"The end of our journey impended. Great fields stretched on both sides of us; a noble wind blew across the occasional immense tree groves and over old missions turning salmon pink in the late sun. The clouds were close and huge and rose."
- Jack Kerouac
Day 222 - Tuesday, January 30, 1996 - A storm is boiling in from the Pacific. The forecast is for rain, long and strong: a drought-breaker of a rainstorm. For this we give thanks.
|Lucy Probyn - laughs at a joke after enjoying a grand breakfast feast. (Author photo)
We have a plan now. We will go to the public beach in Santa Barbara on Friday, and hold our closing ceremony there with Grandfather Commanda, Evelyn, and anyone else who chooses to join us in the circle. No exceptions, everyone welcome. All we need do is rest from now until then.
With the end of our pilgrimage finally becoming clear, we all set to work in the Circle V mess hall preparing a massive breakfast feast: 10 dozen eggs, pancakes, real maple syrup, fresh butter, fresh squeezed orange juice, hash brown potatoes, Virginia hams, and dozens of doughnuts and pastries. All of this food donated by Sunbow supporters near and far.
In the early afternoon I joined a small expedition to Lompoc, California with Grandfather Commanda, Evelyn, Rita, Jacki, and Dennis. We drove to the suburban home of Dennis’ brother, Phil Gonsalves to spend the afternoon visiting.
Phil, who is 57 years old, has been diagnosed with both colon and lung cancer. The doctors tell him he has but a short time to live.
Phil has been involved with the Sunbow 5 walk from the beginning. As we sat in his living room this afternoon, he told us how he climbed up on the hills near Cachuma Lake last spring along with the help of three sisters from the Chumash nation. They gathered box after box of white sage to send east, so we would have a generous supply as we started walking. He told us also how his Chumash friend, Larry Garnica, helped.
Phil’s stories made it clear to us that, despite confusion about it, some Chumash people have known about our pilgrimage, and supported it, since way before we began walking eight months ago.
Phil told us that he has been a quiet man all his life. However, today in his excitement at seeing his brother, and Grandfather Commanda, he spoke enthusiastically and unceasingly through the afternoon.
|Tribal seal - shows an image of the benevolent giant Maushop standing upon Aquinnah with a captured whale
Phil and Dennis both grew up in the town of Oak Bluffs on Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard) an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Phil reminisced about going with his father out to the Wampanoag reservation at Aquinnah (Gay Head) on the Island. As he sat in the lodge with his father, he heard the ancient stories of his people and his land.
While the Pacific-coast Chumash carry the memory of the earth goddess Hutash, the Atlantic-coast Wampanoag keep strong the memory of Maushop, the great peaceful, giant.
Maushop would catch whales in his bare hands, lift them overhead, then deposit them on the beach where he would roast them over a fire for a grand feast he would share with all who were hungry.
They say that when fog enshrouds Cape Cod and the islands, Maushop is smoking his sacred Peudelee (pipe).
As we sat in Phil’s living room listening to the stories, talking about our pilgrimage, and weighing the matters of life and death, Grandfather became inspired to take out the Seven Fires Wampum Belt from its protective bag. He passed the belt to Phil, and encouraging him to pray. We all watched as Phil prayed, gradually transforming, his skin and energy moving from a cancerous pallor to a vital radiance.
When he opened his eyes after praying, Phil smiled deeply, shyly, and mentioned in a matter of fact way that he was not ready to die. He would not be ready, he said, until he had earned an eagle feather, a symbol of high respect and accomplishment.
With lucidity and emphasis, Phil turned to us and spoke directly about the walk. He encouraged us not to despair, or to feel bad or sad in any way at all about the walk and the way it was ending.
"Rather,” Phil said, “you can be certain that the walk has accomplished tremendous good, and that it will continue to accomplish many future healing miracles as more and more people become aware of the distress of our Earth Mother. You have accomplished a great good, never doubt that for a minute.”
Before we left, Phil mentioned that if he felt strong enough on Friday, he would join us on the shore of the Pacific Ocean to add his heart to the closing circle.
Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 223 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire