by Marisa Keller | photos by Zac Rudge
Middles are hard.
We’ve walked and walked and walked. And when the wakeup bell rings at 6 a.m. on Day 4, we get up and get ready to walk some more. It’s a chilly, rainy day, and we have 19 miles to travel. Our group is smaller today — we’ve lost many folks to jobs and classes, though many promised to come back for the final day tomorrow.
We set off with a feeling of determination. We will not be vanquished by the rain! The wind whips our flags and banners out behind us, and we lean into it. We will not be cowed by the wind! A few miles down the road, it starts to hail. Wind drives stinging particles of ice into our faces and claws at the banners until we have to put them into the support van. But we will not be stopped by hail!
Today’s theme is Re-creation. It’s hard, however, to think about much of anything when you’re squinting into the wind and rain and hail and trying not to get blown off the road. We turn inward, stop waving to cars, lose track of our grand purpose, become just a bunch of people bundled up in hats and raincoats hurrying down Route 2.
Moments like these will happen many times along our road to climate justice. Middles are messy. Sometimes you stop thinking about tomorrow’s statehouse action and ongoing fossil-fuel resistance, and you just have to live for the moments when you’re stumbling along through the pelting hail, and you turn to your neighbor in line and smile and say, “Makes you feel good to be alive, doesn’t it?!” and they grin back and you go on together.
What follows are reflections from an assortment of walkers, young and old, on their experience of the walk — special moments, general reflections, and hopes.
Excerpts from the Walk Journal, Day 4
“Grateful to be in community, walking for Mother Earth.”
“Loved connecting with other like-minded activists who came together to support each other as we walked the walk.”
“I am thinking about leadership on this journey, and what it means to be in charge of a group. Being someone inclined toward facilitation, caretaking, and leadership, I often find myself feeling disconnected from the unity that seems to flow through others as I marshal the walkers, monitoring gaps and looking out for stragglers and assessing road conditions. … I am learning on this walk that I am not walking alone. I can step into the flow of walkers and converse with a friend and the walkers will keep going and stay safe. I’m beginning to let go of my individualism, my ego, the part that’s thinking about my body and my mileage and my gear. … The key is that we keep moving. We may be going at the pace of the slowest walker, but we are walking, and we are together. We are avoiding heroics and focusing instead on stories, on the individualism of our spirits and our lives and our values rather than the individualism of consumerism, capitalism and transactional social media. It’s hard. Hard for me to let go of ‘I’ll do it all myself.’ I think it’s a crucial lesson to learn and shift to make if we are to be successful in this work and in this movement.”
“An opportunity to walk for days letting tired and fresh air open up our hearts, talking with new people, connecting with old friends as we share our commitment to making change, gradually we have become a tribe bonded by mourning and celebrating together. A tribe that supports us to keep working towards the survival of life on earth. It’s day four. My feet have blisters, my legs are tired. My body aches but I feel good. I am doing the most important thing I could be doing.”
“The stinging hail storm. Struggling through the whipping wind.”
“I didn’t really want to go on this walk. I didn’t want to take the time off from work and I didn’t want to explain what I was doing to other people. I am a reluctant activist. But now, I feel so grateful for having made this commitment, and I can’t imagine having done anything else with this time other than being here. I’ve grieved for the climate change that has already occurred, the people that have already been displaced, and our children that will grow up in a world that is hotter than it’s been for millennia. But I’ve also planted seeds of hope, connecting with others who share a vision of a more sustainable world. So many supporters today gave us a honk or a wave as they drove past our soggy parade today. … Our path forward is to inspire and expand each other to the work that needs to be done, a little bit at a time. … Work will be fine without me. And I will be telling everyone I know about what I’ve done.”
“A random thought. In the unfolding, expanding experience of these days together. Being the giver and the givee. Like, the so-differentness of singing in a choir and being sung to by a choir. The givee thing I’m thinking about is walking into Bristol. And Hinesburg. And Richmond after walking all day and being welcomed and offered AMAZING food made by loving and appreciative people in their community. AMAZING. Just who is the giver and who is the givee? Overwhelming gratitude, especially when I’m so tired and vulnerable and am a crier, suddenly.”