I had a call this morning from the Grafton, New York Peace Pagoda
where Buddhist nun Jun-san Yasuda is based. They called to say
that a dozen Japanese would be coming to our Maine Drone Peace
We'll have about 20 folks at our house tonight in Bath for dinner
and sleeping and then we head off early in the morning for the
long drive north to Limestone. We'll stop in Bangor to pick up a
couple more people and then some others will meet us at the start
point. So far the weather reports look real good. The colors are
changing on the trees and as we begin the walk in Maine's potato
county it should be beautiful. We'll see the Mars Hill wind farm,
the Amish horse drawn buggies and hopefully a friendly reception.
Our hosts in Caribou and Presque Isle are excited and have been
alerting the local media. The semi-secret plan to try to turn
Aroostook County into a "weaponized drone test bed" is now on the
Yesterday Frank Donnelly called to say that last Sunday he made a
bunch of copies of our peace walk flyers and stood outside the
sold-out WERU Community Radio 25th anniversary concert in
Ellsworth and talked to people about the walk. WERU has been
promoting the walk quite a bit and they are sending a reporter to
walk with us on Oct 12 when we pass thru Bangor.
Come walk with us for a day or more.
You can find the daily details of walk route and schedule
October 12, 2013- Old Town to Bangor
Arriving at UU church in Caribou on the first day of the walk
I am writing this on our mini-bus as we head south from Presque
Isle to Bangor. We have nine of our group in this vehicle while
another ten folks are in a couple other vehicles behind us. Our
crew in the bus has five Americans and four Japanese activists and
for the first hour we were singing songs in both languages. It’s
been a lot of fun.
Last night we stayed in the home of two local activists who make
up half of the peace group that weekly vigils on a local bridge –
they’ve been doing it for the last 10 years even in the dead of
winter. We walked 13 miles yesterday from Caribou into Presque
Isle – through the rolling potato fields of the “county” which is
how folks popularly describe Aroostook County that happens to be
the largest county in Maine. The population of the county is only
72,000 people, which is likely one reason that some political
leaders in Maine want to put a “weaponized drone test center” up
When we arrived on Oct 10 in Limestone to begin the walk we were
met by the local TV station that interviewed three of us. We
later heard that the coverage that night on the TV was “better
than average” which was good to hear. The local paper had a nice
article on Oct 9 announcing the walk to the community.
As we began walking that first day we were pleasantly surprised at
how warm and friendly the people driving by were to us. One woman
stopped her car in the middle of the road and took our picture and
I handed her one of our flyers about the walk. This is considered
the most conservative part of Maine but the openness of the people
has been more than refreshing. (Yesterday one of our walkers
crossed the highway to hand a flyer to someone working at a farm
equipment dealership. By the time she finished talking to the
people there the walk had moved along quite a distance. The next
thing we knew a car pulled up and the walker got out – they’d
given her a ride to catch back up with us.)
Our first night we were warmly hosted by the Unitarian
Congregation in Caribou, which we were informed, has six active
members. We slept on the church floor after a wonderful supper
that the church members prepared – four different soups and bread
with an assortment of homemade pies. Following the meal we asked
Maine Veterans for Peace member Dud Hendrick (a US Naval Academy
graduate and Vietnam war veteran) to speak about why he was
Following Dud’s moving reflection we invited one of our Japanese
friends to speak about their current struggle to project Article 9
in the constitution that outlaws their participation in war. The
US is now twisting the arm of the Japanese government to dump
Article 9 in order to assist the Pentagon in the military
encirclement and control of China.
Just before our program began that first night a young woman from
the local community was preparing to leave. I urged her to stick
around and listen to Dud’s talk. The next morning, as we were
preparing to begin walking from the church, the same young woman
drove up and jumped out of her car and approached me. She handed
me a pin and told me that her mother had given the pin to her but
she wanted me to have it as a thank you for encouraging her to
stick around. Later one of the church women told me that the young
woman had been tremendously impacted by Dud’s talk the night
This morning at breakfast, before leaving Presque Isle, Karen
Wainberg, who also lives at the Addams-Melman House in Bath, told
me that the walk creates such a sense of “love and caring” that
you can’t help but take that spirit with you when you go back into
the wild and wooly world.
That is an important observation because that is indeed the
experience we are having walking, eating, singing, laughing, and
crying together. We’ve been learning about each other and seeing
that in our peace work – whether in the US or Japan – we are all
working toward the same end. It’s fun to watch the nine Japanese
with us discover this new world here in Maine. At the same time
they bring us such spiritual centering and a wonderful playfulness
to our otherwise often arrogant and uptight American way of being.
Today we’ll walk about 13 miles from Old Town into Bangor. In the
evening a potluck supper will be held at a local church and then
we’ll be divided up and sent to various local homes. I am
promised a house with wireless connection so I can download the
hundreds of emails waiting for me and upload this onto my blog.
My foot hurts and I have a blister on one toe but my heart is
full. We are reaching a lot of people on this walk. Today
(Saturday) I expect we’ll have even more folks join us as we enter
Bangor. (Two TV stations covered us as we walked into the city.)
It’s all a blessing.
October 13 - Bangor to Skowhegan
No to Drones in Maine
We arrived at the Skowhegan Community Center around 4:00 pm today
after a 13 mile walk. We left Bangor with 30 folks and walked 6.3
miles out of the city. Ten folks from Bangor then bid us goodbye and
we shuttled 40 miles ahead on Hwy 2 heading west and had lunch along
the road. Then we walked another six-plus miles into Skowhegan.
Yesterday when we were walking thru Orono a Native American man
named Gkisedtanamoogk heard us drumming as he was washing dishes. He
teaches peace studies and Native American history at the University
of Maine-Orono. He came running after us and decided to walk the
rest of the way with us into Bangor. Then this morning, as we
gathered at the Peace & Justice Center in Bangor, Gkisedtanamoogk
showed up and walked the entire day with us. When I asked him how he
was going to get back home he said "I'm gonna walk". Then he laughed
and said his daughter will come get him after our pot luck supper
and program. During a break today he told me, "When we align
ourselves with the energy of life we might just have a
future....some people just don't know how to live."
Morgana Warner Evans (West Bath, Maine) also showed up this morning.
She's been active with our local activist community for several
years but went off to college last year. This coming week is her
fall break from school and she decided to walk with us the rest of
the way. She brought her guitar and beautiful voice which we
immediately put to work by having her sing during a break this
morning. She will sing in our program tonight.
We will also be sung to tonight by the Buddhist Monk Kineda-shonin
and a young Japanese woman who is walking with us. They have both
previously sung to us but they are so good we can't get enough of
The Monk Gilberto Perez, who just last week was on Jeju Island,
joined us last night and during our program tonight will share about
his experience being in Gangjeong village in recent days. You might
remember a photo of him I posted on the blog where he was sitting at
the Navy base front gate holding a sign that read "Yankees Go Home."
Lisa Savage and Mark Roman are hosting the walk the next three
nights - two nights here in the Skowhegan area and then in
Waterville as well. In fact they've got the Mayor of Waterville to
invite Mark to come to their city council meeting next Tuesday night
and the city will issue a proclamation welcoming the walk.
Lisa and Mark have even lined up a massage therapist for this
evening and she is got a long line of our folks waiting in great
anticipation for their chance to lay on her table and get their
aching body attended to. Life on the road so to speak.
October 14 - Skowhegan to Mercer
GOOD MEDIA COVERAGE
We walked along the Kennebec River yesterday as we approached
Skowhegan. The colorful fall leaves on trees overhanging the
narrow road made for a picturesque moment. We took a break
at a beautiful park on the river and as we were preparing to leave
a reporter from the Waterville newspaper stopped to interview us.
The same story ran in four papers (Portland, Augusta, Waterville,
Brunswick) across the state this morning.
The Bangor Daily News also has an article today. See it
We've been doing better than one could expect with the media so
far on the walk. Our goal to bring this important issue to the
public is being achieved in a good way.
It just goes to show though that if you get out and do the hard
work - walking and reaching out to people across the state - that
you can in fact make some level of impact.
Last night, just before our pot luck supper began in Skowhegan, I
played the video (just below on the blog) from TV coverage we got
in Old Town. The Japanese were thrilled to see themselves
appearing on American TV so quickly during the walk.
Build it and they will come.
October 15, 2013 - Mercer to Farmington
THE MAGIC OF THE WALK
We were walking along today from Mercer to Farmington when a big
green bus zoomed by us. I noticed it said Bread & Puppet on the
back. Then minutes later the bus had turned around and pulled into
a parking lot in front of us. A bunch of young people jumped out
and they immediately began unloading band equipment from the rear
end. Soon we had the Bread & Puppet marching band leading our
walk. They played When the Saints Go Marching In and Down by the
Riverside as we continued walking. Then they apologized saying they
had to get on to do a show someplace and headed back to their bus.
It is things like this that keep happening during these
walks....magical moments. Guaranteed to be one or more each day for
We walked 14.4 miles today and had a wonderful pot luck supper at a
church in Farmington. The event was hosted by Veterans for Peace
co-founder Doug Rawlings and our walkers were divided into various
homes for the night. I am in a log cabin in the woods (with
Internet connection) somewhere eight miles from Farmington.
Tomorrow we head to Waterville. We've been picking up more people
as we go along, today three more full time walkers joined us. More
are expected to come onboard in the next days.
We are asking people to join us in Augusta at the capital Hall of
Flags on Friday, Oct 18 at 3:00 pm for our closing
ceremony/rally/news conference. Kathy Kelly, Tarak Kauff, and Shenna
Bellows will be among the speakers.
We walked 12.6 miles from Farmington to Waterville today
(had to shuttle a bit because of the long distance.) After
our lunch stop at the half-way point our support mini-bus
would not start and we had to have it towed to a repair shop.
Don’t yet know what the problem was. Going to likely cost us
an arm and a leg for the towing and repair.
A man named Mike from Cape Elizabeth, Maine showed up this
morning to join us for the rest of the walk. He read one of
the articles in the paper over the weekend and decided he
wanted to jump in with us. Good to know that the media we’ve
had is having an impact. Kathy Kelly arrived in time for
supper tonight at the church in Waterville. Mayor Karen Heck
of Waterville also came to the church to welcome us and told
us she issued a proclamation at their city council meeting
last night in support of the walk.
Our hosts tonight are Mark Roman and Lisa Savage who win
the prize for most hosting during the walk. This will be the
third night they signed up to take on the host duties.
They’ve really given all they have got and more to the effort.
(They were both also responsible for arranging the mayor's
While we walk the military industrial complex and their
dark agents continue apace. I read today that the Obama
administration is loosening controls over military exports, in
a shift that former government officials and human rights
advocates say could increase the flow of American-made
military parts to the world’s worst conflicts and make it
harder to enforce arms sanctions. Under the new system, whole
categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of
items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be
under more “flexible” controls. U.S. companies will also face
fewer checks than in the past when selling some military
aircraft to dozens of countries.
I just told Veterans for Peace member Jules Orkin about
the bit above and his response was, “Wasn’t that Obama’s
campaign slogan – yes we can?” It’s confirmation of the
horrid decision to hollow out our country and turn us into the
“security export” bit role players. We’ll make weapons for
conflicts in regions where diminishing natural resources are
located and then use those conflicts as an excuse to send in
the troops to bring “stability” and, for good measure, a
little bit of “democracy”.
Many of us have been noticing that the public appears to
be more receptive to our message than on previous walks.
We’ve concluded that people are waking up from their deep
sleep and starting to realize that we've been shafted and the
clamp is ready to come down. The ultimate question is whether
the public will turn toward a fascism, that offers easy
answers and scapegoats those who challenge them, or will they
recognize the corporate take over of our nation for what it is
and move toward non-violent resistance. By walking we like to
think that we offer the people an alternative vision and sign
of hope. Time will surely tell which way the hammer will
October 17, 2013 - Waterville to Belgrade
ALL DOWN HILL NOW
did 17 miles today from Waterville to Belgrade. We are staying at
the country home of a group of great activists who work on water and
other environmental issues here in Maine. Not long after we arrived
Tarak Kauff and Mike Tork, key leaders in national Veterans for
Peace, pulled up.
While we were taking a break along the road today a young woman
jumped out of a car and bowed to our group. We recognized her from
yesterday as we entered Waterville. She was at a gas station and as
we passed by she stood with an unforgettable look on her face - near
tears. She was wearing a fancy blue dress with blue heeled shoes.
I handed her a flyer and she thanked me. As it turns out she is
part Japanese and went on the Internet and found our walk route
schedule and joined us for a couple miles. She was chattering the
whole time in Japanese to the various members of Nipponzan Myohoji.
Just an example of more walk magic.
The house we are staying at tonight is ripping with energy right now
- crowded but full of excitement as our numbers swell. I've been
hearing all day from folks who plan to join us at the state capital
Hall of Flags tomorrow at 3:00 pm for our closing
ceremony/rally/news conference. I am expecting that it should be a
Years ago in Florida when I organized the 700-mile Walk for the
Earth from the Everglades to the state capital in Tallahassee we
asked people to come and walk the last mile with us. On that final
day 500 people showed up for the closing walk. We won't have that
many folks tomorrow but we'll have a nice crowd to share the
experience and hear our great speakers and the music.
I am starting to feel just a bit sad as I contemplate the end of the
walk. It's such a wonderful feeling of community that having it end
is not what I really want. I feel so lucky to be with this
incredible and dedicated group of people.
October 18, 2013 - Belgrade to Augusta
Photos from inside the Hall of Flags in Augusta at the Maine Drone Peace Walk
Art props by Natasha Mayers; photos by Roger Leisner
October 19, 2013 - Augusta to Bath
WALKING FOR EACH OTHER & RESTORING OUR FAITH IN HUMANITY
We did a walking tour along Bath Iron Works before gathering to vigil
There is a lot to write about from our last two days of the peace
walk. I've yet to get any photos from our wonderful ceremony inside
the state capitol in Augusta. I'll post them when I can. We had an
astonishing entry into Augusta yesterday - cars were honking at us
like crazy - it felt like the circus was coming to town. People
asked me why we had such a great response as we walked to the
capital. I'm not sure, maybe the public thought we'd come to
liberate them from our right-wing Gov. LePage. Maybe they'd heard
about the walk and wanted to let us know they agree with us.
Anything is possible these days.
Artist Natasha Mayers met us at the capital building front door with
loads of her big colorful pieces of drone surveillance art props
that she used last summer in her local July 4 parade. Big eyes
spying on people inside a shower curtain, laptop keyboard hooked up
to the NSA - stuff like that. The pictures will tell the story.
A hundred folks came to stand in a circle with us inside the Hall
of Flags at the capital. The Buddhist monks (we were joined by two
more monks for the 14 miles walk from Belgrade on Friday) led us in
chanting as we began our final program. Speakers were Kathy Kelly,
Tarak Kauff, Shenna Bellows (former ACLU director in Maine and now
candidate for the Senate against Susan Collins), and Lisa Savage.
Songs from walkers were included in the program as well.
After the event was over we walked to the nearby offices of the
Mediation and Resource Center where we had a supper and a time for
shared reflections on the walk experience before settling down on
the carpeted floor for the night. Then this morning we were up
early and made the drive to Bath to prepare for our final vigil at
BIW. There was supposed to be the "christening" of the new
"stealth" destroyer today but it was cancelled due to the government
We walked from the Addams-Melman House in Bath down the hill to BIW
at 10:00 am this morning. We walked past the entire shipyard so
everyone could have a good look at it and then came half-way back
and set up a two-hour vigil outside the BIW administration
building. The monks led us in chanting and drumming until 11:00 and
then we began a program of speakers and singing right up until the
noon shipyard whistle blew and the weekend shift workers began
streaming out in their trucks and cars. They are used to seeing
many vigils there but today was different. We had alot more people
today than usual, we set up on both sides of the road, plus we had
these monks dressed in their bright robes.
Once the BIW workers passed by we walked back to the house and had a
wonderful lunch that Karen Wainberg had prepared for everyone. The
house was full of people and we all had mixed feelings (I wasn't the
only one a bit sad) as others expressed that they too did not want
the walk to end.
I helped clean up the kitchen after everyone had left but then
finally had to come up into my office and sit down. I soon fell
asleep in a chair while trying to write this post. I am dog tired
but my heart feels full of love and I feel a great sense of
satisfaction. This is now my eighth such walk (seventh that I have
organized) and I'd never been able to walk every step of the way
because I usually have many responsibilities that kept me from
always walking. But on this journey I was determined to walk each
and every one of the steps. Miraculously my feet, which usually are
in severe pain when I walk long distances, did not give me nearly as
I loved this experience for many reasons. The hard work that so
many of the walkers shared to help with all the many tasks of
shuttling vehicles, lugging things around, preparing food for
breakfast and lunches, speaking and singing during our evening
programs, and more made this event a joy to be a part of. We had no
real problems and everyone got along so well. It was a living and
breathing community of love and deep concern and I am certain that
the public that saw us along the highways of Maine could feel it as
We directly reached many tens of thousands of people. We handed out
hundreds and hundreds of flyers along the way. One man in a rural
area near Belgrade took a flyer I offered him. He was putting out
the trash and shook my hand and thanked us and said, "You are doing
a good job. Keep going." Maybe he had seen the article in his
local paper about the walk or saw us on TV. It often felt like
people did know who we were as we came into their community.
We were walking about drones but the message was bigger than just
that and I felt the public understood that too. We were saying that
there is a better way for our nation and the people who honked, or
waved, or flashed peace signs seemed hungry to connect with us. We
gave them hope.
One of our walkers, a young man named Jason, told me his faith in
humanity was restored by the walk. So was mine.
October 22, 2013 - THINGS LEARNED
Maine is a beautiful state to walk through. Water, mountains, trees,
farms, poverty, and interesting people.
One of my favorite moments on the walk was along the narrow rural Highway
2 from Skowhegan to Farmington. (On this route truckers often blasted
their horns.) We approached a local mom & pop breakfast joint and three
guys were in the parking lot watching us pass by. I crossed the road and
handed them each our flyer. One of them asked how much it would cost to
get a hunting license to shoot down drones. I told them the story about
seeing a bumpersticker that said, "Protect my 2nd amendment right to shoot
down drones." They liked that and as I pulled away one said, "Hey, you
guys are doing a good job."
What made this a special moment for me was the cultural connection I felt
to these guys. My step-father was from Rumford, Maine and came from a
paper mill family. He was working class. My mom married him when I was
about three years old, so Wes was essentially my father. When I talked
with the three guys on Hwy 2, I saw Wes. I loved being able to have that
connection - it's a good part of what I am.
As the Buddhists chanted Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō I was lifted,
by connection to the spirit of community and genuine purpose, to a new
strength. I often was dragging by the end of the day but was reminded how
much energy the walking community can bring.
The deep connection of seeing and feeling the land, water and sky brought
it all home for me. Our machines are killing us. They are killing
nature. Now and then we'd make cars stop to let us walk by in a group.
Most folks were fine and enjoyed the parade. But still, almost always in
larger population centers, some drivers got more impatient and demanding.
Then they'd zoom off - 0 to 60 - in just seconds. We were literally just
taking a couple steps forward while watching this illustration of
speed-time-power-success, that under girds the machine-culture mythology,
roar into the distance.
Chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō would come in and out of my
head. Sometimes I'd chant to myself and other times I was fixed on
wandering thoughts or organizing needs of the walk. (Being the
perfectionist that I am it was always on my mind to try to stay flexible
and patient with everyone. My way was not always going to be the best
way.) Ego gets involved a bit here as does one of the other
manifestations of the business model - competition. It all comes out
during such experiences. So I had some interesting internal reflection
over these things.
When you hit the walkers wall (about day 2-3 for me) you begin to question
your sanity and your endurance. Once you push thru that self doubt things
get easier. But in those moments the weak and dark corners inside of us
awaken. I found chanting would help bring me back to the light side.
We were lucky to have Jules Orkin with us from Veterans for Peace. He
lives in New Jersey and does alot of peace walks with Nipponzan Myohoji.
He brings along his van to help with shuttling. Early on he offered to
take charge of the daily vehicle shuttling process. It was a big help but
more than that Jules became my co-organizer andI loved working
with him. A retired bookstore owner, with more than 10,000 books still in
his possession, Jules has a great sense of humor and a big heart. We had
first met in jail last spring when we were among those arrested at Hancock
Field in Syracuse, New York protesting against that drone operations
base. Jules and I were among the last three men to be released from jail
so we had a good bit of time to connect. I'll miss him alot.