Feb. 28, 2022

Dear friends—

It has been a long year since my last newsletter. This one will be a little different from usual.

This week I struck up a correspondence with a mutual Instagram follower, a fellow craftsperson who lives in Moscow. (Check out her marquetry on Instagram: @shapovalovashche.) I wanted to know what her perspective was on what was happening in Ukraine. The situation there is born of complexities that date back to the middle ages, and I know that the US government has, just as the Russian government is doing now, caused great suffering in other countries. So it felt right to look for whatever small clarity could be offered through a different, cross-border perspective. I don’t have any wisdom to offer, other than to say that in this exchange I found myself signing off using “Peace!” The Russian word for Peace, “Mir”, also means World. Some of you may remember the Mir space station, what a wonderful name for an endeavor with at least a nod to international collaboration.

The Russian media criticizes the current Ukrainian administration, while the Western media criticizes the previous administration, overthrown in 2014 to be replaced by the current one. History will decide which administration represented the will of the people…Questioning this I found myself turning to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (read it in Russian: читать по русски). The preamble includes these words: “…Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…” Reading its 30 Articles of Rights, the full tragedy of how poorly we have realized the noble ideas they espouse weighs on me.

A young friend recently sent a copy of their short comic, tracing the trajectory of the earth from creation to nuclear destruction and ending with an image of stars in the cosmos. The idea resonates with me: I find hope that no matter how badly we screw up here on earth the beauty of the stars endures, and whatever will be, will be. (Curious? Follow Felice on Instagram @sludgestar.felicey) I have been moved in hearing the accounts of ordinary Ukrainians volunteering to carry arms and still others gathering to assemble Molotov cocktails to defend and preserve their cities. It makes me wonder if more folk, ordinary folk across the globe, could equally bravely cast off their day-to-day concerns and take up the struggle to defend our Mother Earth.

With apologies to those who prefer non-gendering monikers, I adopt/adapt the term “Matriot”, someone for whom the love of Mother Earth is stronger than patriotism’s love of country, stronger than nationalism that divides and turns us against each other. Do you like the term? Use it, spread it, embrace it! Matriotism over patriotism! The needless destruction in Ukraine is emblematic of what we lose through animosity, and a reminder of how much we could gain if instead we cooperate to equitably distribute what we have and build on that to make things even better. If only human nature would get out of the way of love and kindness.

Forgive me if I transition a little away from broad philosophy and bring it back to my work. This isn’t a commercial email, and I thought about turning off the option to purchase anything on my website before sending it. I do have a new website, and I invite you to browse it, perhaps some of the photos will give you a moment’s grace looking at a peaceful image. I decided rather than turn off purchasing, to instead, once again offer my work as a gift. This email is written in friendship, and I make “Friendship Stars”. I have a small inventory of Peace & Friendship Stars that I will send you for the cost of packaging and mailing, and have even added a First Class postage option to make it as inexpensive as possible. If the Friendship Stars run out, I have some older work that’s nice but not as nice (in my opinion) as what I’m currently producing, and I’d be happy to share those with you. If you’d like several to give away, please email me to work out details. I’m afraid my site isn’t set up for international shipping, but if you’d like something shipped across borders, again email me to work out details. If you’ve gotten this far in this long email and it reads as though I’m trying to profit from tragedy, I hope you’ll reconsider and trust my intentions, otherwise just hit delete and go your way with my blessing.

And if you’re still with me, I’d like as many people as possible to take advantage of this gift, so please forward this widely to any contacts you think would like to receive my work and my well-wishes.

I went to sleep last night with the hopeful news that the two sides would talk, and woke this morning to news that Germany will spend more on arms, that Belarus will allow Russia to place nuclear missiles there, and that Shinzo Abe is calling for Japan to consider, for the first time ever, allowing nuclear arms to be staged within its territory. This at a time when we should be turning swords into ploughshares. So sad, and so frustrating, and I hope this, my small gesture, brings a little light through cracks in the darkness.

Truly in friendship, and wishing peace for you and all others, I will be signing all my emails from now on like this:
Peace! Mir! Мир!