The sitar players hadn't shown up yet, so AlySun Panichi, a musician from Woodstock, N.Y., stood in front of a group of peace marchers who had shepherded a tiny flame from New York to Baltimore, and started to sing.
Moved by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and saddened by the ensuing U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan, they set out from Manhattan on Oct. 27, hoping to spread a love for peace as they walk down the East Coast to Washington.
At their Baltimore stop yesterday afternoon, the 20 walkers sat in the sun on the steps of the Visionary Arts Museum on Key Highway, let the wind carry the sweet smoke of burning incense over their faces, and began to beat on Native American drums. There are two forces in the world, Panichi said into the microphone: fear and love.
"Fear," she sang, "will make your body lock. ... But love will make your body rock."
Panichi and most of the other walkers have worked or stayed at the Omega Institute, a holistic teaching and meditation center in upstate New York. In August, they had built a fire there and prayed around it for world peace. After the attacks, they rekindled the fire, tended it for seven days and took the flame to New York City. They've kept it under a golden hurricane glass and carried it on their walk.
"We have this flame we carry, and it represents the flame of peace inside all of us," Arthur Romano, 26, from outside Poughkeepsie, N.Y., told the crowd of more than 50 people.
After the songs and a few ragas from the sitar players, the marchers had the crowd form a circle around a "peace pole" emblazoned with their motto, "May Peace Prevail on Earth."
They had people come into the circle one at a time and pull out a national flag from racks set up around the pole. The person then read the name of the country the flag represents and the crowd chanted "may peace prevail" there to beating of drums.
Flags 188 and 189 -- Afghanistan and the United States -- were treated the same as all the others, despite recent events. The marchers said that they want the bombing to stop and deplore the attacks that led to it. While they don't know the answer to the conflict, they said violence definitely isn't it.
"True peace, to be truly at peace, is where I look at you and really get that you are valuable, just as valuable as me," said Mykella Van Cooten, 28, of Toronto. "And all I can do is give you a hug and give you a kiss, and I'd love to see all the world leaders do that."