Several weeks ago, near the town of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, I parted company with the Compassionate Earth Walk to return home to my wife and to prepare for the birth of our first child. My three and a half weeks with the Compassionate Earth Walk was profound in many ways. I would like to share three of them with you:
First, the internal dynamics of our group taught and inspired me a great deal. We began each day with time together for connecting with spirit, whatever this meant for each of us. Some meditated, some did yoga, some prayed. We closed each day sitting in a circle, sharing about our day, our feelings, our inner and outer experiences. We listened deeply to each other. Throughout the day, we talked, we laughed, we joked, we sang. We were mostly kind and caring to each other. At times, conflicts arose, and we addressed them privately or in the group, but always trying sincerely to be respectful, open and compassionate. In the wake of these conflicts, we grew stronger, individually and collectively.
It was empowering to be part of such a group. It reinforced my belief that we don’t have to relate to each other based on power, domination and selfish interest. We are fully capable of being collaborators rather than competitors. We can lift each other up. We can prosper from having power with each other, rather than over each other.
Second, our group consistently interacted with individuals and communities we met along the way with a spirit of respect and humility. We met mostly farmers, ranchers and oil workers during my time on the walk. Many of them did not share our concerns about climate change, ecological degradation, fossil fuels or the Keystone XL pipeline (though quite a few of them did!). Yet we consistently had positive exchanges where, despite disagreeing about most everything, we talked and laughed together and parted with smiles, handshakes and waves.
The norm in our world seems to be that if someone holds a different viewpoint than us they must be at best an idiot and at worst a bad person. The Compassionate Earth Walk demonstrated to me that another way is possible: we can disagree and yet still respect and value each other, still wish each other well, still share kindness and warmth.
Third, and perhaps most profoundly and yet most difficult to communicate, was the magic of walking upon the earth day after day. We walked roughly 20-24 miles each day as a group, broken up into a morning shift and an afternoon shift of walkers, so that we each covered 10-12 miles a day. When not walking, we set up or broke down tents, bought groceries, did laundry, cooked meals, etc. Most of my three and a half weeks with the walk was spent outdoors.
We watched the sunset together every day, we felt the wind and the sun, we saw thunderstorms passing in the distance and heard them passing over our tents at night. We saw the vast Great Plains sky and its incredible clouds. We walked through grasslands, rolling hills, cliffs, and canyons, past streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. Hawks’ screeches caught our ears, and we looked upwards to see them circling high above. White-tailed deer, mule deer and antelope dashed over hills in the distance. Cows ran alongside us in their pastures, horses approached their fences and let us stroke their necks, dogs escorted us through their neighborhoods. And at night, the stars! What incredible stars! One night, slipping into a glassy lake at midnight for a quick swim before bed, I looked up to see the aurora borealis shimmering across the sky…
To directly, subtly, powerfully experience that, yes, you most definitely are of the Earth, part of the intricate web of life, and that web of life is profoundly, gigantically, invaluably beautiful and precious…this kind of experience changes a person in a really good way.
If any of this feels worth supporting, please do so by: joining the walk; sharing news of it with your friends and family; sending the walkers your prayers and well-wishes; and/or by contributing monetary support.
May we together create a world in which all humans and all of nature are valued and respected!
August 29, 2013
by Shodo Spring
The vast emptiness of praerie stretches ahead, relentless, as the heat from the summer sky falls down on head and neck and shoulders with intense ferocity. Endless grasses stand tall in the humid air, and the eastern horizon waits, ever out of reach. Is this what it was like to ride for hours towards the setting sun, horses strapped to wagon, led by the faith that there was some reprieve, some breath of relief off in that distant future? Miles pass like the time. The summer heat wraps its arms around the body like an oppressive weight, constrictive and claustrophobic. One must work diligently to replace the water running out of every crease and fold in the skin. The shade of a single tree mocks us, too far from the beaten path to attend with ease, so we labor on– one foot and then the other foot, follow and repeat. These late August days in the South Dakota plains challenge the emotional landscape. Leaving sleepy Buffalo (pop. 380) behind us, lightning dances on the far distant horizon as if in response to the thunderous, unspoken words that are too short to speak aloud. But still, the team moves together, covering the miles, doing the work, pressing onwards in the direction of the rising sun. Moving forward, led by that promise of some relief, some reprieve for this heavy weight out beyond that horizon. And then we reach it: the Reva Gap, rising gracefully from the flatlands to kiss the sky with her magestic pine crest. We climb on top of her, and the sky breath sighs endlessly around us. The lightning dances in the distance, but all we hear are the peepers, and this rolling wind tide. Home at last, caught in the gentle embrace of trees under a star dappled sky. Finally, we have reached the oasis of that distant horizon, and she is Heaven.
A fire lazily exhales smoke into the sky, but for the first time in days there are no hordes of mosquitos to be chased away. We soak ourselves in the wordless, ancient wisdom of bones and stones built beneath us, and the bounty of local harvest pan simmered over open flame is more of a blessing than can ever be imagined within the walls of the city. Behind us, suddenly we hear the buzzing maraca shake of a rattlesnake: “Cha-sha-sha” she shimmies, while tasting the air with her smooth, split tongue. I thank her for the respectful dilligence that she maintains in clearly communicating her boundaries. Here, we realise that wilderness is the most graceful gift from the Divine. There is perfection in simplicity. Milky streaks of our galaxy twinkle and glow as the moon crest sneaks out to greet us… Welcome Home, family. The Mother has been waiting for you.