Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

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“Well, I take it that in general this is what the Greek epics are all about. You go off to Troy, or on some other life adventure, thinking that you are going to be victorious and famous and come back with a lot of loot and so forth, only to find something elsenamely, an awareness of how big the world is and an idea of how the gods' minds work. And then comes a moment of fearful confrontation with that. This is what creates the hero in some ways.” 

- Harvard Master John H. Finley, Jr. (1904-1995)

Day 212 - Saturday, January 20, 1996 - Our plan is to break camp and move north up the coast toward Santa Barbara. As of breakfast time, no one has told us exactly where our new base camp will be.

Because of our unsettled feelings about the level of control imposed on us by the Harmony Warriors, we would like to know. We share a sense of uncertainty and foreboding.

Our base camp at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena (Hahamonga) is indeed set among oak trees, but it’s also adjacent to a Frisbee “disc golf course." Over the last few days we've observed that the Frisbee flippers take their game seriously, and are rarely in a mood for smiles or chitchat. They wear looks of fierce determination as they play their game, occasionally glancing at our intruding camp with annoyance. We regard the whole set up as comically surreal, and perhaps they see us—off on a mission to help save the planet—in the same way.


As we finished cleaning up from breakfast, a large contingent of Harmony Warriors arrived in camp. Tom Dostou arrived with them. He's accompanied today not by Lauren Keahbone, but by his wife Naoko Haga, and some other people we've not seen before. They all look agitated and unhappy.

Tom and a phalanx of Harmony Warriors marched off to meet privately with Ned and Joe. 

Naoko, flanked by three male Harmony Warriors, came directly to me. As the men surrounded me, Naoko demanded that I immediately surrender to her the walk’s Macintosh Powerbook, the portable computer we have used—sporadically—to communicate on the Internet.

Tim Burress - with the Sunbow 5 walk's laptop computer. (Author photo)

Naoko told me that as of this moment, there is a complete clampdown on use of the Internet. She said this was an "order," and that none of us walkers should send any e-mails or post anything at all on the Internet, not anything about anything. Then she demanded again that I give her the computer.

Apparently she had not discussed with the Harmony Warriors her reason for wanting a confrontation, because at this point one of warriors surrounding me spoke up. He informed Naoko that his group had already confiscated the computer several days ago.

I then told her that I knew nothing about the computer. I'd not used it since our walk was in Memphis, Tennessee last September. Tim Burress has been carrying it on behalf of our whole group.


Ten minutes later, all of us—Sunbow walkers, Harmony Warriors, and everyone else—were summoned to a circle off to the side of camp. Tension filled the air.

In the distance - lies a sacred site, Humquaq, the Western Gate at Point Conception.

As the circle commenced, a man introduced himself as Ho Washtay (that's how his name sounded to me and others. We never did see his name in writing).

Ho Washtay said he was from the Chumash nation, a member of the Swordfish Clan, and that he is the principal keeper of the Western Gate—the sacred site Hopi Grandfather Thomas Banyacya told us our walk must reach to complete its mission.

He was accompanied by Monique Sol Sonoquie, who said she also was Chumash.

As evidenced by their tone, their message, and their body language, they are angry at us, deeply concerned about who we are and what we are doing. Tom stood near them in the circle, just as he had been near Vernon Foster when he threatened to stop our walk in Parker, Arizona. Those are the days when, shortly after threatening us, both Tom's staff and Vernon's pipe were incinerated in a house fire.

In a strong, resonant voice, Ho Washtay sang several songs, which he described as traditional Chumash welcoming songs.

“From here on,” he said, "all your communication with the outside world is cut off." He told us he and his group would be in charge of our walk from now on, and he advised us to get used to it, and to "leave our egos behind."


Ho Washtay said that we had violated Indian protocol because no one from our walk had asked the Chumash for permission to walk to the Western Gate at Point Conception. He demanded to know who was responsible for this. I looked over at Tom, but he looked away and up at the sky. I spoke up in the circle and said that I was responsible.

Grandfather Semu Huaute

At Tom’s direction, well before the walk began and as it started in June, I'd been writing and telephoning a Chumash elder named Semu Huaute, trying to establish a line of communication. Our exchanges through his helpers were never that clear, but I understood that he wanted to welcome our Sunbow walk, to travel with us, to guide us, and to make ceremony with us at the end of our walk at The Western Gate.

At Tom's request, after making initial contacts, I turned the information over to him. That was months ago, late in the summer. He said he was head man for our walk, and that he wanted to handle the relationship.

Semu Huaute is a respected medicine elder, said to be one of the last full-blooded Chumash people alive. He's in his nineties. Over the course of his life he traveled extensively to offer teachings.

The Chumash people confronting us this morning know nothing of our contacts with Semu. Apparently the Chumash people have been experiencing discord among themselves and their clans for a number of years. They have not been communicating with each other.


Our meeting this morning was not a true circle. We walkers were there not to participate as equals in an open-hearted discussion, but to be chastized, and instructed.

Ho Washtay told us that he and his companions had decided to let us go forward, but with great reluctance and reservations. We are to travel and to comport ourselves under the strict guidance and observations of Ho Washtay, Monique, and their fellows. We had best follow their direction carefully, he said. He told us it was time to close up this camp, and to move on.

Before disbanding, we took up another collection for Vernon Foster and family, who we hear are suffering, and having a tough time getting re-established after their house burned down. We walkers, all broke after seven months on the road, mustered $55, and sent off the money with a card.

Later, when we talked among ourselves about the circle that took place this morning, many people observed that Ho Washtay would not look any of us in the eye throughout the duration of the gathering.


We broke camp swiftly, efficiently. By now, after all these months, we are practiced. Today we are also motivated. We want to move on.

As we packed up, the Cuauhtémoc Aztec dancers took up sticks from the ground, and started beating out a rhythm on empty plastic storage containers. Four dancers—wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts—came near the fire, and made the rapid, powerful steps of their traditional dance form.

From our band of pilgrims, Serge, Silverio, and Ned joined in behind them to learn a step or two, and to have some fun. We all needed tension relief.


Our pilgrimage is nearly done. Many of us are looking forward to the end, and talk often of it. But it is hard to make plans of any kind with so few details known. We still have many questions about where we are going, and when and whether the closing ceremonies will happen at the Western Gateway.

Rumors are beginning to circulate. Some say Joe and Ned are in the midst of a power struggle with Tom. That seems altogether likely, but it’s unclear. No one is really telling us anything. If there is a power struggle, it's taking place off the stage of our walk. We do not see it directly.


Following the Harmony Warriors in their vehicles, we caravanned out of Pasadena to Oxnard and then beyond. We are turning north and seeing more mountains. Eventually—well after the Sun has set—we found ourselves in the mountains to the east of Ojai, California, winding our way up a steep dirt road.

Our new base camp is a small intentional community called Rancho Chorro Grande. It is set 4,000 feet above sea level, high in Los Padres National Forest. The steep mountainsides and occasional gaps reveal spectacular scenery.

In the dark the cold and the wind, we pitch camp in an exposed rocky clearing. Three Rivers and helpers managed to make some hot soup and spaghetti, then we all promptly crawled into our tents to get out of the exceedingly sharp cold and wind, and the fat snowflakes that are beginning to whirl down from the black sky.

Over the mountain tops -  A view of some of the mountains in the Los Padres National Forest, just inland from the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California.


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 213 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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