"Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself."
- Thomas Merton
Day 187 - Tuesday, December 26, 1995 – The Sunbow walkers got back on the road today, walking through western Arizona while maintaining base camp in Cornville. The weather was cool but comfortable.
The walkers estimate that they can reach the Arizona-California border by about the first of the year. California is the last state we must walk across.
I remain at home in New Hampshire, making final preparations to depart tomorrow to rejoin the walk.
With unanimous consent, Ralph Jones had hooked up a tape recorder to the telephone yesterday, Christmas Day, and recorded the conference call involving Grandfather Commanda, Tom, Ned, Joe and many of the other people in our Sunbow pilgrimage group.
The tape revealed that as the phone conference began, Grandfather mentioned that he had been smoking his pipe every day, praying for the walk.
Joe mentioned that he had just come back from smoking his pipe, and that while he was smoking he saw a Golden Eagle sitting on top of a telephone pole.
Phil Kratzer asked William for a prayer, and Grandfather prayed in the Algonquin language.
From then on things went awry. Listening to the tape recording made me sad. The conference started out well, but soon deteriorated. Grandfather and the walkers maintained sincerity. With their words they revealed their commitment to the vision of our long walk for the Earth. The walkers spoke calmly, making it plain to Tom that he was welcome to come back and be part of the group, but not to come back and assume control as he had in the past.
The walkers unanimously felt that Tom had abused his power as head man. They were willing to walk with him, but not to follow him.
Throughout the long phone conference Tom maintained an argumentative stance, at times becoming belligerent and insulting. He intimated that as “head man” for the walk he was due special respect. He said bluntly that he did not need to answer questions from any of the walkers, or justify his actions. He said he had never abused anyone on the walk, and that he had done nothing wrong.
Three Rivers asked Tom why he did not respond to the invitation from the walkers to come and share dinner. After a long pause, Tom said, "We are hanging in there. We are praying that this will become something more than a dinner invitation. Let me answer your question. Basically, most of the people said they didn't want to eat your cooking. They said you're not a good cook, to be straight and frank with you. You wanted an answer, right. You got an answer."
For me as a listener to the tape-recorded conversation – and as someone who has had several harsh head-on confrontations with Tom over his behavior and his handling of the walk’s money – the whole discussion came to a point of focus when Polly MacNichol spoke.
The exchange began with Tom hassling her intensely on the phone about a secondary issue, and verbally demeaning her. Polly turned her other cheek to Tom’s onslaught, and then said: “This is about power, Tom, and the abuse of power. It’s about how you used your position in the group as leader for your own ends. And it’s about how you used position and power to dominate, control, and abuse other people…”
As the phone conference wound down on the afternoon of Christmas day, it became plain that Tom was not going to come back and take a place in the circle as one of the walkers, even though he had said in Albuquerque that he would. He wanted everyone to acknowledge him as leader, and to follow him.
Then Grandfather Commanda spoke: "One thing is unity. As we all know, in division is weakness. I think if we get through with two walks, to this destination where we are supposed to end, this thing is going to have weakness, not with the strength that we are asking the Creator to help the Mother Earth.
“We have been walking not only for Big Mountain, or the mining. That's included in everything when we say we walk for the Earth, it's just one phrase, but it includes everything. That's what we have to remind ourselves," Grandfather said. "If we fail to get together before the end of the walk, then we will have failed what we started to do."
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 188 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire