Sorry I haven’t updated since Day 1. We have been so busy!! The past few days, we were in the van at 530 AM and back to the hotel at 11pm.
Friday was such a moving and inspirational day, and it was just training! The best part of the day was getting to hear my fellow walkers’ stories. Almost every story I heard was filled with so much hurt and pain; many of my fellow walkers told stories of child abuse, bullying, cutting, suicide, and substance abuse–all in some way related to the struggles and burdens of being part of the LGBT community. The room was filled with so much courage and strength. While the mere fact that my fellow walkers had lived through so much pain was inspirational in and of itself, the fact that they are all here, making something beautiful from it all, was extremely powerful and moving.
The training gave me a chance to reflect back on Buddhist teachings regarding suffering and more importantly, the elimination of suffering. I sat and thought a lot about whether or not I live my life as purely as I’d like, and if I’ve deviated from the Eightfold Path more than I’d like to admit. As I figured, I left yet another day, stronger both in the mind and the heart.
When training was finished, we headed to our first city, a small town outside of Lake Havasu called Parker. The reception was simply amazing. Townspeople honked, waved, stopped to donate money or simply to have intelligent conversation. The local Eagle Lodge let all of the walkers use their restroom, even after quite a few customers complained. After all that walking, everyone was very appreciative!
As everyone was walking, I was so bummed that I couldn’t walk the whole thing. I’ve been doing a couple of segments each day, but no where near the total mileage. There’s something really moving about the actual walking. Many of these towns have never seen anyone walk through their towns with a pride flag, let alone a group of individuals who are openly demanding our equality. Many townspeople confirmed what we suspected–we have been the voice for those that are silenced and, for whatever reason, cannot use their own voice.
Saturday we were up by 5 and out of Lake Havasu by 6. We spent the day in Yuma, and I was totally blown away by the reception. We started our day at the Calvary Church of Christ, and I was really apprehensive because they had expressed an extreme hatred for us. In fact, we were concerned for the safety of our vehicles, as the church had called for members to counter protest! Our walk is completely non-violent (physically or verbally) so we do not “protest” in the usual sense of the word. We simply walk an engage individuals in intelligent conversation regarding LGBTQ equality. When we arrived, we were blown away, not by hate, but by love! Yuma PFLAG members met us outside the church with signs saying “hate is not a family value,” along with other words of encouragement. The minister of a local church led us in prayer before we left for the day, and we were off!
I finally laced up my shoes and headed out with the walkers just before lunch. My knee has been holding up very well, but I am still taking it easy. I don’t want to retear anything I just had repaired. It’s been driving me nuts to have to sit out while my “team” walks, but I know it’s what’s best.
As the day wore on, it was clear that Yuma would prove to be an extremely challenging day. It was well over 100, with not a by of shade in sight. Walkers started dropping like flies. Three of us were vomiting and two walkers ended up in the hospital. I was one of the walkers vomiting, but luckily, had anti-emetics in my bag, and was able to take them and stop vomiting before I got too dehydrated. I was so thankful for two fellow walkers, Mandee and Tracy, who brought me ice and fluids so I could cool down and stay hydrated.
My “rose” or highlight of the day came at just the right time. As I was sitting in the hotel lobby, waiting for my nausea to pass, a woman walked up to me and thanked me for everything we are doing. She said she saw us walking through Yuma an was crying the whole time. The woman said that she thought she would never see anything like it in her lifetime, and she was blown away by re strength and courage of our group. She reminded us that it is so rare for people to believe in something so much that they will put their entire being on the line, risking physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
After I got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was sleep. I took Benadryl to ward off allergies and I was out like a light!! I didn’t even wake up when my partner called–I must have been so exhausted.
Sunday morning was another early one. We departed Yuma by 6 am to go to Casa Grande/Eloy/Arizona City. I was apprehensive about the day, as our first meeting was at a Catholic Church, a church I have a lot of bitterness and anger towards.
When we arrived, however, I discovered the the church was called a “Liberal Catholic Church.” The priest, who was a woman, was so open and welcoming and shared genuine love towards our group. one of the first things Mother Sally said to me was a quote from Gandhi. She looked me in the eyes, apologized for the hate spewed by the Catholic Church, and said “I like your Christ, but your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” a sentiment first expressed by Gandhi.
After mass, the church held a breakfast for us. We all sat around and the walkers told our stories. The best part was when Mother Sally told her story as an ally of the LGBT community. She told us a story of how, just recently, the parig almost lost their church due to financial problems; in the next sentence, however, she described how the parish pulled together and came up with the money to help to save the church, and to donate to our walk. It was so moving to hear the story of those truly following the words of The Bible by showing unconditional love and respect to all of mankind.
I was planning on walking more in the morning, but ended up getting a huge migraine, probably from dehydration. After a break (and a whole lot of fluids), I started to feel a lot better. By this time, we were down the road in Eloy. Thankfully, a Haboob had started moving through, so by the time we were ready to walk, it was cloudy. The down side is that the past few days have been incredibly humid. This isn’t something we usually deal with in Arizona, and boy has it sucked!!
It was good to walk a solid portion in the afternoon. There is something so incredibly peaceful and powerful about walking at dusk. The sun was setting over some gorgeous mountains. We were all so exhausted, but so thankful for the conversations and experience we were sharing together. In the crazy hectic life that I live, there’s something about walking in a quiet, rural area, where you can hear the gentle crunching of every footstep, that is so grounding and so peaceful. In those moments, I remembered why I walk and why everything is so important to me. I thought of how beautiful my wedding will be, hopefully enjoying the moment with our family and friends, with the sun setting over the NYC Botanical Garden. My eyes filled up with tears, and I missed my partner so much. While she is not into activism like I am, I sometimes wish I could share these moments with her. All I wanted at the time was to walk hand-in-hand with the love of my life into the beautiful AZ sunset.
As I stood near the van, setting up our celebratory tunnel, I saw the last four walkers coming in the distance. At this point, it was very dark, and the only indication that the walkers were coming was four little flashlights in the distance. As they got closer, the pride flags they were carrying suddenly popped into view. My eyes filled up and I had butterflies in my stomach. It was so beautiful to see the strength and determination in our group, demanding full equality, walking through a deserted Arizona dirt road.
Today is Tucson. So excited for everything that is planned. I’ll write more later!