WhiteCrow Walking

My solo walk across America began in Maine. I walked for nearly 3 years carrying a backpack and facing countless dangers, as well as met wonderful people I could have never made it without. From bullets to bears I moved through mountains of snow and across burning desert country. The end result will be a book, and the fruition of a childhood dream. This is a blog from the field with rough stories about my steps along the way.

31 October 2005

The Egg Toss

Brewster, NY
Finally, far down Drewville Street I spot a place by the water in the woods. My pack is heavy with apples from a woman named Barbara I meet miles ago when the sun still had some life left in it. No sooner am I in the woods, and the tent is up, do I get drenched again in police lights. Someone in getting a ticket on the bridge I just crossed. It is Halloween. Everyone is dressed up like a cop.

The smell of Autumn is so thick that my mind can't get any air. I am pleasantly drunk. Leaves are swirling everywhere.

The radio in a coffee shop I take a break in is playing Van Morrison's Into The Mystic.

In a room in Norwichtown, CT she is close to me. We are dancingslowly as if in one body, and talking softly about this walk that has begunto get louder in me. I did not know that it would be sixteen years before I would hear this song again, and have my house on my back walking across America. She was married already, but we still made believe. She gave me promises that canceled themselves out with the last two words, if only. She would walk with me across America, if only. She would cloak me in her olive brown skin when all of the geese hurt our ears with news of winter if only.

She gave me a card heavy with her heart, and then went home to have children.

A few months ago I drove the hours to her old house on Canterbury Turnpike. New houses are everywhere on that street. I walked into her yard past the garden where the flag pole still reaches the sky. The house was vacant , and open. I walked in the doorway, and called out to the past. Sixteen years of silence came to me. The place was gutted. Workers had gone to lunch. In the window I saw us still dancing, and Van Morrison never sounded so rich.

Some good-byes never happen so that we can go back, at least in a song while strangers in coffee shops try to find our face from across the room.

Tonight I let the tent rest. I place my pad on the leaves, breaking up my out line with a log. An egg just miss me from a passing car window. I hit it with my walking stick before I think about eating it. Bummer.
A cricket beside me is lovesick. He plays his song as if he is the last voice in the world. From farther in the woods one weak chime responds in his tongue. Into the night they trade songs. I am happy for them, and thankful.
It is so good to lay beneath the stars again. Rt. 6 is a hundred yards away.

30 October 2005

Sidewalk Preacher

Patterson, NY Watchtower Farm
All around the small pond there are keep out signs. My bottles are empty, so I'm forced to a door. A middle aged black man comes to the window. He doesn't want to smile , but he does. My hair is turning white too I think, but he does not appear to relate to me. I tell him about my breakfast need, and ask about filtering water from the pond for my coffee. With alot of words he tells me no. I am dumb. No water. I refraise my question to include the use of water from his sink. He takes my bottle, and he is gone. In a minute he is back with a cereal bar and a full bottle. "Thank you," I smile
Across the street from the pale house, water comes down from the hills with wonderful spirit. It is a loud conversation I can listen to all day and not tire. This is the perfect place to cook oats, coffee, and think about my Creator. It is Sunday morning I think. The sky is a crisp blue.
Jacob Blan pulls up to the cattlegate I am leaning my back against. His truck is a plain bone white. Still, I am always afraid of a boot. I begin gathering my goods togeather before he opens his mouth, or the truck door. Jacob has been here at Paterson for twenty one years. He is the caretaker. Jacob gave his life to Jehovah over thirty years ago, and he still talks like a newly-wed when he refers to the Creator.
Without much of a delay, Jacob knows my story in a thin sketch, and that I am more than a little familiar with the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. Still, for the next hour I am carried from creation throught to the final days of this system. I try to ask questions, about things that I don't understand. My teacher is kind. He ties up his answers in a few words, and we are back on the Biblical tour. I jet my eyes from Jacob to my pack over and over, after I figure out that q. and a. really isn't part of the tour. My unauthorized long hair has been noted. The ivory in my ear has caught the sun. Ink can be seen around my native wrists. I am sure that I scream, "help me," from head to foot, and Jacob wants to help.
I am thankful, but I am full. I am not so stupid as to think that I can walk this walk alone though. As soon as my feet slip, or I feel the cut of a sharp edge it is to prayer that I internally run. As Jacob assends to feed the cows I sling my pack, and find the roadside. My mouth is smiling as I thinks about the God that cares so much about me, that he sends a minister to my feet as I swollow the last of my breakfast. "Thank You."

I see new water. Over the guardrails I climb. My shoes and socks are off. A thousand ravens and crows are in the trees directly above me. They are so happy, and loud, that I can't think. I have to talk loudly just to enter their conversation. I step through posion ivy. Most of the leaves are gone so I figure that it doesn't matter. I find out later that I am wrong, but it is a mild annoyance. The river feel like ice. I make my feet swollow and step in. They are children fighting over bath night. I almost fall. I am a black crow with mud everywhere. From above me I hear laughter.

Still barefoot, I make coffee. As the water boils I spot a huge crayfish in the river three feet deep beneath the surface. My stomach barks out way too many orders to my hands, and my mind can't think. By the time I come up with a plan the crayfish finds a shadow I can't see through, and I pout back to my coffee. I sip, then smile with my whole face.

The crows land with their square tails to understand. The ravens swoop with their large wings and arrowhead tails to play, and check for food. I watch all the purpose of their wings. So much is done just to be in the air, to fold and unfold fingers of black against sky, and then fall rolling between limbs memorized, only to pull out at the last moment to begin again. They are in no hurry to act old just because the soft blue has left their eyes. Until they die they are youth and elder one.

As I return to walking, I open with every song I can think of that mentions the joy of the open road or traveling. My mouth is not modest. In a voice that cripples the roar of passing cars I fill the air around me. 'Old black water keep on rolling, Mississippi moon won't you keep on shining on me,' becomes Desperato. The Eagles progress into Jackson Browne's best seller Running On Empty, and the miles peel off with layers that have grown too warm in the sun.


Paterson, NY
The leaves here have stood the test of wind and rain. The trees still have meat on their bones. Just after a haunted house, that doubles as a ski resort when the snows come, I break into the woods. Ten, maybe twenty feet in, and I disappear. Now only the sound remains from the road. The tent is thrown up quickly. It is already late. From the hill above I hear the screams, and moaning from the haunted house that will stay with me for half of the night. Coffins open and close with heavy banging. People scream at the special effects. I am beginning to think that I could have walked for a few more miles.
The young trees beside my tent have several sides rubbed free of their birch bark by young buck trying to remove velvet from their racks, contribute their scent, and train with a gentle partner. It will be even a louder night if the deer come into camp to scrape tonight.

I look around. This is home now. I do have things stored to include a one room log cabin, and my'48 Airstream, truck, and 250cc on/off road motorcycle, but as far as location goes, I am these leaves falling to the earth. The wind will take me. The postcards that I have sent all said nothing. What could I say? I am on the moon, and all the earth is so far away. One day I will return, and they will open their mouths to know what I have seen, where have I slept? It is all so ludicris. Postcards? I am sending rocks from the moon as if it can ever explain this damp earth now against my chest, the cop that is fifteen feet away signing speeding tickets while his red light pummel the sides of my tent over and over. I am brave. I am brave, I tell myself as I smell the fresh musk of deer and soil against my face. I am a brillant fool, I counter. I will get get snuffed like a candle if I am not careful. 'Sweat more in training, bleed less in war.' What is this I wonder? Is this peace? I will see my friends in years and they will open their mouths with fat questions they'll think that I'll be able to answer in a spoon full of words.
"Didn't you get the rock I sent," I will ask.

The notes are more like proof of life. I send out trail markers, clues that I passed this way. My mind leaves this cop, this tent that I cannot unzip to enter because of sound. In my thoughts I rise frow this silly distraction, and I visit all those that I have left undone, the separate puzzels that I have started to assemble in and out of my days. Their lives will flow on. I am sure of this. To rise one day and leave all that is common, all that I know, as I lundge into uncertainty is at times too much like death to finger. There is always the saying of good-byes to those loved, but there is also the setting down of a favorite cup and cedar flute. I make my bed in the Airstream. I consider if I will ever place my weight here again. From my friends I gather hugs and kisses, but it is all wine and rich food. In a week I will be famished. In a week I will be curious if I have ever been under a woman, or held something so sweet as a mouth to mine.
With certain vainity, I wonder if they will pick me up into their mind, and study words said, or the joke only I laughed at. Where would my mind wander to if it was me that was left on the dock?

It is 1982. I have just graduated Housatonic Valley Regional H.S., met my father for the first time, fell in love, and joined the army. Alone in my grandmother's house, where I was living until I shipped out, I sat on her couch as all about me melted. I adored my grandmother Carol Jesse. My grandmother was the first person to adore me. The powerful knowledge that my life was going to start bucking, and never again be the same tore open my chest, breaking ribs free fom my breast bone to expose all the tender workings inside.I began to sob as I never had before. This reaction was not to alter a course. I was understanding this crossing of open ground. All at once I knew nothing would ever be the same. On that very couch, which my grandmother never sat on, my grandmother reclined while eating a handful of green grapes, and then left us all to start her final journey. It was just a month before I got out of the army.

29 October 2005

Winter This Way Comes

The pen moves slowly, and dry. I pull more spit into my mouth as if this will help. The change has begun. I am still a boy. Each winter the snow carrying winds come, and it is the first time all over again. The speed of its hands amaze me.
As I prepare to write, deer feed forty feet away. They are unconcerned. They leave no guard. Al heads are down and away from me. This is trust. I have begun to change. Miles ago I walked to within ten feet of a wild red tailed hawk. I danced right upto it, talking all the while, and it never flew. It moved feathers to say that it could fly. It turned its whole body above me on its roust, eyes staying with my eyes as if it understood my stories, my need for company. After I said my piece, seeing that there was no note of fear in its cape, I wished it well, leaving it to watch me walk away. It said nothing. Sometimes we just need to be heard.
A '71 trailer is on the pull off ahead draws my interest. Walking past the suburban pull vehicle, I see the Hot Dog's for sale sign. My stomach is silent but I have to buy a chili dog because of my love for old trailers. I've had eight Airstreams. I buy, rebuild, travel a bit, then sell and begin again. It is not profitable--It is love.
Paticia opens the window. I would have bought a cup of sand on the beach from her. She lingers in my eyes, and my eyes ask me to talk about anything so they can hold her longer. Her face is kind, and she holds a collection of features I have seen before--and have always found an attraction to, but never have seen all on one face. Patricia wears jeans, and an olive-drab green coat that is not unlike my old pre-camo army jacket, with the addition of large buttons running to her waist. Her hair is short and dark. We talk about trailers, dreams, jobs, and her father being a vet. I am amazed I remember this because my eyes were so busy trying to memorize the smoothness of her face, the bridge of her nose, and still nod at all the right times. My eyes want to climb into hers to escape the cold; to be closer. I talk more, but I gave her my words, and I don't remember them. Inside my shell, I hear the confrence going on about how I'll never see her again. We still laugh simply, and talk on the surface as stranger being polite do.
It is easy to fall in love with lips and eyes. In minutes I will be gone from here, but it will be of considerable consolation to hear the full round flavor of her words as I linger waiting on sleep. I try to shut up and listen. I will hear enough from my mouth when again I am all alone and speak to the dark. This is hard for me. I want to trade words. It is what I do. It would be a little more than odd to stand and stare at her like a goon. I walk a mile away, and then I walk back. "Could you... would you consider writing to me sometime? I know it's silly, but I'd regret it for a long time it if I didn't ask. I'm trying to move away from regreting things."
"No, it's not silly. I'll write to you."
I smile, and I'm seven years old.
I do not feel my legs as I walk back up the hill. My backpack is all flowers and balloons . Isn't that life though? We can touch the sky at times without even standing on our toes.

I don't want to shake your hand.

At a corner bakery, Ellen McCann rushes up beside me within a envelope of outside cold around her. She smells fresh and clean like a child just in from sledding. Her cheeks are two red fists with a smile dancing in between. She is speaking for the young boys outside when she asks me several questions about my journey. She is not doing them a favor though. It is very clear that my new red headed friend wants to unwrap my mystery as fast as possible for herself. I tell her a spin on the usual, because I have to place my order soon, and I still haven't looked in the glass cases that are pregnant with a thousand surgary treats, breads, and cakes beautifully lit in a sheen of chocolate oil. I'm distracted.
"Right now, I really want to order a coffee," I smile urgently.
"I'm going to buy you your coffee, I'm going to buy you whatever you'd like,"Ellen chirps joyfully as she moves us around people, to the head of the line and orders.Ellen is shorter than my six feet by close to a full foot. She leans on the tall glass case that reduces her to a happy girl, even though she is several years my senior. Ellen is beautiful the way beautiful is supposed to look outside in the real world. Her curves are not sharp, but soft and motherly. She is so brilliantly alive I stare at her without my eyes getting up to look around the room. Her hair is a gentle mop of carefree curls that move in the plastic light as she moves excitedly with each word she says. She has already been back outside to give the boys her report, and returned. Ellen is moving when she is still, and I am drawn to her like I am to water.
"The boys think your a hero or something. We all think what your doing is so amazing. They want to know if you'd sign autographs for them?" Ellen has said several sentences, but they all come out as one. She is smiling hard, but she is serious, anxious, confident, radiant. Ellen is alive, and all that she want to spill out can not be kept neatly in the language of mere words alone.

"It really was so sweet of you to have been so generous to me. Thank you." I extend my hand toward Ellen, although it feels odd as I do it. This woman would not settle for something so stowic as a handshake, but my hand is already out there, as silly and empty as a paper plate.

Ellen pulls out a larger smile if that is possible, as she steps closer to me. "I don't want to shake your hand." Before I can adjust my own smile, Ellen's curls are soft against my face. I allow my body to be soft. No, I tell my body to be soft so that Ellen's life sinks into me. Now Ellen is taller than I am, as I look out from inside myself. Ellen is a tree that I am standing beneath. The cool warmth lingers in the busy room, that for a second is not as loud, then she is fingers on my arm. Ellen laughs delicately back toward her resemblence of modesty as I hand her my card. Her eyes twinkle like the stars nearest the moon, and she is out the door.

The sky has become large islands of blue after countless days of soot gray. The sky is a woman that smiles at me, and absolutely everything she said is forgiven, as well as forgotten. She is ageless, and she does not ease into the room. She moves into the falling leaves, she is up against the glass of the store fronts. She is moving the back of her hand against my face, and she doesn't care who sees. I have not thought well of her in weeks, and now... now I am ashamed. She forgives the soil, and the farmer in the spring.

28 October 2005


Wingdale, 5 pm. Stepping off of Route 22, my legs have turned to goat and pull me high above the road onto a flat heavy with maple and aspen leaves. The found beer from two miles back is popped open. The cold yellow beer goes into my titanium cup and my bag forgives me for the additional twelve ounces I've added so late in the day. The train out of Wassaic offers up a whistle through the leaves that remain in the valley below, and I know Alex Dunn is on his way to see his father for the weekend. He is a young boy of eight, and he is from a similar seed, from a similar plant, no longer native to here but yet extremely native.

The table is covered with the tools of my nomadic ways. It is show-and-tell, but I am not sure if I am showing Alex or if I am reminding my mind how blessed I am.

Normally I prefer microbrew beer and consider myself a happy lightweight, but considering the cold, the miles, and the delight in the gift, this Coors beer has ample favor for my dry mouth and I sip it slowly.

Things become human while on the trail and I talk to everything. My bamboo spoon hid out in its rifle pocket. Overlooking it until I begban to search anew, I was amazed at how heartbroken I was to think that my dear traveling companion had gone the way of my bamboo spatula. When I was in Maine, the spatula decided to skip out, right after making a plate full of pancakes, preferring to chill in the forest of Maine for the winter. The spoon? Now we're losing family. Not an occasion for its use goes by without my eyes taking in the simplest beauty of the burn lines, brass tacks, small beads, and the simple plum of silver that hangs from the handle. I puttered on these decorations one rainy afternoon for a few mindless hours, and I've never regretted a minute. I find the spoon and regain my pulse.

Tonight I'm on a natural step of a high hill above the road. It is a simple dinner of Swiss oats, and nuts and seeds mixed with water. I add a spoonful of high-grade maple syrup and a Kashi seven-grain bar, and it's all thrown into the titanium cup. After giving thanks and feeling thankful, I eat the smooth perfection but all the while I am having happy fantasies of pancakes in the morning with ice water from the spring I stumbled upon right next to camp.


Dover Plains NY, Kingdom Hall Lawn. Stepping off the road, I pull the journal out to releave some thoughts that won't rest in my head, or as an excuse to rest complete with prop. Back a half a dozen miles ago at Cafe' 54 I met a great man. I would not know this if I stared at him, or thought while he talked. My legs were tired. My mouth was filled with thick fat noodles and chicken soup. The taste of my soup is forgotten except that it was good, and warmth came from it. He too was a traveling man. Everyone one knew him at the cafe'. Everybody called him something other than by his name, so that sadly his name fell to the floor if it was said at all. If he reads this I wish no offense. By his own mouth he is gaining on seventy years, but he was all of fifty by his frame and voice . His face was covered with black hair that is converting to silver. He was beautiful, although I know that this discriptive will strike the ear as odd. We all have images that we carry through life that hold us togeather inside. This man was a relitive by sight. Once he began to tell his stories of the open road I knew we were brothers. From state to state we told of sour police, deep canyons where a camper could hold up until society forgot him, places where the women smell like summer all the time, and most importantly how out feet respond to the falling leaves, geese, and memories that aren't even our own.
From Bisbee Az. to the Bad Lands, from Las Cruises Peak over bridges I've walked alone in the dark, I listened to this stranger move in my shoes.
The cold last night told him to change the deep cell in his camper, and plot some tar south. He said I was a omen. I was the crow on the wire. We both decided on New Orleans, but I know that know that I live in briar and brush, and New Orleans is bruised now. My feet are curious if the gumbo moon will shine over me. Still, we were signs for one another to peddle our wagons south.
My father was more of a special guest in my life. He is in the credits, mentioned in the opening song, but he has only been on the set twice. On this stool in Nowhere, N.Y. I met a nomadic man that could have cut me from his braid. I am thankful. I would have liked to share this trek with my father, as I would have so much of my life. The Creator has not forgotten me though, and he lends me faces from time to time with a full belly of words waiting in their mouths to feed to me. I am blessed.
We talk about cops alot, and shake downs. A local vet was busted in town last night for taking empties from a dumpster behind Cumberland Farms to recycle for the nickles. We are brave through all of stories we tell, until we talk about police with a title to make. Then we drop our voices, and our heads as if we talking about the dead. " If your not guilty , then you have nothing to hide," is not a song I was ever sung to sleep by.
Joe(?) and I part company but I passed my card. Even if I am nothing more than a good conversation, and a faded picture card on the mirror of his camper, it is a soft compliment to travel on wherever his journey takes him.

27 October 2005


I have swollowed the filthiest tar that was passed across a counter only to find the most charming coffee house a street away. It is not just the swill. People. Everything I endure is because of the people in the next town, plowing a field, walking school children to McDonalds, blowing leaves across the road. I have met the greatest souls, and my pen is new.
At another coffee shop someone orders a blueberry muffin heated. Now we all need one. This is the walk. Searching for eyes that are still alive. It is easy to find them. Usually they find me, and they can't remain silent. I answer all the questions like it's the first time. When I hear them... when I see them, it is the first time. I don't even know what I will say ,so I listen too.

I pass the bee hive furnances of Wassic. I walk into the lower town to the left to talk to the locals. Everything is dressed for Halloween--even if it isn't trying. Old factories haunt the sky, and I feel like I've fallen into the opening cut from Rambo. I write a couple of postcards. I think of a cold beer at the pub. I look at all the pick-up on steriods in the parking lot. I decide to wait on the beer.

There are tides to the road. In the morning all the water in the world rushes out leaving pets, the elderly, and warm homes. It is the hour now when the water returns. All is new, refreshed. Food, money, love are all brought home in tired arms to submerge in another night. The damp tar sounds exactly like the sea as wave after wave of cars return home.


A hunter shoots. The sound is still in my head even after I swollow. He's half a mile away. I double check to make sure that the white of the paper is facing the road. Even the road is a lot of trees and thorn before I can make out the tar . I am the buck in the briar lost to the swamp. I listen. I know my pulse for it is in my ear. Any movement is a thought before an action. The hunter is drawn to anything that moves. When a breeze stirs the leaves I read adjust if I must.
Twenty feet away is a good tree. My food bundle rests beside me, leaning to one hip just like my dog back home. I put my hand on it and allow my heart to pretend it is combing fur--or remember. The dark is coming down slowly. I wait. It is easy to set camp in the trees in this dusk as long as there is no wind or rain. Food bundles tied up in the limbs of trees is another creature with its own set of rules, and teeth. There is nothing natural about throwing a rope over a limb, securing line to a sack, and then hoisting the limp animal up fifteen feet into the air. It is then that I tie the line to a sister tree, and begin to look excusable. Every other part of the act shouts trespass, and someone should be contacted. In the coming of dark I watch a chipmunk run to my feet for cover before he braves up to cross another thirty feet to the bottom of the tree he calls home. I move just enough to tell him I am alive. No, I move to see him freak. He freaks. From my feet he throws out everything he has gathered in the opening of his mouth, cursing and screaming all the way to his pre-planned destination. I laugh softly, and consider that it is the first time I laughed all day. Sorry friend.
The window is a small one. Moving to the tree I coil the rope aroung a half a foot of a down branch. The coil and branch are tossed. Success. In a few minutes the window would be closed. Even in this weak light the targer branch is a melting form in shadow. In a minute it will be...It's gone already. Tonight I will not sleep with bear bait. Walking back to the tent my eyes find branches I forgot to be careful around. I cut them to save myself more painful stabs. From the damp earth I pick up a handful of dirt to rud into the bright white eyes that remain from where the cut branches were. They disappear like candle flames blown out, and all the trees take me in to their shadow.

26 October 2005

Making Dates

My tent has gained a few pounds from the rain. I'm polite and don't mention it. In lakeville I picked up a date to be interviewed on Q103 Fm on the 11th. My divorce date to appear in court is on the 4th. I should be stable in conversation by then I think to myself. I have begun to to look forward to last talks, meals with friends, and the company of people that smell better than I do. I'll be returned to the same point that I was picked up from after the interview.
Irving Farm Coffee House. Millerton N.Y. My intention was to walk past. I could not. A block back I resupplied. My back hasn't even begun to consider forgiving me. The wind has lost all manners. I buy a decaf. The waitress moves like a song, and all the men are dancing. She is young, and heavy with fruit. We all smile in front of the fake fire of propane and concreate logs, because it is warm in here and we stepping in from the cold we are weightless. The coffee is all about in my brain. Maybe she didn't hear decafe is my first thought, but that is the last thought I note as my head starts the hum of caffine pouring into the top of my spine. Warmth. My thoughts begin to swim without care. Too many people are talking. I think they are all speaking my language. Not paying clear attention to anyone one conversation, I am in the Alps again, and nobody sounds like they use the same parts of speach. I swollow more coffee. A man a few years older than my forty-two years walks over. His son just finished the Appliacian Trail. He stares at me too long. My back is still complaining. I don't want to hear about nineteen year old bodies moving the world today.

The days go by so fast walking, although this seem hard to believe.The table next to me mentions it is Wednesday. I believe them..slowly.

In Amenia the hills open up a bit. I camp near the road to avoid hunters. In briar and sumac I disappear. New Gore-Tex meet thorns. Rain pants become wind resistant pants. Priceless.

Crazy Singers

As it rained for over a day I did not leave the tent. Like a dog I curled around thoughts that once were and waited on sleep to come and go for thirty hours. The great wind ran around the rim of the lake with it's fingers tearing at its hair, and throwing cat sized branches at my tent. All night the wind was a loud drumming, and storm singers made up words that would not stay out of my dreams. The rain would leave, change it's mind, and then rush back at my lodge of cloth with such anger I cringed. All day the sun did not show itself either. From a paper bag I ate parched corn that I don't remember buying. From another bag I tore peppered beef that logic said should not be eatin. I swollow rain water from a cup I set outside my door and listen hard.
I wait. The rain paces itself.

Three years have passed since I began this walk. New England was a test. When I began walking I had a built in out. Once new England was done I could stop, regroup, move on. Time moved on. I waited for the walk to leave me but she is a faithful lover, and she'd waited too long for me to court her to give up on her affections.
First there was snow. There was so much snow that there was nothing else. I was thankful to be home. Five days under a wooden roof and feet of snow fell. It did not melt. It did not drift. All winter new blankets were thrown on the yard, and through the forests where the animals forgot me. The fifty pounds I had lost came back to my bones until i was one hundred and seventy five pounds again.
From the house I went to my log cabin, from the log cabin I went to the '48 Airstream I had rebuilt. I traveled the east coast in it for a winter and into the months when earth turns to mud, and still the walk waited just outside the doors I hid behind. This last summer I began to hear her again. I would say that it was through the birds that she reached me, but it was more like water sounds from a river that wasn't in a hurry. She knew that I missed her. We weren't done. She was a love I began to wonder how I ever left. With her I understood so much. With her I was clean. With her I was forgiven.
I went to the river because I had lost something. The sound of the river can tell you when to go home, or when to leave bridges.

25 October 2005

Rain Camp

On the rim of Lakeville Lake I set camp. A couple of good rolls and I'm in. On the other side of a weak hedge is a rack of canoes. I have a fantasy of sleeping al-la' Outdoor Life under a canoe, rivets and white metal looking up at the moon like one good eye. It'll have to wait. I was warned by a friend in town to avoid the area because of trouble with the local teens and police. A rack of canoes is too good a target for abuse, or investigation. I set the tepee. As I begin to journal the rain peppers the nylon fly of my tent. My stomach is thankful for the Dove Bar and chicken sandwich I bought, instantly consuming by the market half an hour ago. For five dollars I can wiggle my toes happily in my down bag while slush rain increases the attack on my tent. It is hard to close the tent flap although the rain insists. Hotchkiss is a large city across the water. It too has grow up. I once knew every hall, secret storage rooms, and rode the dumb-waiter up into the kitchen at night to sneak munchies because I was the only brave person small enough to fit in the micro- elevator. Now I know only the memories. By the lights in the windows across the water I try to measure the lives and dreams that prepare for the future. There are too many now so I put down that idea. It turns out that I did walk to Hotchkiss, and a water of reflection in between.

The canoe would have soaked me. Mud would have puddled in my bed. Some dreams need to fold their fingers and wait.

24 October 2005

Housatonic Valley Regional High School

Miles from HVRHS I sit by the Salmon River. The sky is the same insulating gray but I don't care. With my hiking stick hooked on a bag, I pull water up from the river. All this rain has made the rivers alive with preindustrial force. Slipping in would definitely change more than the dryness of my socks. A passing man says the S word for Wednesday. He knows by my looks that I'm one of the few people that care more than him.

Houstatonic Valley Regional High School was the Disney movie in which the victor returns home, and everyone is proud and equally as alive as he is. I started in the main office. I smelt like dark leaves, and I was shy a few shaves. It's rare for women not to get flushed for the occasion, but it's not me. I understand that. They see adventure, and romance. Men, well, they see themselves. And women see their men, or at least some Ralph Lauren likeness. Truthfully, though, I am vintage and new. I am given many names and shake hands many times. The names fill up my arms and lodes, and I drop them all but Cindy in the office and Karen in the library. These two women move things from their desks and open their days. Karen in the library shows me a computer but I am 42 and it is 2. I type letters on the keyboard but the screen stays the same, and then nothing. Karen gets up and quietly gets help. She brings me a cup of green tea with honey. In no time, I am sending notes to everyone that pops into my mind.

I leave the high school and say hello to John Kahn's son, Jake, who is reworking the slate on the high school roof. For this one minute, it is a small world. I worked for Jake's father years ago. My walk becomes a quick sketch, and then I am all pulls and pack leaving my old school, the White Oak.

Lime Rock is warm homes en route to my old home at Hotchkiss Preparatory School. I lived there for four years when I left home at 15. But HVRHS was my school. It is good to think of the maze of brick and presidential facades but really I was the cook's helper and lived under the kitchen. Even with the romance of memory and its limitations, I know that I was so blessed. Hotchkiss saved my life. I stepped away from poor beliefs and began to hear voices that were educated, original, and alive. Someone asked recently if I was treated as an outsider there. It was a great question, and I was fortunate to have a great answer. The answer is never; they enriched my life.

Buses run from the high school. I've made the best meal I can remember. But then again, I'm cold and I've walked far. I've cut a branch and mashed coffee beans in my titanium cup. I flip veggie burgers and watch my lemon noodles soak in the oiled water. Cups, food, woodsmoke all dance around me in a children's song as I laugh aloud like an odd old man. This is so simple, yet so beautiful to me. I need to be only here. The French press is done. I push down the beans, unscrew the stainless steel rod, and my first trail coffee is ready. It is too good, and I singe my tongue, but I don't burn it enough to prevent me from doing it again.

Climbing the new tar over Wells Hill into Lakeville, I break away from Hotchkiss. My brother's waiting for me in Lakeville. It is 1983. I'm on leave from the army, having completed training, and I will never see him again. I buy red peppers and strawberries at LeBon's in Salisbury, and Steve takes me on his Honda 500 dual sport to meet all of his friends for the first time. Until that day all of his friends were the same as his possessions. I wasn't allowed, and it was never necessary to put this in words. Later in the sun of the day, we went swimming in a secret swimming hole down behind the Lakeville school, and I noticed he'd finally learned to swim. Steve was late to swimming, being less brave in some areas than I was. Now he swam beside me, dove from the footbridge, and effortlessly moved with me as if we were running slow. He had grown into a likeness of our father, who he hated. He had the same cutting nose, and the same sharp Adam's apple. I was a year younger than my brother. I was always promised the new bike, the special trip, the graduation party, etcetera, when I reached his age. But it was a faux rabbit to keep this dog running.

Of all the days of my life, this is the one that was most glorious. I touch it often in memory. It was the day I caught the rabbit. We caught the rabbit. We are brothers now. We are no longer in love with the same woman, we no longer trade brags, we are smooth-skinned and out of the rabbit hole. Steve is proud of me outside of words, and I know that we will never be the same again. At the end of the day, when we have waited too long to say good-bye and let it feel less like a stab, Steve finds enough macho to make me laugh by riding a wheelie past the White Hart Inn in a mid-afterloon salute and I never see his eyes move again.

23 October 2005


I'm walking down toward the Colonial Theater which I went to as a child. There's Tammy Caplinger's house. Tammy was my first girlfriend. Okay, Brenda McMillan predated her, but I never kissed Brenda. Brenda kissed me, and I was tissue paper for aweek. All in one night she moved away. I looked for her for years anyway, even after I moved. And yes, I did find her. Years had gone by and she was on a blanket at a bluegrass festival, with a boy. We were barely in our teens, and although she didn't see me and my face, I stared too long. My mouth wouldn't say hello. The air was perfect. Light was falling through the trees onto the gentle slope of blankets and lovers. My words would not be better than this silent moment, where everybody's mouths were moving but only music was coming out.

Tammy is gone now. She's in Salinas, California. I called her a few times. The last time she said hello but I already heard good-bye in her voice. I moved my words thorugh several sentences, but I was reaching for the door handle without looking. Once it filled my hand, I ended the call with a parting that lasts for years, and sometimes forever.

Canaan is a ghost town for me. Lovers have lived here, friends have died on cars on these roads, and I still know the sounds of their voices. I think about going over the bridge where Linda O'Keefe died in her 4-runner. But I do not want to punch myself in the stomach, and then try to eat. Linda and I went to high school together, and then watched each other grow into people purposely different from our parents. In Vermont I called Linda on my walk, from my cell phone, while I stood in the snow in the doorway of my tent. I remember how thrilled she was, how thrilled I was. I decide to walk away from the bridge where the limestone truck going too fast for a turn tumbled over onto her.

At another pay phone again I try Alexcia. But this horse too is dead. There are patches of blue sky but it's mostly black gray. I think of buying food but I've already eqaten three apples that grew over the fence beside Route 7. They were the best apples I've had in years.

To leave a wife or a lover the court should make us walk apart for days with no companmy or distraction except for our pulse. Alexcia pulls gently in me and I can't bear to think of November 4th. Maybe it is surgery to remove something that no longer works, but it has had more love, heart, and consciousness than many of the parts that I keep.

People at the gas station/convenience store walk by and smile, or they don't see me at all. Sitting here I can look off into the hills that I've camped through the years. I hiked all these hills as a child and shared picnics there with faces I no longer see. I pain for these familiar streets to end so that I am no longer visited by all these ghosts wandering past. But soon I'll really be alone. The rivers will no longer tell about five-pound trout or 1976 on the Fourth of July, when I saw my first naked woman. She was walking across the water and I was floating on the tube right next to her, and I could not speak. I found my only two arrowheads here too, in that field, and buried my dog. But that was another language then, and another life.

I miss my friend. I am in Maine and I run up a hill from the cobblestone bridge to the parking lot. She is gone. Years have passed, and I have forgotten how that ache crippled me. We lived apart for these last two years, but she has remained within reach.

Pay phones have become demons that punch at your legs, and trying to do damage to the plastic receiver that cars should be built with is futile. I push in every combination imaginable at the next phone, but still no Alexcia.

Camp is made by the Housatonic River. I spend the last half hour of daylight trying to swear my food up into a tree and out of the reach of bears. I think I just provided a workout before a meal. It is forty degrees, and the new down bag feels like heaven. In my pack, beside my bedroll, is a card from Alexcia. I read it slowly, and it is a movie. I hear her voice moving over the words.

I do chores that are out of practice to my fingers, but really I am remembering. I find a forgotten piece of a garlic ciabatta bread smeared with garlic and brie, wrapped in foil and hidden in my pack by Alexcia.

The answer has finally come. Why have I scampered for mile after mile, searching for one pay phone after another. Now I get it. I understand the ache, the serious distraction for Alexcia even though we no longer share our lives together. When I began walking in September 0f 2002, Lex and I went cell phone shopping. The cell phone was to be a token rarely used. The token became the lifeline. I did not give it much regard in my journals, or even in my reflections, but the truth has found me years later in a tent, longing for my support network, i.e., Alexcia. Alexcia was the brushed voice that filed my edge. She talked me down while bears tore at cabin doors, she consoled me when I wasn't sure I was on the right road. Almost every night, tight against my head for half an hour of sanity, love, reassurance that everything would be okay, that I'd be okay, Alexcia spoke to me.

I don't think I'd ever told her, or anyone, least of all myself, that Alexcia had been holding me up in my dream. Now I began where I left off, but now there's a divorce on the way, and I carry an emergency track phone that has no way of being the bridge that was once there.

Coyotes cry mournfully a couple hundred feet from my tent. I am not afraid. I relate, and I want to join them. How perfectly ironic it is that Alexcia's phone should be dead just as I begin my walk again, and I habitually reach for her. It's a larger way of saying that she is no longer there, and in some parts of me this painful realization finally sinks in. Alexcia was a home, and that home will never be again. The line is cut.

Before we eloped in Arizona, the couple of weeks of our courtship was phone calls. A new walk has begun, and I am really alone.

Rain Rain

A heavy rain that threw down inches walked with me 16 miles yesterday. With no training because I worked right up until a week before I left my 1948 Airstream home, 16 miles have the same affect that 40 miles had in Vermont. My legs are pulled pork, and my shoulders are detatched bags with fingers on the bottom held on only by skin.
Alexcia's phone is out. Although I promised a call, and my tongue is cut out, I can't shake this feeling that I'm breaking my word. From payphone to payphone I walk south. Cell phones have made horses out of phone booths. The car has arrived courtesy of Mr. Ford, so some fool thought that it'd be swell to go about and kill all the horses we no longer need. Problem is the car is unreliable. The cell phone--if you carry--has no tongue on most of these roads, but the payphone is already bleeding on the back of the truck. Have an emergency. Pray.
At a still remaining payphone I put in my quarters. The works are bells and levers, but they catch nothing, and my quarters fall through. More lonely I stand without even a dial tone for warmth.
Last night I walked to Anne Dunn's and her son Alex's house. Earlier in the day I called to tell them that the outlook for my visit didn't look good. It was pouring, and I was overwhelmed. Still they held out hope. They were two beams of light when I knocked at their door soaked and shrouded in dark. Wine, ginger tea, candles, smiles, fresh stories, lasagna, all came across my plate. We talked for hours that were too short, slept, and woke up to a large mixing bowl heavy with bater for hot cakes, and the coffee. After giving Alex a piece of elk skin for a length of rope I needed to girdle up my pants, I tried to answer some of his questions.
The three of us set out by noon to continue my walk. Oddly, these were the first people to ever walk with me although at least a thousand miles had already passed under my boots. The only thing better than a fantastic gift is sharing that gift with people that apprecate it. For over a mile we all walked over the line into CT and still farther south. We took pictures, and set down thoughts that were too heavy. We could carry them later. Right now we were close friends sporting new morning smiles, heading into something larger than words wanted to try tackle.
We sat at the Canaan Snack Shack eating cookies Anne made until the cold set in, and words in motion slowed. We talked as if I was sailing away. We all moved our feet in the sand, looking at the water for sentences that would make the words good-bye sound more promising.
As my friends walked back toward home and grew smaller to my eyes, I wandered down Route7 into Canaan. From behind me a camera flashed. I turned to watch two shinking forms moving away, bodies tight, like swimmers in cold water.

22 October 2005


Sheffield, MA Across from the Shay's Rebellion marker I take my first break. A hundred feet back my friend Jen stopped her truck beside me. She was furious that I'm really on my way and I never said good-bye. Life, sadly enough, is a long list of good-byes never said. Jen calls me a shit. She is right. Jen's dog Cody watches as we hug, and then once more with a depth that makes sure souls touch. Jen is real, and she knows I know.
I am dumb though. Really. My side of the conversation is dull, and details are non-existant. All of my brain is processing camp, and no one is left to answer the door. Alexcia is still waving in the rain. I am across the huge field that was our front yard wondering how we'll ever come together in two weeks to divorce. That is the plan. Alot of ghosts will walk with me by then. Conviction is easy in a clean court, or at a dry desk. Cold, wet, and hungry soldiers don't make the most reasonable choices. We will see how taunt our convictions are.
"This is it Jesse", Alexcia says, with total affection in her eyes. "This is your life dream. Slow down, calm down. Don't lose this moment. This is everything you have been preparing for. '

Alexcia yelled out my name half an hour ago to bring me down. I was freaking out. My hands were shaking. The clock on the stove was going was too fast, and it was raining out . Alexcia just wanted me to be more loving to myself. I yelled back,"GO AWAY!"
I yelled it perfectly. The house became crisp white paper with nothing on it , not a crease. Looking meekly up to the top of the circular oak stairway where Alexcia had been affectionately keeping watch, while combing our dog Bisbee's hair with her fingers, told me my arrow of two words had a perfect release. The fletching did not brush the bow as it sped to her heart. It was another little death, as there are in all great leavings. My heart too bled from a vein that I didn't know that I ruptured. My hands that were less than useless anyway, left everything. At he top of the stairs I walked to her bed.Fetal, Alexcia lay with Bisbee who had climbed into her cupped body. Her face was wet and hot.
"I am so sorry," I offered. "I lost myself, and you definately didn't deserve this." Over and over I moved the montra out of my chest. I am sorry. I am sorry. I was no longer talking about my outburst, and stress. Absence, yearnings, silence instead of words, women that meant more than they should have. I wanted to be this dog that makes the most loving sounds as it moves toward your concern. I wanted to wait at five on the hill in the lawn for all your returns, and my only sin being the occasional turkeyI kill by the forest, or being painted by the skunk I just had to take down. Really, I let me down. This silly man with shaking hands was not the husband that I envisioned I'd one day be.I can do better I wanted to say, tried to say. I am sorry.
My feet are now in the yard. From an apple tree I planted I take a red fruit. It is tight and good. Alexcia smiles at me with the shallow pain of good-bye acking up from her heart to her eyes. Pictures are taken. Somehow I find the end of the driveway, then the road. This is where the walk of New England stopped. This is where walking America begins anew. It is no longer Cadilac Mt. in Maine. We knew then that we would make love again, there would be visits, and cell phone calls. That was New England-not North America. That was then.
There is no sun today. It rains. We are reduced to children that say,"go away" when we are so scared that all that we love really will.

21 October 2005

Baldwin Sisters

Knowledge is a hole in my chest that in two weeks Alexcia will come and retrieve me. She will bring me to a house that used to be our home. In the morning we will make wonderful coffee like we have a thousand times before, and then we'll get back in her jeep and drive to the same court where my birth was recorded, now to untie a knot that we tied in Tombstone, AZ eight years ago. The end will be the beginning. We'll drive over Baldwin Hill, and her sister hills in route to the court. We will be careful with the compact discs we'll play in route. Music has more power than most of us admit. One sad song, or a favorite we danced to while trying not to burn the pancakes and we will be weeping puddles on the foor of the car with noone left to drive.

There is more gear in front of me than there has ever been. My thoughts are fluttered. My fingers are fat strangers that hear me but don't respond. My feet are already wet with worry. I am not afraid. Afraid is hearing a rumble come up from the thin ice your standing on. I am petrified. Many people are inside me now. One man is eating soup, but he is shaking so horribly that the soup wont stay on the spoon. Some people are crying, desperately gathering memories together in white canvas bags. They will follow strangers that say they are angels into the hills. They will try not to look back. I am afraid that they will. There is a much younger me, and he is trying to hold our grandmother one last time before he leaves for the army. There is the coolness of her cheek. There is the smell of Whiteshoulders in her hair, moving in his head just like the tie of her apron behind her neck marching softly to her heart. He is crying , but he smiles hard thinking that'll make the red on his flash fire face make sense. He still believes men don't cry. Alot of silly beliefs still camp in him.