March 8th, 2018
I left the walkers a week ago today. It feels longer than that. We had been staying at the Lucky Eagle Casino/Hotel on the Chehalis reservation near Olympia, Washington. Last Thursday morning we got ready to move on. Some of us were going home. The rest of the group was heading to the Shoalwater Bay reservation.
I was not the only person leaving the walk. Peter was going home to the Guadalupe Catholic Worker House in Tacoma. Senji was taking me and Makyo to his temple on Bainbridge Island. I was going to stay there for a day and then ride to Wisconsin on Amtrak from Seattle. Makyo planned on returning to Japan, via San Diego. Once we all departed, there would still be a core group on the Longest Walk 5.3. Other people would join the team. Another Japanese woman, Koko, had arrived for the walk just the day before. These walks have a transient population. That’s just how it works.
We circled up. Bobby talked briefly. Yamada brought around some smoking sage, and we all smudged. We prayed, and then we all shook hands. The is a certain ritual involved in that process. The circle breaks off and sort of swallows its tail. People turn and greet each other until there is no circle left. It’s hard to describe in words.
As I went around the circle, some people gave me big hugs. Some gave me less enthusiastic embraces. I got to Tony, the large, well-built youth from southern California. He grabbed me in his arms, and gave me a bear hug. He lifted me off my feet and laughed. Then he said,
“You’re coming back.”
It was a statement, not a question.
I told him, “Yeah, as soon as I can.”
Tony laughed again, and said, “Cool!”
At the end of the line, Bobby came to me. He had to some cloth patches in his hand. They were designed for the walk. He said,
“I have these to give to you.”
He handed them to me slowly and with a certain kind of formality.
I thanked him.
Then he looked at me, and he gave me a heartfelt hug.
Bobby said, “Hey brother! Stay strong! Keep that fire burning inside!”, as he pointed at my chest.
I was ready to fucking cry.