Phase 1 took us from Mono Lake to Owens Lake, covering roughly 180 miles in 22 days with approximately 35 walkers each week. Our intention was to co-create a moving community of both local and global people who would bear witness to the water situation in Mono and Inyo Counties, raising awareness and examining our relation to water as a finite resource. We had the gift of receiving many peoples–their stories, experience and perspective along the way.
Pilgrimage was chosen as the method, a way to directly experience the land around us, to experience the heat and dryness of the Valley as well as its beauty and expanse. We walked from the ‘success’ story of Mono Lake, through the Jeffrey Pine forests, along the Owens Gorge and into a man-made desert to Owens Lake, sometimes jumping in the rivers and even more often not seeing water for days.
A leadership team of three women, a “carrier” support team of eight, and a small volunteer logistics/kitchen team helped us move along our route, generously supporting the daily needs of the group. All had the opportunity to share their experience and personal stories through daily councils and walks with each other, averaging 10 miles a day. The inter-gen group of walkers age 20 to 70 brought themselves fully to the experience: writers, water specialists, community leaders, local activists, tribal members, photographers, singers, philanthropists, business leaders, educators, and more. Through walking we were able to create a daily life based on simplicity and having minimal impact; we experienced what it is like to live in community together with all our needs more than met.
The daily councils offered us a space of exploration and expression for what we witnessed and heard throughout the journey. It was an integral part in creating community and solidarity among the group members so quickly. Together, we watched closely the tendency to jump quickly into blame and the taking of sides; together, we focused more on listening and learning from the place and the people there, asking what we might say yes to, asking the questions that still need to be asked of those in power, asking how we all might take responsibility and become more engaged and empowered through our communities. Each day we listened for events and actions that might serve and help us along the trail… from collecting trash to writing our concerns and questions to the DWP and others. Song, prayer, and action found a balance.
On many of our days, we arrived at our destination late in the afternoon, with just time enough to hear more personal stories from some of the walkers before dark. Some highlights included: