Life is a little hectic, right now, so I searched my archive to find something to share with you this week. As we swap outrage over the consequences of the hasty rush to war and the decades spent trying to back out, I thought this one might be appropriate. A few corrections, edits and updates were made here. I also gave a number of links that might help place this story in its times — then and now. As it happens, this first saw print and pixel exactly 14 years ago: half a Saturn cycle, for the astrologers out there.

One of my favorite movies is “Leap of Faith,” starring Steve Martin. The film tells the story of a cynical tent-show evangelist confronted with true belief. It’s a good story, and Martin does a fine job both dancing across the glitzy stage under the big-top and coming face-to-face with the empty places of his character’s soul.

The movie truly shines in those moments when the gospel choir is singing, and the song “Are you ready for a miracle?” is one of the real stars of the show.

A few days ago, (this, in 2007) I heard Berwick-based gospel choir, Rock My Soul, perform a benefit concert in Portland for Peace Action Maine. Striding up the aisles, they opened the concert with that optimistic celebration of the possible.

Rock My Soul is a performance group whose mission is “to bring diverse communities and individuals together through life-affirming traditional and contemporary spiritual and secular music. Through performance, charitable outreach, and other community-building activities, (they) seek to uplift, entertain and educate.”

While membership of the group comes from many faith communities and includes those who profess no religious affiliation at all, it was clear from their spirited performance that each singer felt the great wisdom of which all religions speak.

“If I fail to love, and my soul be lost, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine,” cried the words of Blind Willie Johnson, and I thought of those words 18 hours later as I stood looking across Sandy Cove in Kennebunkport at the over-sized cottages that populate Walker’s Point, the Maine foothold of the Bush family.

Around me were (according to police estimates) four thousand American citizens, chanting in call-and-response, “Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!” The diverse group ranged from great-grandparents, who remembered the battles of the Second World War and walked the four-mile route with the aid of canes and walking sticks, to young men and women recently returned from the deserts of Iraq.

Mothers who carried babies joined Vermont’s Raging Grannies and the women of Code Pink in singing out their yearning for peace. As thermometer readings on the verandas of the expansive homes along Ocean Avenue reached the high 80’s, I recalled a conversation that took place during the rally that kicked off the march.

Four of us were trying to estimate the crowd. One woman wondered why the turnout appeared to be smaller than anticipated. “It’s probably the heat,” another said. We were all sobered by one of the men’s reply, “It’s a lot hotter in Iraq.”

I just came from looking at the exhibits and booths circling the field, and was still holding the vision of a miniature memorial containing the names of the American military men and women whose lives were lost to George Bush and Dick Cheney’s sad adventure. My chest felt hollow and I still held the crumpled handkerchief that I used to clear my eyes as I stood before the portable wall that showed evidence of the constant additions that represent the largest subtraction of all.

On the stage, a young member of Iraq Veterans Against the War was speaking of the long-term costs of sending our country’s youth to kill innocents, “Post-traumatic stress is what happens when you can’t reconcile what happens in the mind to what you feel in your heart.”

By Liam Madden’s definition, most of the U.S. could claim to be suffering PTSD. It’s easy, from that perspective, to understand the anger of the 30 or so “counter-protesters” who waited for us along the parade route, shouting, shaking fists, revving their Harleys in an effort to drown out the sound of our calls for peace.

Certainly their conviction that the commander-in-chief is always right is challenged by the truth I saw in the eyes of the young veterans, who lined our path as the march drew close to its end. While I longed for a way to find common ground with these irate citizens, I understand many of them may never be able to meet those, who struggle for peace, as equals.

What surprised me most on that long hot day was the welcome given to us by the people of Kennebunkport. Sure, there were hostile looks from some of those seated on the fine porches or standing at the edges of the acres of closely mown lawns.

But for every look of disdain there were three smiles of approval. Hands that seemed bred to no harder labor than the lifting a Bloody Mary were raised in the V-shaped sign of peace. People came to the street to thank us for our journey and our presence in their elegant seaside village.

Miracles may not be about some supernatural power taking events in hand and overpowering circumstances for our betterment. Maybe a miracle is something that happens only because we are open to it right now.

Standing at the edge of Sandy Cove, I knew Mr. Bush was far away. The presence of 4,000 citizens across the cove from his vacation home for an hour or so on a hot summer day probably wouldn’t change his mind if he was there. But the compassion of his neighbors changed something in my heart.

For this old peacenik, that’s miracle enough.

Shlomit Auciello

Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.