by Marisa Keller | photos by Zac Rudge

We gathered on the Middlebury Green, in Vermont, in the Abenaki land of Ndakinna. Each of us arrived in the middle of our own personal story, a piece of the greatest story of humans in relation to the Earth. As we gathered, our stories began to intertwine. In the opening ceremony we honored our power to shape the story that is still unfolding.

We listened as Charlie Megeso read in Abnaki and English from a poem by Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, talented, gorgeous, fabulous?
Actually, who are we
not to be?
You are a child of the universe.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.


We stood a moment in silence to connect with the Earth beneath us, the Earth that would bear up under our feet for the next 60-plus miles.


We honored the four elements, and invoked the energies we wanted to carry on the walk: “Mother Earth,” one person shouted out. “Tenderness,” said another. “My daughters!” called a third. From reciprocity to rainbows, from justice to joy, from our ancestors to Wendell Berry, and, of course, love — we welcomed all these into our circle.

We honored the pain that we all carried, and offered up the hope that it would not weigh us down.

Bill McKibben spoke the last few words. “We’re all going to have to go on strike in one way or another, to disrupt business as usual,” he said. “Because it is precisely business as usual that’s wrecking the planet.”

We set off to learn about ourselves, to learn about each other, to find transformation, and to remind our political leaders with spirit, humor and fierceness that climate action is essential.

What follows are a few reflections from an assortment of walkers, young and old, on their experience of the walk — special moments, general reflections, and hopes.

 

Walk Journal, Day 1:

“The moment when we gathered in silence at an intersection, and set off in single file across the road and up the far side. Our banners rippled in the wind; the water rippled under the little bridge we crossed; the roadside dust coated our shoes; and we carried our hopes with us as we walked.”

“A landscape of in betweens — not dramatic but intimate and comfortable even in the cold. I’ve had nothing but deep conversations all day — and several people have talked of the astounding luck we all have had to be born in this time and place — and how griefstruck we are at the evidence of its passing.”

“What an experience! It was amazing to be part of such a powerful movement. I hope the walk brings awareness to the immediate problems at hand!!!”


“The smiles and thanks as we walked gave me energy. It is rare to have hours of uninterrupted time to speak with folks young, old, seasoned, or new. Inspiring.”

 

“A huge challenge today is making sacrifice sexy. For me, the walk did just that. Physically exhilarating and challenging, socially inspiring                       and warm, breathtaking landscape. I’ve never been so happy to be so tired.”

“We found a bird on the side of the road. She had a long beak and blended into the grass. A woman told her, ‘We’re marching for you, honey,’ and I understood everything.”