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by Esther Farnsworth

   There were over 100 of us as we left August 15 on our 93 mile journey from Montpelier to Springfield, Vermont. Led by Bread and Puppet's flying geese and fervent in our cause to abolish nuclear weapons, we climbed and sang our way up the steep hill on our way to Northfield.

   At our first lunch stop, 2 miles outside of Montpelier, a group of women from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom had prepared an abundant lunch for the 60 people they had expected, but the great number of us quickly devoured the lunch, and then, like a miracle, more food appeared. All were fed, and then we were on our way to complete the day's ten mile journey. The word was passed on ahead that our number was greater than expected, and volunteers prepared voluminous quantities of delicious food.

   Our message was one of peace, but more specifically, that nuclear weapons are a detriment to our health, our economy and the earth's very being. One woman walker said that she was walking so that her children and grandchildren would no longer be held hostage to nuclear weapons. Our message was also one of hope - that it is possible for a group of committed citizens to change the world. After all, 60 generals world-wide, including Chief of the US Strategic Air Command, Lee Butler, many physicians, lawyers, and church leaders have spoken out in support of Abolition 2000, the international movement to abolish nuclear weapons.

   Along the 93 mile walk we passed out flyers telling about the monetary costs to each community ($130 per person in 1998 alone), the military uselessness of nuclear weapons, and the danger to our security.

   People in cars along the way honked for us, and in the towns they cheered. At our stops, many said, you are walking for all of us. Two elderly women stopped their car and stood at the side of the road. They said, "I worked for peace for many years. I can't walk with you now. Thank you for walking. Please walk for both of us." At the end of the journey, I knew that I was walking for 30 people. One woman in an electric wheel chair rode several miles with us. I was worried that she wouldn't have enough electricity to return home, but she wasn't worried. An 84 year old man walked with us for two days, and had enough energy to help me set up my tent at the end of the day. The people in the churches, schools and parks who fed and housed us told us they were honored to be included in our walk. Every meal was a banquet of their love.

   We were all awed by the beauty of our state, and were helped to appreciate that even more by the drum-beat of a Buddhist nun who bowed and gave thanks at each stop, in recognition that all is holy. The cows and goats and horses responded to the drum-beat, and came to the fence to greet us. The blue heron greeted us in Northfield Gulf with a deliberate swoop over us. The ponds and streams beckoned us to cool off in their invigorating coolness.

   The 200 of us, who walked all or part of the pilgrimage, of course, had our problems, the worst being sore feet from the pounding on the hot pavement. Our "blister bus" carried supplies of water and snacks in addition to giving hot, tired walkers a ride for a few miles. They supplied us with package after package of moleskin and band aides and gave out a few ice packs for bum knees. I cut the sides of my sneakers out to give my toes room to expand. In White River Junction, a foot doctor set up a first aide tent to treat our blisters. Some of our group gave and received foot and body massages.

   All along the way we were nourished, educated and entertained. A professor reminded us that our moral conscience needs to achieve the brilliance of our technological achievements. A physician from the Albert Einstein Institute, spoke to us about accidental nuclear war. A lawyer, spoke to us about treaties and verification of the existence of nuclear weapons. Another lawyer and teacher spoke about the World Court Decision on nuclear weapons. Musicians sang for us, story tellers made us laugh.

   Most of us made new friends and we mutually helped each other on our way. This walk was the beginning of our journey together to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The 93 miles are completed; but the persistent urging of our leaders world-wide to embrace the message of abolishing nuclear weapons is a journey yet to be completed.

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