No Words

For two months I have struggled with what to write on this blog. I kept waiting for the world to look better. I needed some light in what seemed like a perpetual storm of blackness.

It started with the Central American children coming by the thousands to the US border asking for shelter and refuge. So we built holding centers that looked like cages in order to house them while we figured out what to do. Many of these little ones are being deported back to their home country as I write this. We are scolding them for making a harrowing 2000 mile trip on a train known as “The Beast,” and then returning them to the hell they are fleeing.

Little helper at the comedor

Little helper at the comedor

Then there was an assault on a shelter for Central American migrants in Nogales, Sonora, by masked gunmen wearing police uniforms. At 11 PM in mid-summer, the migrants were awakened from their beds, their cell phones and money were stolen at gunpoint, and they were stripped of their clothes. They were forced to lie on the floor face down. Six children were terrorized by the police with guns raised to their faces. The assault is under investigation, and the Kino Border Initiative is pushing for answers.

Morning greetings at the comedor

Morning greetings

The drama in Ferguson, Missouri, continues today, with the police wielding weapons more suited for war than peace-keeping. An unarmed African American teenager was shot by a white police officer in a black community, and tensions are high. There is rioting and protest demonstrations on the streets of Ferguson. The photos look like we are back in 1967 again.

Gaza extremists and Israel continue to communicate with rockets and gunfire. Thousands are dead and wounded. Neither are ready to talk. Madness reigns.

The US journalist, James Foley, missing almost two years, was recently beheaded in Syria by the Islamic State (ISIS) adding to the carnage that is on every front page in the country.  Killing journalists who are printing the truth of what they see is not new.  This has been happening in Mexico for years.  A special prosecutor in Mexico admits to 67 journalist deaths since 2006.

Samaritan nurse Diane and a pilgrim

Samaritan nurse Diane and a pilgrim

And then there was the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, which has nothing to do with the political and humanitarian events of the planet.  But it just hit me in the gut.  I loved the guy, and marveled at his speed and irreverence and kindness and complexity.  He was a whirling dervish onstage, and left me breathless with laughter.

World events are definitely out of my control. I cannot read about it anymore. Maybe this is what burnout feels like—that feeling of being pummeled by hot ash from some volcano in my own backyard.

There is something to be said about walking every Tuesday to the comedor in Nogales and serving up the kitchen miracles of chef Lupita to a roomful of hungry migrants. The food is good, the smells are intoxicating, and the migrants are appreciative. The Samaritans are doing something concrete and useful.

Samaritan Julie, Lupita, and the Mexican lasagna

Samaritan Julie, Lupita, and the Mexican lasagna

Eat, drink, pray, and dance. Today there is dance, and a man from Hawaii with a bright red kerchief on his head does a fancy 2-step with Samaritan Shura. Padre Samuel strums his guitar and the room is alive with song and clapping. The man from Hawaii has lived on the islands for 16 years, was picked up for a minor violation, and deported. He will return to his home in Mexico for now and figure out what is next for him.

Living in the moment

Living in the moment

Many of the pilgrims this week are from Central America. They will either stay in Nogales or attempt to cross into the US to find their families. There are children and babies and mothers and fathers and teenagers looking for a better life than the one they have left in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They are scared, hopeful and determined. The children need a bath. I want to brush their tangled hair. I want to take them home with me. They are adorable as they squeal and chase the resident cat around the tables and chairs. Everyone’s spirits are lifted when the toddlers are running about.

Sister Alicia, Father Samuel, and Sister Engracia sing for joy

Sister Alicia, Father Samuel, and Sister Engracia sing for joy

I’m also pleased to announce that my book is in the marketplace, at last. The book, A Land of Hard Edges, is available on and It is the story of my experiences at el comedor over a one year period—my reflections on the power of love and family that drives people into the treacherous landscapes of southern Arizona.

A Land of Hard Edges

A Land of Hard Edges

So I’ll keep walking the mile to el comedor each Tuesday with my Samaritan colleagues. We will pass out the breakfast, tend to the blistered feet of the pilgrims, and listen to their stories.

Just keep moving

Just keep moving

I think the secret to a life of fulfillment is just putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving. No matter how crappy you feel.  Do something you believe in, and your life will matter.

Or as Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”


Locally in Arizona I will be doing some book readings and signings.  On Sept. 13, at 2 PM, I will be at the Tubac Presidio in Tubac, AZ.  On Nov. 14 I will be at Antigone’s Bookstore in Tucson at 7 PM.  On Nov. 16 I will be at Hozhoni’s Bookstore in Tubac, AZ. at 1 PM.

I’ll be on a book tour in the Pacific Northwest, stopping in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington, and finally Ashland, Oregon, my home for over two decades. So if you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll be at Pacific Lutheran University (1 PM)  and Immanuel Presbyterian Church (7 PM) in Tacoma on Sept. 16; then King’s Bookstore in Tacoma, Sept. 17. (7 PM)

Bloomsbury Bookstore in Ashland, Oregon, will host a signing and reading on Sept. 23 at 7 PM.


Please direct comments and thoughts to the “Comments” section of this blog.  Peg Bowden can be reached at:

If you wish to receive regular postings (usually once/month) to this blog, register in the Announcement List space in the right-hand column, and you are automatically on the email blog list.

The Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans is a non-profit organization; the mission is to prevent deaths in the desert.  Information and contributions can be directed to:

Kino Border Initiative directs the activities of the comedor in Nogales, Mexico.  The mission is to help create a just, humane immigration policy between the United States and Mexico.  Their website is:

The Border Community Alliance is an exciting new organization in southern Arizona focusing on the economic, cultural and humanitarian needs of the Arizona borderlands.  Non-profit status is pending. Their website is:

~ by Peg Bowden on August 22, 2014.

10 Responses to “No Words”

  1. Oh, Peg, I haven’t met you yet but I know you are a kindred spirit from what you write. I, too, have been bowled over by the same things in the world, and think putting one foot in front of the other and walking on is about all I can do right now. As always, I enjoy your blog and your photos, and your book gets rave
    reviews from me! Thanks for what you do.

  2. Hi Peg.
    I just read your blog.
    I’m sorry for your heavy heart as bad things happen.
    I feel it too. Thank you for your meaningful message in your blog.
    It is comforting to have the concrete good things happening—such as the Comedor.
    Congratulations on the release of your book, and I hope to attend the Bloomsbury event in Sept.

  3. Dear Peg,
    Thank you for sharing all of this. I feel the same, and very strongly about border life. I wish I could come down there and help. I live near Phoenix, which really isn’t that far. Maybe I could volunteer somehow on a part-time basis and do what I can from here. Any suggestions? 🙂

  4. Hi Maria,
    The Samaritans often take guests to the comedor. Email me at and perhaps we can work out a time for your visit. –Peg

  5. Reading your book here on the beach. Surrounded by bikini clad maidens who are products of the Ca Teachers Association who do not know how to read let alone know what a book is. Book brings back memories of hiking in the mountains and using the old “top” maps of the 1940s to find the old mines..Great description of what you are doing. Had a CASA boy that I mentored who came across. Do you have a 501 tax giving site. Have yet to finish the book as I read 3 books at the same time. Go in peace. Tell Les I remember when he would hop the trains.

  6. Hey Milt—you do lead the good life in southern California.
    Yes, we all remember when Les would hop trains. Good grief! Crazy man. The 501 C(3) nonprofits are listed in the back under my “Special Thanks” section in the book. You are a dear. Miss you and your tuba in the UA Band. –Peg

  7. Peg
    Keep putting one foot in front of the other… You are making a difference.
    Love Bonnie


  9. Hi Peg,

    I stumbled across your blog as I search for volunteer opportunities on the border. I’m a high school Spanish teacher in the Chicago area on sabbatical this year, and I am more motivated than ever to get involved in any way I can to help ease the struggle of the migrants’ journey. I am also trying to volunteer with the Central American children in local shelters.

    Thank you for sharing the stories of those you encounter at El comedor! I plan to contact Samaritans to see if I can volunteer.
    Gracias de nuevo,
    JJ Hill

  10. Jennifer—if you are ever in southern Arizona, we would be happy to take you to the comedor and show you our world. –Peg

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