The Walk ended October 8, 2013, with a slow, meditative walk the last five miles into Steele City, followed by a relaxed afternoon and a potluck. We were joined by a few friends for the walk and afternoon, and held a closing conversation around a fire. The next day we said quiet good-byes and went our separate ways. One group took the bus to Omaha for repairs and, while waiting, did a presentation at a Nebraskans for Peace conference.
So, after all the planning, all the walking, what was the Compassionate Earth Walk?
The original intention was a meditative walk, a physical prayer, for the earth and all her children. People have been so surprised when we said it wasn’t actually about stopping the pipeline. But we want more – the end of climate change, pollution, fossil fuel use, theft of land, and every kind of oppression and exploitation. We want a sane culture, that does not sacrifice the future for the sake of comfort, profit, or power. Like sitting meditation, the walking didn’t actually DO anything except bring us face to face with ourselves and our world.
A few other things have been noted.
First, we walked for miles, for hours, day after day through the natural world, in the beauty of the Great Plains. We admired flowers and talked with cows. We lived in the earth’s compassion, were surrounded by it, breathed it in. There was also an awareness of giving to the earth as we walked, and sometimes a sense of flowing together. But the gift of being in the world was always there.
Second, we met with local people and talked with them in many ways. Mostly we listened and learned. We can tell you why the people in Whitewater, MT are hoping for the pipeline – and what factors destroyed their former livelihood. We can also tell you how agriculture has been harmed by the oil and gas industry, not just through the frequent spills but also by taking away the labor source. And we have countless stories of human beings, human communities, not just about pipelines but about ranching, about indigenous issues. Now is not the time to tell these stories, but they are in our bodies and in our hearts.
Third, we have received inspiration and hear that we have given inspiration. We heard from people working to protect their lands and their communities. There are stories in the blog posts. And people told us they admired what we were doing.
Finally, we learned to live with each other, to compromise, to keep moving forward – under all kinds of conditions. We were hot, cold, thirsty, and rained on. There were disagreements and misunderstandings. There were meetings, more meetings, and communications classes. Morning meditation was lightly attended. The core meditation was walking itself – and people became more quiet the longer they stayed on the walk. Also, people took on responsibilities they had never done before – became leaders, learned to speak to the public, organized others – It was a training for many. As it was for me, in my first real teaching experience.
So here we are. We still owe about $2500, due partly to an accident with the bus that hurt no one but cost a lot to fix. If you can donate, the button on the website still works.
I find myself being asked to speak here and there, and do so willingly; other walkers will probably do the same. There’s a thought of a postscript – a short walk in Texas in a few months – it will be announced here if it happens. Likewise, any books or documentaries will be announced through this site, which will otherwise be pretty quiet. If you need help to get in touch with the anti-pipeline movement, indigenous defense of land and water, or Zen activism, you can ask here and get whatever answer we have.
The Compassionate Earth Walk traces the Keystone XL route through the Great Plains, from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, July through September, 2013. The ancient practice of pilgrimage responds to present and future environmental catastrophe, focusing on its causes in our own culture.
Humans are destroying the earth, including ourselves. We are using up all the natural resources (coal, oil, water, soil, natural gas) as if they would replenish themselves – or as if there were no tomorrow. We make chemicals that make millions of us sick. Our extraction of fossil fuels (and our unnatural methods of farming) are causing climate change that has already caused catastrophic floods and droughts – and we are on track for much, much worse.
Knowing this, our governments and institutions have chosen to continue extracting resources at an ever-increasing rate, to create new and more sophisticated poisons, and to ridicule or imprison those who object. The disease of our day is to see ourselves as independent and the world as a resource to consume.
In this walk, we openly announce that it is the other way around: we are part of the earth, embraced, supported, and given life by it. None of us could take a single breath without the help of the myriad beings that inhabit this planet. In doing so, we ally ourselves with millions of people who have lived in harmony with their natural communities, for centuries and millenia. We thus begin to decolonize ourselves, which is a step toward real decolonization.
- Walking, we consciously give energy to the earth, going against the flow of constantly taking as if it were our right.
- Meeting people, we listen to their stories and offer them love and support.
- Entering communities, we offer our hands in service and invite dialogue and shared prayer. Where we are invited, we connect communities with resources, knowledge and skills for restoring the earth and their local economy.
- Sharing our story, we invite everyone to leave the values of consumption and destruction, and return to membership in the community of life.
- Living together as we travel in conscious spiritual community, we allow ourselves to be opened and healed by all these encounters and each other.