Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede (Rochester Zen Center) sent a report to Sensei and Richard about the People's Climate March in New York:
"It was probably the most powerful public event I've ever been part of. No one really knew how many would turn out, but somewhere I'd heard a hopeful estimate of 150,000. Afterward, the NYT reported 311,000, based on the work of 35 crowd-spotters and an analysis by a Carnegie-Mellon mathematician.
We got to NY by a bus hired by our local Zen Centre philanthropist, who basically subsidized all expenses so that anyone could afford to go. $10 got you a round-trip ticket, and for another $10 you could sleep at one of 3 unoccupied, unfurnished--but clean--condominiums he owns in Brooklyn. So it was that a bunch of University of Rochester students and other locals (including some Quakers) joined us 30 ZC people on the bus.
The day before the march we staked out our Earth Vigil spot, on the edge of Central Park near Columbus Circle (59th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues). It was on a gentle knoll overlooking the street, where we could be seen as supporting the marchers, the movement. We sat that day for 4 hours, just to get revved up for the Big Day. In those 5 hours, hundreds of passersby stopped in their tracks to photograph us, on cell phones and bigger cameras. This was fun!
The next day was like what I've always heard about Woodstock. Nothing had prepared any of us for the scale of the march. I'd figured, half-consciously, that it would last an hour, hour-and-a-half. Most of us started sitting 3 hours before the march, and then it went on for over 4 hours--a slow-moving river of people flowing by us for 4 hours. The funny thing is, I saw little of it because I was doing zazen as intensely as I could, eyes down. That was the essential point of our sitting--to present, through our concentrated presence, the ground of sanity that is beyond all divisions, the fierce attention that climate change needs. And because over those 4 hours there were always multiple photographers standing on the sidewalk, just 30 feet away, with their cameras trained on us, I felt responsible to hang tough, shifting position as little as possible, getting up only twice, to use the nearby bathroom.
The multitudes kept coming and coming and coming. And as our sitting progressed over the hours, we experienced a mounting sense of solidarity with the marchers. After all, we were all doing the same thing, just in different ways! And that connectedness was clearly mutual. I had hoped that they didn't see us as setting ourselves apart from them, but it was the very opposite. This was the most inspiring surprise to us--the marchers' appreciation for our meditation. For 4 hours we heard cries of "THANK YOU, EARTH VIGIL," and just "THANK YOUs" clearly directed our way.
I did steal a glance at the marchers now and then, and saw so many of them waving to us, placing their hands on their hearts, some even stopping to bow. Other Earth Vigilantes told me that when the marchers spotted us, most of them turned and gazed in silence for a few seconds. That was wonderful--they seemed to get the spirit behind our Earth Vigil slogan:
"Silence can speak louder than words / Stillness has the power to move."
(Well, at least they weren't scowling at us. And some hundred of them came back and joined us when they'd finished their section of the march.)
Someone told me that someone on Democracy Now said that seeing Earth Vigil was the most meaningful part of the march. Ah, shucks."