I have been reading about Connie Picciotto, an activist who led a 24-hour vigil against nuclear proliferation from a makeshift camp in Lafayette Square next to the White House for 32 years, thought to be the longest-running protest in Washington. In a 2013 profile in The Washington Post, Ms. Picciotto said she spent more than 30 years of her life outside the White House “to stop the world from being destroyed.” Connie pledged to continue the vigil after her tents had been removed from the park, but she will not be keeping that watch any longer. Connie died January 25, 2016, at a housing facility operated by N Street Village, a nonprofit that supports homeless women in Washington. She was believed to be 80.

I remember being in Lafayette Square on a cold damp December day in 1972, listening to Joan Baez and Holly Near speak and sing. Those of you who know those names might think, wow, what a crowd, but it was a pretty small gathering, and all of us sat around and talked. Across the street, President Richard Nixon was looking out his window after he had just authorized Operation Linebacker as the U.S. dropped at least 20,000 tons of explosives on North Vietnam, mostly Hanoi, and more than 1,000 Vietnamese civilians died. At least 30 U.S. airmen were killed and more than 20 went missing in action, while others were captured after ejecting over North Vietnam. So a group of us stood in this small square on a cold, damp December in Washington, D.C., in 1972, keeping a vigil of peace. By the heat of August 1973, the war was over for America, and after all the killing we left Vietnam.

When I was in prison (my reason for being there can be found here starting with the page Mountaintop Days) ,I remember looking out a cell window past a barbed wire fence into a wooded area and saw a deer way out there, and at that moment I promised myself I would never forget what it felt like not to be free. When I was released from prison, a dog ran up to me in the parking lot, and we ran together in a straight line (I had been doing circle walking in the compound for almost two years), and it felt so good that I promised myself I would never forget how it feels to be free.

I really don’t like cold, damp December days in Washington,I’m not a fan of prison windows, and I’ve seen enough of Lafayette Square to last me the rest of my life, but if Donald Trump becomes president I fear I’ll be visiting again.



Author: Dan Sanders

I'm a dreamer, a weaver of words, actor, picture maker, memory keeper