Maine is a beautiful state to walk through. Water, mountains, trees, farms, poverty, and interesting people.
One of my favorite moments on the walk was along the narrow rural Highway 2 from Skowhegan to Farmington. (On this route truckers often blasted their horns.) We approached a local mom & pop breakfast joint and three guys were in the parking lot watching us pass by. I crossed the road and handed them each our flyer. One of them asked how much it would cost to get a hunting license to shoot down drones. I told them the story about seeing a bumpersticker that said, "Protect my 2nd amendment right to shoot down drones." They liked that and as I pulled away one said, "Hey, you guys are doing a good job."
What made this a special moment for me was the cultural connection I felt to these guys. My step-father was from Rumford, Maine and came from a paper mill family. He was working class. My mom married him when I was about three years old, so Wes was essentially my father. When I talked with the three guys on Hwy 2, I saw Wes. I loved being able to have that connection - it's a good part of what I am.
As the Buddhists chanted Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō I was lifted, by connection to the spirit of community and genuine purpose, to a new strength. I often was dragging by the end of the day but was reminded how much energy the walking community can bring.
The deep connection of seeing and feeling the land, water and sky brought it all home for me. Our machines are killing us. They are killing nature. Now and then we'd make cars stop to let us walk by in a group. Most folks were fine and enjoyed the parade. But still, almost always in larger population centers, some drivers got more impatient and demanding. Then they'd zoom off - 0 to 60 - in just seconds. We were literally just taking a couple steps forward while watching this illustration of speed-time-power-success, that under girds the machine-culture mythology, roar into the distance.
Chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō would come in and out of my head. Sometimes I'd chant to myself and other times I was fixed on wandering thoughts or organizing needs of the walk. (Being the perfectionist that I am it was always on my mind to try to stay flexible and patient with everyone. My way was not always going to be the best way.) Ego gets involved a bit here as does one of the other manifestations of the business model - competition. It all comes out during such experiences. So I had some interesting internal reflection over these things.
When you hit the walkers wall (about day 2-3 for me) you begin to question your sanity and your endurance. Once you push thru that self doubt things get easier. But in those moments the weak and dark corners inside of us awaken. I found chanting would help bring me back to the light side.
We were lucky to have Jules Orkin with us from Veterans for Peace. He lives in New Jersey and does alot of peace walks with Nipponzan Myohoji. He brings along his van to help with shuttling. Early on he offered to take charge of the daily vehicle shuttling process. It was a big help but more than that Jules became my co-organizer and I loved working with him. A retired bookstore owner, with more than 10,000 books still in his possession, Jules has a great sense of humor and a big heart. We had first met in jail last spring when we were among those arrested at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York protesting against that drone operations base. Jules and I were among the last three men to be released from jail so we had a good bit of time to connect. I'll miss him alot.