"Mind of separation, mind of domination: these have birthed genocide of native people throughout the world, the Inquisition, the Nazi holocaust in Europe, the destruction of lands, cultures, and peoples in Asia, and the invention of weaponry with the power to kill all people on Earth twenty times over.
"In the Tsalagi teachings, such great sufferings are seen as unnecessary. They are the result of pride, the idea that one is better or more important than another. In reality, in the circle of right relationship, there is no above and no below, no in or out. All are together in the sacred circle."
- Dhyani Ywahoo
Day 43 - Friday, August 4, 1995 - With today’s steps the Sunbow 5 walkers began a 469-mile-long prayer path, continuing south along the crest of the Appalachians, walking on the side of the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway.
The days ahead promise a feast of close-up encounters with forests, fields and waterways, as well as stunning, long-range vistas. These are the attributes that have made the Blue Ridge the most visited place of all the National Parks in the United States of America. Blue Ridge calls to about 20 million visitors each year.
The parkway runs from the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, where our walk finished for the day yesterday, on to Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina.
Monacan, Saponi, Tutelo, and Cherokee Indians were the early inhabitants of the Blue Ridge region. Many of the mountain and valley fields that the walkers are striding by, and visiting, date back centuries to when native peoples established them for croplands.
As spirit moves them, the Sunbow pilgrims detour into the fields and forests to offer up prayers for the circle of life.
Back on Day 11 of our pilgrimage we recognized that the month ahead—when our long walk would journey through the hyper-urban regions of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.—would constitute a gut check.
The month has come and gone. By now the walkers have passed through all the major cities, and entered the lush, forested mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge—land that is a respite from the commercial industrial intensity of North America's eastern megalopolis.
A sacred sojourn along the Blue Ridge Parkway
"Yeah, it was a gut check all right," Tom told me when we checked in by phone. "It was a lot harder than we thought it was going to be. The relentless pollution of air and water really hurt us. It was tough on our lungs, and tough to get rest or shade. The asphalt really bakes up during the day, and that heat and the fumes really cooked us all. It was hard, and we got tired. The pollution made us even more tired than we would have been anyway.
"We've made it this far (over 700 miles). That's one good thing. It showed us we could move through obstacles without really losing our intention and focus. As a group we are still committed to our vision, of carrying an understanding of the Seven Fires, and the traditional healing medicines of this Turtle Island continent, from the East to the West. We are going on."
Our pilgrimage has also had a substantial dose of confusion, personality conflicts, and anger. Yet a core group has formed, and is continuing along the trail.
"We are going on," Tom said. "Right now we are continuing to deal with the hassle of not having a van or a bus to move our gear and people. That makes things disjointed. But we will deal with that obstacle, and we will go on.
"It's good that we are reaching as many people as we are, with our evening circles and through the Internet," Tom said. "Some newspapers and a few local TV stations have paid attention. But we need to reach many more people. That's one thing we are thinking about. If good change is going to come from this walk, we need to reach many more people."
The Sunbow pilgrims logged nearly 25 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway to a point south of Montebello, Virginia. There they encamped for the night.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 44 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire