Day 62: Manzanar

I awoke in a massive, soft bed on a fluffy pillow and beautiful stacks of blankets. I turned over to find an empty spot where Rainbow Dash used to be. My alarm has gone off twice — once at five and then again at six.
“Pine Nut. Pine Nut!” She said, barely waking me with my earplugs in.

We hung around, fiddling with our packs, answering emails, making calls to friends, paying bills, until it was time for breakfast. We went to the Alabama Hills Cafe for a breakfast burrito fit for the gods. Avocado, eggs, onions, tomatoes, heaven. 

 Then we grabbed our packs and headed up the highway, Randy and Kathy up front, telling us stories.

Halfway to our trailhead we stopped at the Manzanar Historical Site. What is it? Why it is one of the Japanese internment camps from World War II. You never heard of it? Me neither!

We first watched a short movie that would make a granite rock cry. It told us about the lives of the 110,000 mostly American citizens who lived there for years. They lived through stingingly hot summers and bone chilling winters, all the while told they were not, definitely not, in concentration camps.

Guarded 24/7 and made to live in tiny barracks, these incredible people transformed the barren desert into beautiful gardens. They worked and some even considered their internment as their patriotic duty. Some volunteered to fight and gave their lives for others’ freedom. 

 Walking through the exhibit I was shocked by our past, so often pushed under the rug.

And later, walking high over Kersarge Pass with nearly 50 pounds on my back, I meditated on freedom. I remembered just how lucky I was to be able — monetarily, physically, mentally, emotionally — to do this journey.

I learned today that during the aftermath of 9/11, our leaders considered internment camps for “those people.” I learned that Reagan and then Bush (1) offered an apology and then monetary compensation for the terrible imprisonment and immense loss these U.S. citizens endured. I wondered at our future and our past. I heard the terrible news of racism killing our people, this time en-mass. 

 I had a lot to think about while climbing the big mountain slowly and heading over the other side in the evening.

I wonder at the mass hysteria that happens in times of war and unrest. I wonder what side I would be on: the side of taking away freedom for others in hopes of my own safety or the side of upholding our constitution and ensuring everyone is ensured due process.

I can only hope that I (and we all) choose the path of freedom, of compassion, of love.