As soon as I stepped across the line and onto the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, I began to weep…
Saturday, we walked 15 miles on asphalt, feet and knees screaming. By the final few miles, my muscles were beginning to seize up. I breathed deeply, realigned, and extended my spine to the sky. It helped. During each day of the walk, many flashed peace signs at us, many ignored us, and some gave the one-fingered greeting. Truckers blew their horns and bikers raised arms in salutation. We battled banners in the winds when they came. During still times, I opened my blue parasol that read “Love, Not Fear”. We walked the desert highway, next to glimmering rocks and cacti, whether we were 18 years old, or 80. The desert gifted me with a black rock bisected by a ascending white stripe that looked like it was heading off into the distance. The road I walked gave me back a little drawing of a road to take in memento vivere.
Western Shoshone Chief Johnnie Bobb and his family greeted us with the Shoshone flag, burning sage, drumming, and singing as we limped on up to the peace camp where dinner cooked by local volunteers would soon be ready. I felt grateful to be there, to give some small witness to the Western Shoshone – who’s land, despite the Ruby Valley Treaty, has been used to stoke the fires of war – and to the land itself, to the tiny red and purple flowers, to the yucca, cholla and nopal.
We live in times of war and preparation for war. This has affected our minds. We live in times of torture and training for torture. This has affected our hearts. We live in times when the assassination of those who feel threatening to us – whether US citizens or “foreigners” – is acceptable to the governing body of a nation, and to the president who promised hope and change. This has affected our souls. We are awash in the needless shedding of blood and the tears of mothers, fathers, lovers, and children. We are complicit with systems that tear us from each other, that distance us from breath and skin and love, that tell us we are not of the earth, and can degrade the fertile body of this planet, and can degrade even the space between the stars.
We are crying from the wounding of this body, of our body. And it is not going to get better any time soon.
Sunday morning, I rose at 4:30 after another night spent at the Goddess Temple. Others had camped out on Shoshone land, braving the harsh wind and cold. I awoke during the night and sent some energy of calming to the sky, thinking of small tents buffeted with little shelter from the land itself. The outdoor sleepers said the wind stilled itself around 1:30, giving rest and respite for awhile. We made our way back, to join the others around a small fire, while Johnnie Bobb sang for fire and water and for his father, the Sun. We danced and danced together, circling around those flames, feet stepping to the heartbeat of his drum. Later, mass was said, and reconnection made to the sacred in that way. We are of earth. We are of community. We are in communion. But we have to remember. We have to keep drawing ourselves back.
Children of the earth, it is time to heed the calling of your heart. It is time to listen to the roaring in your soul. It is time to take up the task of your desire. As visionary Deena Metzger once wrote: “There is no time not to love.” Can we set aside our fear and hatred of each other? Can we dance the dance of heartbreak and the longing for deep peace?
After Easter Mass – the mass of resurrection in which Fr. Steve spoke of Jesus crawling, bruised and battered, from his tomb – we were led again by the Shoshone to the gates of the bomb beleaguered land. We carried our banners and our prayers. We carried our resolve and our longing. Some began to wail at the white line that marks the boundary between one world and another, between the place where we could stand and the place where we could not. People began wailing, and crying. The drumbeat started and I had to cross. I had to stand upon that land and offer what healing I could muster. I had to walk upon the stones and sand of ancient seabed where I had not stood for a decade of years.
As soon as I stepped across that line, I began weeping. The land rose up and met my feet, surrounding me with recognition: I had come. I had come. I had come.
Once inside the holding pen, I hung a string of paper cranes to fly in the harsh wind, and then walked as far as I could and looked out upon the desert, sending wings of energy and light up into sky and down to earth. Spreading these wings, I let healing roll out from me. The land drank. I could do little, but as we always do, I did my best with what I had. The wind held my body upright, I moved with it, as though riding on the ocean, or dancing with a firm and strong beloved wrapped around my back. I was home… for I was with my Mother, who is everywhere and no place. I was standing on the earth.
Brothers and sisters, these times, like many others, are times that test the resiliency of our souls. As have some of our ancestors before us, I hope we choose the patterns of joy and reconnection rather than stepping toward hatred and our fear. Walking the pathways of joy, we have some chance.
In love and trust – T. Thorn Coyle
[artwork by Shoshone Chief Johnnie Bobb]