On January 6th violent far-right rioters breached and terrorized the Capitol – an event symbolizing the undying white supremacy and white privilege in this country. The whole world was watching – except for me.
On January 6th I was experiencing perhaps the most peaceful day of my life – a day of meditation, song, community, and appreciation for out Earth. I had arrived at the Dharma Treasure Retreat Center the night before, and the center’s manager had organized a gathering to talk about my journey and send me on my way with blessings in all forms.
We gathered outside in a circle, surrounded by towering walls of the Cochise Stronghold, and began sharing our energies. I spoke about my trip, and after individuals in the group surprised me with gifts and blessings in the form of song and poems.
The Cochise Stronghold is a natural fortress nestled in the Dragoon Mountains, named for Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise. He was born in the Dragoon’s, and used the Stronghold as a safe haven for his people from the 1850’s to the 1870’s, before being forced onto reservation lands. Most of the Chiricahua Apache were moved hundreds of miles away to a reservation in Oklahoma.
Being able to learn about the area from folks who deeply appreciate the history – some having Chiricahua Apache ties and lineage- was the most incredible gift of the trip. The songs and stories shared sat heavily with the weight of all of our love for our planet.
As I left the retreat center on January 7th, I began receiving messages about the previous day’s attack. I hadn’t had service in the mountains, and during my time at the Stronghold it felt as if all bad things in the world were on hold.
I understand the privilege of being able to escape from the outside world, and thought about it a lot before starting this walk. On January 7th it felt more important to talk about. Being able to walk freely across this country is the same white privilege that allowed so many rioters to break into our Capitol and put their feet up on the desk of one of the most powerful women in our country.
It is the privilege that allowed me to walk on to an Army Base on the first day of my trip, full pack and all, without anyone questioning what I was doing. It is feeling generally safe asking strangers for help while walking through small towns.
We are living in a broken system, one that, like the climate emergency, is going to take all of doing everything we can to fix.
When I got to the small town outside of the mountains, I met Jo and Willy – a wonderful couple who let me camp behind their shop and set me up with a camp spot for the next day. There were lots of folks hanging out in front of their store, many talking about the events at the Capitol.
Trying to wrap my brain around the news was a challenge, hearing it a day late and having stepped out of such a different physical and mental space just a few miles earlier. I talked to Willy for a while, and our conversation has stuck with me over the past ten days.
We talked about how people aren’t listening to each other, and we have lost the ability to find common ground.
“All of us business owners on this strip, we’re split 50/50 Democrat Republican. We don’t always agree, but we can talk, and we can be friends.”
Willy and I have very different political views, but he was one of my favorite characters of this walk. Even though our interaction was brief, he was a good reminder that most people want peace.