Buchanan hosts peace offering ritual

BUCHANAN — Sunday afternoon, Buchanan residents and travelers from as far away as Illinois donned winter hats and wrapped the collars of their coats around their faces to protect themselves from the cold, snowy air whipping against their cheeks.

Despite the unexpectedly harsh weather, those who gathered at the Buchanan Commons, their hands wrapped around warm cups of coffee, said they believed it was important they still take part in an event meant to spread wishes of unity and peace.

“Joining with the community is just very powerful, I think,” said Chicago-area artist and community activist Indira Johnson, who also has a home in Buchanan. “It’s about connecting all the voices.”

Sunday, Johnson led a peace offering ritual and workshop. For the event, more than a dozen participants wrote down wishes, messages and prayers for peace and unity on leaves, flowers and other materials before arranging them and sending them off into the McCoy Creek.

According to Johnson, the peace offerings are a tradition rooted in coastal societies that celebrate the relationship between the physical and the spiritual. She added that as the natural materials float toward the St. Joseph River, they unravel, representing the lifecycle of dissolution.

“The idea is that we spend a little bit of time thing about what we want and write that down,” Johnson said. “The action of doing it is what really counts. You are thinking of it in that meditative process. The other part that is important is that all of our voices will become joined together because not only do you write on the leaves but then you join the leaves together.”

Co-organizer Fran Tuite, of Flatwater Farms and River Saint Joe Brewery, said she wanted to bring the peace offering to Buchanan to bring the community together in a fun way.

“It’s been a very divisive time, you know, with the election and issues around diversity and strife, so I think it is more important than ever to try to come together as a community and accept people for their differences,” she said.

Several attendees wrote down similar wishes of connection, peace and acceptance on their leaves.

One such person was Greg Lundberg, who traveled from Evanston, Illinois, to attend Sunday’s peace offering.

“I’m hoping that just by being here and sending out a message of togetherness that we can bring each other together a bit more,” he said. “We are all in this together, and I think we forget that.”

From the Niles area, Mary Wagner wished for a peaceful election outcome, hoping that the community would continue to come together even after election results are confirmed.

“I thought this was a unique idea, to send a prayer,” Wagner said. “I thought it was a peaceful, ecological way to promote community.”

Both Johnson and Tuite said they were happy to see so many people at Sunday’s event, considering the cold weather.

Johnson said she hoped those who did brave the snow and sharp winds left feeling connected with both nature and their community.

“Nature, the materials, has a way of connecting people because it is just so beautiful,” she said. “I’m amazed that there were this many people here today.”

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