Category Archives: Stories – From Life & Elsewhere

Yes, There Is A Santa Claus Archetype: I’ve Seen Him, Been Him

I’m long since used to being a stereotype: straight white male, heterosexual; middle class. Of course, I can put an asterisk and a “Yes, but –” after each of these; yet, at the same time, they’re useful: they ease the quick categorizations I think most of us make many times every day.

Sure, they are also hooks for prejudices, mine and others; but while broad-brush, none of these is actually inaccurate: I AM all those things, more or less. So mostly I don’t sweat it.

The author, late 1980s

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A Quaker Christmas Story: Candles In The Window

A Quaker Christmas Story: Candles in the Window

Prelude: This just in, for Christmas 2020, a review from Madison, Wisconsin Friends Meeting—

Chuck and Nancy (Pickering),
Thank you for Candles in the Window, the story and (Nancy’s) script.  When the Madison First Day School children presented the play on Zoom this past Sunday, it was received with joy by the Meeting.
I believe Friends were surprised and grateful during this time, when we so hunger to lift our spirits, to receive such a poignant message from our children.  I’ll confess that I was surprised at the sincerity with which the children embodied the story.  Rehearsals were pretty rough and I had my doubts, but young Friends (with their parents’ help no doubt) studied their scripts and acquitted themselves beautifully in performance. The actors for Abram (Elias Watson) and Gran (Piper Hirsh, Sally’s granddaughter) affected credible British lilts, probably thanks to having seen more than one Harry Potter movie. The narrator (Uly Brelsford) read with quiet, convincing expression, even overcoming giggles when the sound effects man (Reece Dixson-Kruijf) played a resounding recording of shattering glass.
At the close, we in the audience turned on our video (the Zoom version of bringing up the house lights) with warm applause, grateful smiles all around and more than one face bearing signs of tears.
We adapted the attached script to Zoom, moving nonverbal stage business into the voice of the narrator. Costumes were simple: hats and bonnets. There were sound effects at various points to emphasize the action. Scene changes were signs held up and read by the stagehand. The youngest children made pictures of candles in windows and held them up at various points as they were led.

We asked the audience to mute themselves and take themselves off video, which sent them into the background and brought the actors forward into the first screen. The actors were in ‘gallery view’, each being highlighted when they spoke.  The resulting performance was convincing.  


Again, thank you for this wonderful story, calling us to stay true to Friends’ testimonies of simplicity, integrity and peace, especially when the world around us is riven with strife and fear. My favorite scenes are when Abram, then Gran and Abram, climb the dales into the peace of the emerging night, the hubbub and strife of human enterprise receding below them.

If you have occasion to come this way when the pandemic lifts, please let us know in advance.  We would love to host you and introduce you to the children of Madison Meeting. Perhaps you may even tell them a story.

Love and Light,

Sita Diehl

Madison Friends Meeting

Part I: The View from Castleberg

A winter view of Pendle Hill from the Yorkshire Dales, England[
This Quaker Christmas story takes place in the  village of Settle, Yorkshire, England – 12th Month, 1814. In those days, candles in the window were not a peaceful sight . . . .

Abram Woodhouse was late, and he knew it. But even so, as the daylight faded he climbed the path up Castleberg hill on the north edge of Settle.

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My Quaker 50th Anniversary (Already?)

My Quaker 50th Anniversary

My, how time flies, when you’re having fun. (And even when you’re not.)
This month, December 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of my coming among Friends. And much of that whole ongoing adventure can, for this purpose, be boiled down to four things: 

A knock on the door; 
Getting “The Letter”; 
Riding the bus; and
Getting on with it.


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Memorial Minute for Katharine “Kat” Royal

Memorial Minute for Katharine “Kat” Royal:
January 28, 1982 – October 23, 2015

[Read at her memorial service in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, October31, 2015.]


I’m a Quaker, and at our memorial meetings, Quakers have a custom of preparing and reading what’s called a Memorial Minute. These sound in one way like biographical sketches, and so they are.

But there is a deeper dimension to them for us than simple chronology or the succession of dates and facts. That’s because of an advice that has come down to us from our founders; that advice is to “let your life preach.” 


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The Day I Didn’t Help Bury Bobby Kennedy

A Facebook Friend said he was writing something about the death of RFK (Bobby Kennedy), and did I have any thoughts or memories? Here’s what came up:

 When RFK was killed, June 6, 1968, I was in suburban DC with my first wife & 3 buddies, working on a book about the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). It was planned to be a pictures-and-text thing; everyone else was a photographer; I was the writer.

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Arguing With God: Quaker House & My 9-11 Story


“No,” I said. “No thank you.”

That’s how it started.

I said no to Chris Olson-Vickers. Chris was a mild-mannered social worker in Richmond, Virginia. She was also a Quaker, who in August of 2001 had agreed, perhaps rashly, to host an impecunious co-religionist  in need of shelter during the mid-Atlantic Quakers’ regional assembly, called Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

That impecunious co-religionist was me. Laid off and low on cash, I was too strapped to stay on-campus nearby, where our sessions were underway. I was packing lunches and avoiding the cafeteria.


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Wood Thrush: The Return of the Magic Flute

A Wood Thrush & The Magic Flute

(Nope, not talking about the Mozart Opera.)

Sketch of a wood thrush, singing.

Heard a wood thrush yesterday, or maybe several. Haven’t heard one in at least two years.

Wasn’t expecting or looking for it; which is the best way to encounter them.  In fact, such a visitation was the last thing on my mind.

It happened at a trailer park in rural Robeson County, NC.  Among Carolina’s one hundred counties, Robeson is the poorest and the most crime-ridden. I don’t go there for fun, or for nature’s wonders, but to see people who are important to me.

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A Quaker Story about U.S. Concentration Camps in World War Two

A Quaker Story of Remembrance –and Maybe Prophecy

Pirates Six, Cubs Three

Pittsburgh, PA, sometime in the 1980s.

I wasn’t having a good night. And I hadn’t had a good day. Needleman in the Washington office had called just after lunch. “Nelson,” he barked, “We need you here right away.”

I had to help the boss get ready for a big hearing at the Defense Systems Commission. Tomorrow.

I told him I’d promised to take the kids to a ballgame.


Needleman wasn’t impressed. “They play ballgames in Pittsburgh every night, Nelson,” he said. “We get a chance at a hundred million dollar contract once every ten years, if we’re lucky. This hearing could win it for us. The boss needs your data, and he needs you here to explain it to him. Tonight.”

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