"Tell me what it is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver
Day 66 - Sunday, August 27, 1995 - Finally, after two months of walking South and a week of rest on the Qualla Boundary, the Sunbow 5 walkers departed Cherokee, North Carolina and began stepping in the direction of the setting sun.
The West Direction is often associated with bear. Some speak of the west as the "Looks Within" direction, the place where you must face what lies inside of you: the good, the bad, and the primal.
|Bear symbolizes the direction West - Bear knows the sacred herbs that may heal, and has courage to enter the cave for the winter of darkness, facing what lies within. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.com
Early morning in the pouring rain, the walk started down the road toward Tennessee. The rain did not let up all day. It fell full and steady, as it had on Saturday. Rain or not, the walkers pushed off with fair hopes. They’re glad to be moving again, glad to finally be heading toward the Pacific Ocean and the Western Gate.
Tom told me that not only was it raining as the walk departed the Qualla Boundary, but also that it had rained just as the walk got there a week ago. "Who knows what it means, if anything?" he wondered.
"What does it mean to be moving west?” Tom mused. “It feels very different somehow. We have come from the North to the South. Along the way we met and were welcomed by people from the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Eastern Pequot, Delaware, Lenni Lenape, Seminole, Monacan, Lakota, Cherokee and other native nations. We were also welcomed by people from the Black, Oriental, Hispanic, and White cultures, and by many different churches and religious communities that now make their homes here on this Turtle Island continent.
"We heard their messages,” Tom said.“They all want the same things: a safe home, peace, a place to raise their children in a good way, air that is clean to breathe, and water that is clean to drink. People may have said it in different ways, but they were all saying the same thing. We will remember that. That’s made an impression on us.
"As of today, we consider that we are finally turning the corner and heading west,” Tom said. “Our backs will be to the Sun from now on, although every day we will turn to look over our shoulders to the east to see where the Sun is coming from. The west is our direction now. That's new to us and it feels good. In traditional teachings it is understood that the west, the place where the Sun goes down, is about introspection. Symbolically, west is the place where our hearts and minds go to find inner answers, to look within. A lot of that needs to happen in the world right now.”
By the time the walkers arrived at the day’s destination, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, they were thoroughly soaked. But at Nantahala there was a big picnic pavilion with a roof. Everyone was able to gather underneath, dry out somewhat, and rest through the late afternoon.
Ned Paschene and Polly McNichol had a nasty disagreement while in the laundromat. They exchanged harsh words with each other amid the heat and infernal humidity of the driers and washers.
One of our walk advisors, Grandmother Johnie Leverett from Massachusetts, is in the area visiting relatives. She made a special trip today to spend time with the walkers at the Nantahala center.
Scott Kecken rejoined the walk after a visit to his home in Baltimore. He declared that he’s ready to go the rest of the way to California. Diane Kerker came up from Birmingham, Alabama to walk for a while and to see what Sunbow is all about. Charles Byington and Deirdre Dostou left the walk to go get ready for the start of the school year . Silverio Jimenez, although 16 and of school age, is staying on the road. He has gotten permission from his parents and from the school where he is enrolled.