"The prophecies of the Lakota-Dakota have stated that you are the foundation of the thousand years of peace. But first there must be a spiritual purification by fire and water. With that purification comes truth."
- Standing Elk, Lakota
Day 18 - Monday, July 10, 1995 - At first light the walkers roused themselves on the shore at Eghquaons to discover that sand had thoroughly infiltrated all their hair and clothing—an inevitable consequence of sleeping on the beach. They made their way from the sands of Staten Island to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where they fortified themselves with coffee and sweet rolls.
|Perth Amboy - The Sunbow pilgrims crossed from New York into New Jersey. (Photo by Karmapolice1, courtesy of flckr.com)
During coffee Tom informed everyone that he was intent on breaking the larger group into several smaller units. Each group of two or three people would walk designated sections of roadway at the same time. In this manner, Tom reasons, the walk should be able to cross the breadth of northern New Jersey today, and to find a campsite where they can rest before proceeding to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Sherry Noser of Alabama has joined the group, and brought her van with her. Bright, determined and focused, she is acclimating herself to the jagged rhythms of the road. Sherry is going to use her van to help transport some of the walk's equipment. That should make logistics simpler.
The walkers split up and spread out according to Tom’s plan. In small groups they rushed west along the congested artery of US Route 1. It was a nightmare of a journey: no sidewalks or other concessions to people afoot -- just cars, trucks, noise, gelatinous clouds of foul gaggish smoke, and heaps of litter.
The groups of walkers encountered a constant stream of discarded bottles, cans, hamburger wrappers, cigarette butts, and other crapola.
Confronting all this, Alycia Longriver observed, "We need to stop somewhere. We need a rest. We're beat. It's not just the walking and the traffic and trash; there have been a lot of late nights as we talk with people. It's mounting up and taking a toll on us."
|The Statue of Liberty - Visible between the factory buildings on the Jersey side of the Hudson River. (Photo by Januaryman, courtesy of flckr.com)
At the start of the walk Grandfather Commanda had cautioned the walkers that as the days and the miles went by they would encounter fire on many levels—manifestations of the Seventh Fire.
In the heat of this and many of the preceding days, the accuracy of Grandfather’s warning has become obvious. Fire is routinely manifesting through the record-breaking heat of the summer. It is also evident in mounting scientific evidence that is reported in the daily newspapers.
Just as our Sunbow 5 walk was setting out to walk for the earth, Worldwatch Institute published a book entitled "Vital Signs 1995: The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future." The book painted a factual picture of a world swiftly growing more crowded, much warmer, and far less stable.
• Scientific evidence is plain: warming of the earth is being driven by the emission of greenhouse gases, predominantly carbon dioxide (CO2), but also nitrous oxides, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons -- all products of our industrial excess.
• World population is growing at the average of 87 million people a year. Meanwhile, the evidence is overwhelming concerning the collapse of oceanic fisheries, and the continued shrinkage of the earth's forests via clear cutting and burning for agriculture.
• In all major food-producing regions of the world, excessive demand for fresh water is lowering water tables dramatically.
These factual reports from 1995 are but fragments of the overall prophesied earth changes, spoken of so often in Native American teachings: a slow-motion ecological Armageddon that is apparently underway in at our own creation. We stay mindful of this on our walk.
On this muggy, scuzzy Monday the walkers in relays succeeded in traversing most of northern New Jersey, from east to west, as far as Trenton. All in all, this day's pilgrimage was dirty, confusing, exhausting. As the Sunbow group traveled west they passed some of the major chemical and industrial concerns which make their home in northern New Jersey, and also innumerable gas stations and shopping centers.
At the end of the day, after the last steps, Tom and Alycia prepared to climb into Sherry's van in a parking lot near a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Trenton. A feeling induced them to pause for a moment. They looked up and saw two eagles soaring directly overhead.
"The way we have been taught about the eagles," Tom Dostou observed, "helps us to understand that they watch over all the people. They come when they see even one person moving in a good way. So for us, when we saw the eagles again in Trenton it made us feel strong. It gave us hope that we are moving in a good way, and that what we are trying to do with our steps and our prayers is a good thing."
Over the phone Alycia told me that she’s been reflecting on the past weekend in New York at the UN. She said she felt a great outpouring of support from the people who fed and sheltered the walk, as well as from the people who came out to meet with the walkers at UN headquarters and elsewhere.
When Grandfather Commanda went home to Canada on Sunday he was satisfied, Alycia said. "He had a strange look on his face when he first got to New York on Friday," she remembered. "It's so big and so busy here, and so much was happening. It can be overwhelming. But by the time the weekend was over and we had met with everyone, he was truly happy. He left grinning ear to ear."