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.

23 December 2005

Amish Eyes

19 December 2005
It is 730 a.m. The morning air is scrubbing my face. I smile into it, confusing my mind. It is too cold to smile. A gray and black buggy moves past me and I understand why they add music to movements in a movie. The whole world rushes by me in music only I can hear. The sleek black horse shies from my gear loaded frame, while it billows great cummullas clouds from its nostrils. For such a large creature, it has the fearful eyes of a rabbit. It is a steam engine. The sound of the engine is strangled down to the sound of steel shoes on tar. I can hear emotion. I can hear smiles inside a box on wheels as four blonde Amish faces paint steam on a window they croud to pull me through with their eyes, as the buggy rambles past. They want to be standing with me so my words will explain their questions away. My shoulders want to shake free of this pack so I can be with them in a bouncing cart that is perfectly bound to a time mostly gone, that many visit, but few reside. People of the horse. This is the morning that my brass tacked knife is discovered no longer in tow. How many other things will the road ask of me before I am done walking. What will I trade. No. What will the walk trade with me? I can always use a good knife, losing another is not a freak comit, but I have boxes of beads. But I have traded everything I know for what is under this animal skin of land sight unseen. I can already tell that it is going to be the greatest trade of my life.
In New England, my titanum cup was left in a bathroom after I took a three point shower in the back room of a gas sation. A days walk away I discovered my double wall Snow Peak was still sitting behind a tolet too many roads back. After a night of beating myself up with words I heard for days, I called Alexcia. Together we compiled notes until a kind woman from the gas station I remember smiling at agreed to mail my primary staple, for drinking and eating, back to my home. I was without my cup for a month. When it arrived I spent two days carving into it with a diamond bit. The handles became covered with bits of silver and gold from friends that wanted to travel with me. The cup became a beaded sheath, and a good chief blanket. There is not much that I can carry, but what I can carry I spill Jesse all over. I have been asked if I could just leave some things alone. No. It is my way, yet it is older than I will ever be.

"Jesse," asks the thirty year old Amish man? "That's a good Amish name." Six Amish men spill out of the huge barn. It is a freezer outside. They pull their thin black material tightly around their chests but it is theatre for the mind. From one leather sole onto the other, the men shift their feet. They look no warmer. This does not stop their eyes from being excited enough to overlook the cold.
I swollow the look of loss in my eyes over the knife. Eyes are everything. I don't want to talk about mourning little things, as I am fed a bounty of great stories in voices that I have never heard. I'll buy another knife. To talk, I decided to set down Crow Dog, my huge pack. We stand around it as if she is a fire. As we talk we all begin to get warm. One by one the six men step forward. They grab the top external-frame bar, and life. Crow Dog is a horse. She carries everything except what is in my pockets. She does not know them though, so she remains all weight, spreading her four legs stubbornly. The most she is lifted is six inches. She is stubborn. Everyone laughs. They move ideas from mouth to brow. Nobody can understand why on earth I would every want to carry such a load on foot across the country.
"I have legs like a horse," I explain. More laughing. We talk into a half hour, and out the other side. Without needed words they knew that I enjoyed them. Without words, I knew they'd wear my pack across fields in their minds that only they knew, just to see the sun extinguished in the mountains while all the world called them onward, even if only for a moment.
The walk kissed me at that instant. She is my lover. At that moment of light on the living, she saw that I adored her. I marveled at this coming togeather of faces that would never meet again. My appreciation at this moment was so great I acked. Overwhelmed, to the point of not caring whom was watching, she threw her arms around me as her lips moved to my face, staying there until not a cold spot remained. This was why I left everything. This is why a lost knife is now simply rust, and a treasured spoon is brother again to leaves and worms, and nothing more.
They we preparing for a Christmas feast when I followed the adult scooter rider into the farm driveway from the long hill. All of the men gathered were married to the sister of the other. They all wore the traditional beards. My face was clean. My face was accurate. We talked about bears, and being Indian. I thought they were talking about someone else. They were talking about me. "You'd have to be Indian to do this," one delivered. "He's like going to the movies. This is so great, said another young man."
"How would you know, you've never even been to the movies," teased Emanual.
"Well, he's what I think going to the movies would be like," a meek smile returned. We all gave words, one for the other. There was never silence , even when we were quiet.
They were concerned with miles, or my lack of miles because of all of our talking. I explained that I was there to see them. Again, I talked about rocks and the moon. They looked at each other. Foot to foot, my new friends side stepped together for the illusion of heat coming from tar. Everything about me was overflowing like my pack. When they gave me their names, I gave them my card. They were strong names that came from the earth. Everyones face was eager to smile. We talked about seeing all of America from the back of a horse, and even from a foot pushed scooter. "How could you ever carry all the oats, and feed for the horse," asked one serious voice. "And they hardly let a man walk some roads today,"added another.
"Even if you could pay a man to feed, and corral your horse, I'd bet today he'd feed the wrong end," I added. The cold made us punch silly. Our words were part child. We entertained it as part of the moving of feet. We gave it our laughter, then laughted for laughing.

As we broke our circle, I carried my pack to the road to sit with my pen under my chin, waiting on words. I wanted these people in print, yet as I wrote they were already far away, getting warm in rooms with thick smells of comfortable women, food fat with oil, children pooling around legs all walking in small circles of time. Emmanual brought me out a large zippered baggie of fruit. We shook hands. His hands were hard and strong. I practiced looking in his eyes because I wanted to remember him. I looked in his eyes because I had been taught not to. He was a great smile that held me as I walked.

Dead Horses Talking

20 December 2005

"How do you figure your Indian,"asks my mother?
It was weeks prior that she asked me how I 'figured' I was a baby boomer. Defensive, I explained that as far as I understood it, if I was born between 1946 and 1964, I was in. I was born in 1963. "Well, I almost made it," she stated, pulling her teeth from the bite that pulled my shirt. Sadly, we weren't good at talking.
It was 1994. I had just moved to Mass. Shy a plot of land to squat on till I made new contacts, I pulled my Airstream behind my mother's rented apartment for a few months. It was a pretty field set up above the town of Housatonic, below Flag Rock.

After I swollowed from a mouth that had no spit, I gave my mother an answer to my native status. I was borrowing words from a childhood movie though. They were safe words. They were not mine. She could bite at them and not tough me. "It's like the old man said--It's a way of life, not a matter of blood." I agree with the old words. I wasn't going to tilt my cards. I could not win.

It wasn't until I was in the final stages of high school that I met my father for the first time. I left the home of my mother, step-father and several brothers four years prior because I could swollow the water no longer. Home wasn't a home. The air in a state of near war all of the time. Everything was filled with words, and looks, that once inhaled, became wormwood in my bones, in my heart. I escaped, never looking back. Sometime after I left there, their world broke into pieces, and then moved far away.

It was at my grandmother's house that the acorn met the tree. My grandmother was a funny looking creature. Her hair was as wild as winter grass when the snow leaves. Her teeth were old stones with names worn off, some broken and falling back to the earth. When I was little she scared me the few times I was allowed to visit, but I never said this. She was a heavy blanket that opened when I arrived, and allowed me to slip away when I left. Leaving her was always going outside on a cold day without a coat. My grandmother was heart over flesh. Every burr, and every basket that glanced against her legs, or arms left a mark--but I have never been graced by a soul as loving. Carol Jesse is the compass that I will forever move my finger over in the gail of life to see where the good needle pulls. I adored her, and to my utter amazement, she adored me. I was her young husband running through the field with a single shot rifle, distracted like a puppy by every leaf falling, and a full belly's weakness in the hunt. I was the hero in her novel. I was her son. When it was late in the evening, and sleep was walking around the base of the trees but not lying down, I would hold her hands as we talked in her four post bed made from stained two by fours. We took her paintings off the walls with our eyes, while I sat by her snuggled body like we were in the oldest fort in the world. She gave me one painting that I would walk in in the future in, but that is not this story.
With my father's guitar, I would make up songs so that she could cry to without moving her eyes. My grandmother saw her people in me. We would love each other in words until the old brown prune juice bottle filled with hot water wrapped in a towel by her feet became cold. Here I was taught love. Her smooth gentle fingers moved over mine so she would always know them.
My grandmother put my father in my hand like she was handing me the reins to a horse, then she stepped away...just a little. She was smiling. When I was three or four, my father hugged me good-bye just before my brother, mother, and myself drove away forever. He poured his hand into mine now, but I was no longer four. His fingers were draining from mine to the floor, but I did not look down. I knew then that there are some hungers you just learn to live with.

Having been shown pictures by my grandmother before I met my father, I saw that my mother was right. I was a baby left on the porch. The back porch. My father's nose was a curved stone blade. His face was that of a fisherman, complete with beard reaching for water. His fingers were long staggered bones that held cigarettes, and the necks of beer bottles more than people. I was nineteen. This is what I saw. When the photographs became a man moving in front of me, I noticed that he talked out of his nose more than I had ever heard anyone talk before. He was young enough, yet somehow he was held in a pose that struck me as frail. I did not care that he always leaned into his walk like he was going up a hill. It made no difference that he was always a cloud of smoke, with beer pouring into it. I had come to see how he made an Indian boy from a bottle, and feathers.
Above my fathers bed hung my grandfathers bow, and my grandfather's guns. I had already won awards for archery, and skinned my own deer without tainting the meat. I smiled. But these tools on the wall were weapons hung in the trees for the dead. My father touched them, moving them with his eyes. He did not take them down and show them the fields, or let them hear the birds, or feel his heartbeat sweat on the old greased wood. I had heard of blood skipping a generation so that children slept while their parents wailed. I was already intimate with the knowledge that some children looked for their relations under stones in creeks while their parents gave days for dollars, never hearing the wind in the woods, or songs born in their blood. I already knew of a mother not knowing her son. My father was as hard to read as snow sign by a warm waters edge. My father was walking with a heavy pack he never set down. It did not not bind up all he needed to live, with a cup swinging gently on the side-- it pulled him toward the grave. I kept my leather pouch under my shirt with my grandfather's gold tooth wrapped in a piece of my grandmothers old coat. I wished I showed him. Would he have cried?
All through these days my grandmother Carol Jesse watched me. She glowed. She was a good bed of coals waiting on morning wood. Her child came home, she would tell me quietly so the old boards of the house wouldn't hear and complain that she loved me too much.
Searching for my father was finding my people. It was not him though. He was the postmark, not the letter. He was the red string with a knot in his belly that lead to me. My grandmother and I held hands through my years as a paratrooper in the 82nd. There were too many good-byes with her face brought to flames in the window of the porch, as she watched me get small on the road with her fingers worring the buttons on the center of her blouse. We pained for one another while I was away as do the stones in the river pain when all the waters run into the earth. She was my Holy. She was my first life love. She hammered out the tight ribs around my heart for love to someday come into me.
My grandmother left this life with cold green grapes in her hand, as I moved toward leaving the army with fingers empty. For many years I was an ancient bowl with a hole punched in the middle. In the center of the bowl was a lone boy with a bow and arrow looking at all the faces that looked in. I was painted with brown blood. I went to the woods for years, and broke a good watch.
The last time I saw my father I brought my ivory handled .45 colt pistol so he cold move it in his hands, and feel where I'd taken it. It was a $20,000 piece of art. My father thought I should fold it up in a drawer. I shot it until the ivory turned brown smoke. I shot it until the blue became polished steel where my finger rested. I shot it until until I could not hear the quiet anymore, and all my world had perfect holes in it. Then like too many things that I love, I sold it on a whim for nearly nothing. I did that too often then.
We sat in the living room that day. The house was now his with my grandmother walking about the house in the things she created that tilted into the rooms on taunt wires, listening gently. My father told me about the native people of the horse that we came from out west where Canada sits cross legged on on America. He told about wolves we hunted for bounty, and why I couldn't sit still. This was the money I needed in my wallet that would feed me for the rest of my life. This was gold coins in a jar that once held nothing but goverment paper. His mouth moved over our Indian relations, and French Canadian blood with his finger in his hand so I could follow the map too. With my eyes I traced his finger to Montana, up and around where a bullet went into his palm years ago, below the fingers of Canada. He put his birthmark mark on me then.
He put this flesh over my bones after I thought I had moved from his table of him being family. This was my core. We sat so that our knees were horses with their heads leaning in together. He gave me reasons why I did not fit, conform, belong--settle into being a red heart in a world all new. I was old things gathered in bundles. Always would be. We talked a long time as lovers do when they first realize that they are not alone in the world. My knees were toward my father, but I was already six again--and not. Now I was six and I was smiling as all the neighborhood boys filled me with their arrows. I died perfectly, over and over until someone helped me up for dinner. I was stealing razorblades to shape sumac spears, and carving animals until all the wood was soaked rich with my childhood blood that made everything sticky. Still I worked on their eyes, and did not cry--or think to. I was running with my brother Steve to make rain dances in the empty lot of our trailer park. Under a blue sky we danced for hours. I danced because Steve told me to. I danced because I could, and I believed their was fringe in my blood. It rained for days. I wondered if we were supposed to dance to stop it. I wondered if somone angry was going to come for me. Then, in time, there were all of the books on survival I read, all of the knives I squirreled away, the slings, the arrows, the nights alone in the fields where the bravest children wouldn't sleep--now made sense. I was going home where I was wanted, where I was beautiful, where the river did not ask me how I figured I was a stone. It just listened to me sing with my little boy body half under water, as all the other stones sang around me..

On a cold kitchen in my bare feet, I was not going to give this away to a question that began with,"How do you figure..." I kept my pearls in my pouch.

That was the last time that I saw my father. Months later, I returned to see him. I was with a native girl I was crazy about. We danced into my grandmothers house(for it will always be her house), college was in our hair. It was fall. Love was playing in my ribs. We smiled like toothpaste commercials. As we mazed through the little house, I called out to my father. New faces came out from behind every door, but my grandmothers art still hung on many walls.
"Who are you,"asked a man that looked like he was trying to remember where he left his gun.
"Roger, He's my father. This is my girlfriend, and.... What's going on?" What could I say? Nothing made sense.
"Your father was invited back to court again by another woman that wanted more money for her kid. Your dad decided to pack it up, and head out." The man was dry as good tinder, and I wanted him to burn.
I asked for an address, number, whatever. It was explained coldly to me that my father left because he didn't want people bothering him... PEOPLE, meant me too. That was it. I was four years old on a dirt road watching a young gaulky man rise from knealing. The hug was over. My mother started the car.

"Mom. Tell me one good thing about my father. Over all of these years you have said nothing but hateful things about him. There must be something good?" Without a stretch of one arm in her mind to reach some high forgotten shelf, or some old box she kept filled with little things in a secret place she rarely goes, my mother looked at me, reaching for nothing. My mind figured she'd toss me the, "well, he gave me you," speach. I've heard other mothers say this in similiar settings with their hungry children as they got older.
"Nothing. There is absolutely nothing nice I can say about that man," she sent out through a thin line of lips tight over teeth.
I was sorry then, for her. For me. Two sons , and nothing. When a mother absolutely hates a son's father it drips into his blood that he is by extension hated. Always was, always will be. My father shattered my femur because I wouldn't stop crying when I was three and fell. He tried to shoot my cat with a pistol because it got on the table- again. Yet, he also sent the boiled egg out of my throat when I crossed the field blue to the point of dropping with my toy.
My father hated children. He hated his life. My father was a reservation Indian, with no reservation. I forgave my father as if he asked me twice. I mourned for my father...and stopped cutting my hair, and forgave.


I would have begged for both of my legs broken in trade for the words that my father gave to me on that last afternoon so many years ago. My father was just an empty bottle floating neck up just waiting on the slightest wave to nod under. My father spent his days around waiting on that wave. Maybe he is waiting still with the slow smoke from a cigarette coming up from his hand.

One day a broken man coming down to watch the water gave me legs, and then walked away.


20 December 2005

Losing You

As often as I lose things, it is always a slap I don't expect. It is always the first time. All day the snow came down. I wore it in my hair like the men I adored as a child did. It was heaviest in my eyes. When I blinked each time everything was replaced again, even more magical that it was a milla-second before. I was a cloud walking. A woman I barely noticed came up and gave me her number in a coffee shop,"Call me when your done walking,"she cooed. There are checks that we don't cash because we value memory more than money. It was so nice to be seen by a woman. It is easy to feel like the shadow under the table. I slide the check into the part of my billfold where memories sleep.
As the sun fell away the ice replaced the snow. It came down so hard that I was glass and cloth before I could find the woods. Finally as thorns put fingers all over my pack, I was off the road where cars moved like magnets held by childrens hands. I did not know that the thorns lifted my hundred year old knife that I had brass tacked for this walk. In my top pocket I have a square of buffalo leather I was going to make a sheath with when another storm came. It would be thirty miles before I noticed my blade was gone. The night before I knew of my loss, I had a dream. A large bear came again to my tent. This time we fought like snake and crow. I sank my old blade into its neck because it was my beak, but I did not win. We both growled and spat until I rolled over onto snow. Then the bear was gone. In the morning the knife was gone.

Another day is gone along with the spoon I treasured for over twenty years of trails. I pulled out my watercolors and painted it from memory in my journal. If it was not for the fantastic people I will tell you about I would still be hitting snowbanks with my walking sticks, missing my old friends.

Morning Down

Sitting in the doorway of my tent, I foot plow the snow away. In the sky red Canadian Geese fly into the setting sun. My flute is cold to my mouth, yet takes my warmth quickly as if it wasn't just wood. The she bear fat that I cooked down from the bear I found in the woods weeks ago has soaked into the cedar. I cannot feel it anymore with my hands. The wood is brought to my nose. Barely I can smell her in the red grain. I would be sad if I could not smell her at all. A candle is moving near me even though I have yet to start playing. I am traveling inside my head as I mouth my breaths onto oiled bloodwood. We linger here in the trees by a river that nobody comes to in the night snow. For tonight I am ageless. Notes glide down to the water where geese murmur as they tuck their heads deeper into themselves. I light sage, blowing out the flame. Heady curls go into the tent behind me. As if I chewed the leaf the taste of sage is around my tongue. More notes move to my fingers. I am careful with my spit or the flute will whistle, and pain. Then silence will come back with its own sadness I've heard enough of.

With the coming of zero degrees, cold is too simple a word. Wearinging everything I have with me, I know that it is bone against mussle. They are drawing straws as to which one to burn. Any fat I had is already ash. I eat a handful of cashews. They are hardwood. They take a long time to light so I wait. This is the first time I awaken afraid of losing to the cold. My breath has made everything in the tent heavy with ice. It has left me with nothing to swollow. As I try to sit up my head is a crazy man dancing in circles. I fall back onto the mat. when I was little we rolled down the hill in good clothes to get our little minds around this. Now there is not even a good penny in my belly to throw up. I wait for the cloth walls to level off. Everyhing takes so long in this denying air. My fingers are bones that have broken through my gloves. Mice I can not see are feeding on them.

Now I am down again waiting for the swimming to stop. Looking at my hard frozen socks, I check my pulse. It is a slight voice that is a whisper sound with no words. I need to drink water fast. The water I've slept with is shards of glass against my teeth. Sucking from the splinters of ice, the good pain opens my throat. My eyes are tears. I can do nothing. No words are allowed out of my mouth for they would only condem me. It is not the weight of this slide. It is the knowing that I will survive this, but I will be tried again in another court. A new line in the ice will be drawn. My blood will be colder. In my posssibles bag fingers I can no longer feel search for candy. The geese also begin to complain. I make it out of the tent. Falling I catch a hawthorne limb with my hand to save me. Spikes are quills through my hand in the only fatty places. The tissue around my right knee yells at me for twenty minutes. I am furious now. It warms me. the pain finds someplace else to go. Today I cannot say hello to the sun. Will I perish proving that I can walk this road? I consider my odds. My eyes want to cry, but I gather them together on things I can see,then close tightly. There is no reason not to. My body knows that I am lying before I do so. I say nothing. The condensation has gathered in the down bag. The sleeping pads are still less than half an inch on ice. Somewhere inside I'm told to pray but I am angry and sour. All the words in my head are not fit for ears.

Two miles down the road is a small shop that sells coffee. As always, it is a surprise. I plug myself for worring so. Even if I hated coffee, I would buy a half gallon just to sit down on soft foam, smuggling my sleeping bag out of my pack to dry. There is no desire in me to eye a pretty face. My hands are cupped paws around my cup. Slowly I float down. Again I can see the trees, the walk, the day.

Indian Valley

The shoulder of the road has been given up to snow and ice. Rt. 113 tires the spirit without the pack, and miles. Cars and trucks stare me down until I am again in the bank with my boots drinking their fill where the gaters have riden up. In the evening, too far from the trees that become my home, I am in a very large town. A tricked out SUV pulls up with a couple of intimidating black men slowly looking me over on a street with no lights. The passenger leans over his friend, "Hey man, are you walking this whole country," he asks with a voice that sounded as indifferent as if he was asking for directions to a place he really didn't care if he made it to?
"Yes I am," I answered simply.
His face exploded in radiance. "Man, I told you that he was," he shoved his friend. That's all right. Hey. Do you need ANYTHING? Are you alright with food? Do you need money?"
I too began to bloom with energy that I thought I already spent. My head was ready to be curt. Inside my shoes my feet were ready not to be ready. I was not prepared to see the largest smiles that I had seen in days. In a few minutes we said our good-byes, and I found that I wish we had talked longer. They were still strangers--but now I wanted to know them. When they smiled I felt good inside. It was a feeling that I couldn't create alone..

In a few hours the buildings fall away enough to give me a hide.

Winter walker

20 December, Lancaster PA

A long stage of clouds is drawn across the sky by legless horses. I wave. We are on different journeys. They do not even nod.
My dream leans against my leg not unlike the opossum in New York. I wish it could talk to me. To feel its warmth against my leg would at least tell me that I am not entirely forgotten on this road where the few trees that remain hold hands underground. It would be something to rub against if this dream could just lean into me.
Citrus fruit in perfect roundness roll in front of me. A basket from an open truck? At least it's not turnips again. As I lift a ball of perfect orange sugar, I know that it will not be mine. Everything is as frozen as a tomb to include this fruit. I eat a broken peanut butter cookie I was given towns ago, while waiting on memories to trigger. Nothing fires. On this bank of snow, the world vapors past with bound trees hugging their new owner's automobiles desperately afraid of falling. I am in a painting of baby blue, white , and green. I chew dry crumbs, waiting on spit and flavor.
A police car pulls up with lights strobing the snow. My feet take me to the car. Everything is too loud, voices, lights tuning on the roof of the sedan clicking like plastic sleet. The card comes from my pouch. The snow's reflection turns my eyes to sand. I blink alot, but my words are on stiff legs of their own.
Someone saw me sitting in the snow as they drove past with way too many cheap minutes left on their cell phone. They called 911. The officer is calling hotels now that I will never go to. I nod instead of yes so many times I'm beginning to match the sound of the lights. "It'll be below zero tonight. A north eastern is heading through, with eiught to ten inches of snow. Your going to check into this place right," asks the uniform leaning toward me? A native song has been in my head for six days. I know ten lines. They get louder now. His lips keep moving but i can't hear what he's saying.
"And the river is open to the rightous, and the river is open to the rightuos..someday... I was walking, with my brother, and he asked me what's on my mind? I said, what I see with my eyes, I feel with my heart, I can't turn my back this time...I am a patriot, and I love my country because my country is all I know. Want to be with my family... or people who understand me..and I've got nowhere else to go.

The right amount of words in the right combination have left my mouth. The cruiser moves into traffic. I start singing louder, looking back up at the clouds. " I was walking with my sister..."

A truck drives by with a face I've never seen. The horn bounces ahead of it as the window cranks down slow and hard. A man yells into the artic air that makes his eyes tear even though his head is on its side to squeeze out the window, "WHIIIIIIIITECROOOOOOOOOOOOW!" In a turn of his wheels he is onto another road, but my feet are warmer. Somebody somewhere mentioned this winter walker to this stranger. This is all he could afford to give. I smile as my ears touch my name over and over, measuring length and height. "Thank You", I mouth but my ears are busy so I don't know if I thought it or said it. I turn into my pack straps just like putting on a 65 pound coat. In my mind I move little things from here to there so I will not wander where my spirit is weak. Kicking wooden fruit ahead of me I follow the smell of woodsmoke still hearing my name.

11 December 2005

County of the Hidden Bell

Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pa.

"Hey, You want a piece of cherry pie," trumpets the animated woman from the front porch of the house I was walking past? It's four in the afternoon, and the day is winding in. I think for only a second. I love pie. My plan to cover another five miles falls on the hard snow. "Come on in. I make great cherry pie. Come on, come on. " Although Joye has white hair, she is very much a young spirit. I like her before I meet her. Joye laughs at herself as she holds open the door. Joye was given the perfect name.
Joye told the truth about the quality of the pie. Even after I swollow the flavor is playing in my cheeks. The sun is one fist from the horizon, and snow falling in sparkles was already duely noted, and enjoyed. No matter how beautiful the sun caught in each flake is, it cannot match homemade pie, and the conversation of new faces.

It has been a day of pages flipping backward. This morning I asked directions to get me out of the maze of country roads I was tangled in. I was in the middle of nowhere without the ability to right myself. It turned out to be Casey's boyfriend's house that I ended up at although there is no way on earth I could have known this. I met him once, and that was miles away without a last name. That story played out in Frenchtown a good two days ago.
Out into the yard Dillon spills into the snow in a t-shirt. "Dad, this is Jesse. This is the man I was telling you about." I had been asking Dillon's father directions when Dillon's huge blue eyes ran out to me in his yard. The odds of this moment happening hit us both with surprise. We laughed. "Tell Casey I said hello," I said after a few minutes of chit chat. I waddled away thinking that I just might clear this town.
A few miles later, on a hill with horses far behind a black plank fence, I stopped to rest. I made sure no cars were coming, then I tried to pull the pants that were climbing up the top of my back down into a more comfortable location somewhere closer to my waist. I finished my dance sitting down believing nobody was watching. I read a few pages from a paperback , while eating frozen swiss cheese that tasted like rubber socks. I tore away pages as I read(to save weight). Casey"s father pulled up in a new pick -up. "I saw you from my ranch. You must be the man my daughter went and bought socks for?" We shook hands. Now here I was in front of Casey's house. Casey and I met at The Bridge Cafe, in Frenchtown where she works.
After Casey heard my story, about how I left my liner socks to dry in a bush in Clinton, remembering to retrieve them twenty miles too late, she wanted to help. Casey offered to run with her boyfriend Dillon after work to find me some new liners in a city not far away by car, but too far to run to quickly by foot. I was grateful later that night when Casey showed up at the tree farm I was staying at with new socks. A snow storm was due in so I was hunkering down for a couple days at Walter Schneiderwind's Nursary. Dillon was a quickly out of the car with a happy hand in mine, as Casey made the introduction. They are a great looking couple. For the first time in my life I got the whole 'Fatherly' feeling. I was glad to know them. I was glad that they understood the walk equally. I was glad to have these new friends. I said my good-byes on Saturday, and knew that we'd be close friends if I stayed. I guess my good-byes weren't meant to be over yet. I was honored that these two lives lingered in mine in a way that I could never repeat(because I was lost), and that is way too many miles to rewalk.

Now I am showered. My belt is alot tighter after a real meal from the table of the Bryan family. My head is filled with new stories, in exchange for mine. My shoes give up the water they have stolen from the snow all day. My socks whisper out the trace amounts of wetness I couldn't wring out while hanging from my pack like de-flated ears. I offer to move my large friend from the living room, but Joye says that she likes it sitting right in the middle of things. So there it sits, and we laugh. Elmer, Joye, and their son Greg have taken me in for the night like I was a relative, or a straggler from some Biblical story where a fattened bull is slaughtered so everyone can feast with the un-expected guest. I am honored by the warmth of this family, and I am thankful beyond these little words. Recently I have been blessed more than I can relate in a few lines.

06 December 2005

Ort Farm

3 Dec 2005 Long Valley, N.J.

A flock of Canadian Geese fly over. I have to look. There is no choice. They speak about things my heart knows, but my flesh is still learning. One snow white goose is near the front. For so many years I have watched geese and never seen this. It is a flag I can not interpret. My face is a large smile.
Entering the store, cold and woodsmoke are running in circles out from my clothes, greeting everyone like spirit dogs from my adventure. No one speaks about it, but my smell is everywhere. It is in my eyes that this smell belongs to me. Come summer it may turn sour. Right now I smell like my grandfather. It a gift from the walk, and I hold it out like a new watch.

Heather runs the desk.She is grouping red ribbon into bows for grave blankets, and wreaths. Her eyes are the blue of the sky on a cold winter day. Her voice is approachable. In a few words she reminds me of the power of a pretty woman. We talk about old cars, and my love for vintage Airstreams. There is no goal. There is no want. We are talking, and I am losing the void that comes up from my belly when I am alone too long.

The cup of cider I am given is pie in a cup. When it is gone I am given another, then cake, apples, coffee, and two beers. Harvey Ort runs the show, and he is a kind and generous man. He is not an ego drive. Harvey is a fall day that moves through your fingers and is gone. We talked for a long time about bears sleeping, waking, being a farmer...and of course, the weather. I liked Harvey straight away. It is easy to like people liking life. It is impossible to love somebody loving life when you hate your own. I am glad I am on this road. Just before I met Harvey; indeed, why I met Harvey is because I was thinking of Hodges Farm back in New England, and how glorious that family was to me. They were family. With that thought, and the new snow,I followed the white fences dotted with wreaths down Rt.513 until I saw Ort Farm signs, in Long Valley.
There is no greater love than to watch an older man cut apple nut cake for a stranger with his multi-tool. It is hard to be a man, and show grace to those we don't know. It is so easy not too. I drank the cold beers against the covered wagon in the field across the street to save weight. I hoped that it would make my feet lighter. The cake drank the beer in my belly. I was just left having to pee.

I don't know Harvey's religion. I do know that when the bears had me tired in the mountains, and my heart wouldn't let me sleep, I went to a church that had many big signs by the road spilled with words about God and love. I handed my card to the woman inside, explaining what I was doing. Darkness was falling fast, and I was tired, and homes just kept coming up as I walked. We talked for a moment. I asked permission to sleep in the woods by their congregation. She made a quick call, and came back with a stern no, as she pushed my card back at me. It is easier to pray in a clean building then it is to extend a hand in real life. I think it was Sunday when I met Harvey.

Making Stories

% Dec 2005 Chester, N.J.

I heat water over a fire beside a creek. It wobbles to a boil. The wood smells like warmth, so I feel it in my mind. My fingers are still cold. The blaze is a small tool that I don't want to show everyone. With a cutting from a down maple branch I mash coffee beans in my cup. The oils from the rich beans make promises. I believe them. In four minutes I push down my homemade press into my double wall titanium 16 oz. cup, and unscrew the center rod.
This is home. I sit where the snow has not stolen over the leaves, against the root of a tree. The java is too hot to drink. It doesn't matter. We are old lovers at seven in the morning, and we are patient. Less than an inch from my mouth, the cup talks to me abut memories, and places we've been. I can smell the heady beans curl in the steam. We will sit like this for five minutes. She is so close to my mouth, but she knows that I have to wait, or I will taste nothing. The whole cup will go into me, and I will still be wanting this flavor if I sip too soon.
The snow will melt near my legs. A few crows will discover me and tattle to every creature that cares. The road through the trees will increase its pulse before I can taste. It doesn't matter though. This is where I am supposed to be. I am as unhurried as the trout in the brook. All that I know is that I am swimming downstream. I can tell you about the smooth stones. The currents and eddies are as familiar as songs from my childhood. I could sing them to you. Do not ask me the day. Most likely I will guess it wrong. Do not ask me how silly the state of politics are. All that I know is this current of movement, coffee that will also flow into me, small animals that begin to share their stories, and secrets. It is time for coffee. Snow melts to come again. I watch geese, and wonder if one will fall from formation to wait for me.

So Far Behind

6 Dec 2005 Clinton,N.J.

Weeks fall through the cracks. It is not that I don't write. I write too much. Libriaries are too few along the roads I walk. The apples that I was constantly given in New York have ceased. They were wonderful,but I guess my eyes are more hollow now, or they scream, "feed me". After two days without much to eat, I am given soup, coffee, power bars, crackers, snickers, and pretzels all from a little dinner/store called Top Of The Hill, on the house. We swapped cards, but I wanted to do more than grin like a fool through weathered lips. I'll send a proper thank you when I can.

Snow has found me several nights in a row. It is all new when I step from my shelter like a bear, and everything that was yesterday is painted glorious white. The ten degree air is all around me sniffing like a dog. I can't believe outside is even colder than the ice box of my tent. My new boots by Vasque find that they leak like canvas sneakers. This falls in the not so good section of my week. With hunting season throwing lead over my tent before the sun is above the treeline first thing in the morning, and last thing of the day, I could have way more to complain about than leaking boots...like my belly leaking. I keep my head down in the foxhole, and pray just as I did in my army days before I jumped out those not so perfectly good airplanes.

Libraries are gold for this project, but computers have time limits set. There is so much to write up. Trusting that more libriaries are over the next hill, I will bring you up to speed as time permits. I'm still out here. Still walking.

01 December 2005

Police State

New Jersey is not New York. Day by day my polished ignorance, and prejudice is being slaughtered. The previously held mental picture I had of New Jersey is not of the rolling hills, and friendly people I have been so happy to meet. Here is a place where three different police cars have all pulled up beside me with genuine hello's, and thought out questions because they really wanted to understand this man on a journey across America.
I was honored by each car police car that stopped. In New York I felt my body cringe whenever a cruiser pulled up. A stoic man would glare at me, and the race off. Now I find that I have a smile out before the police car has completed its stop. This is a great change.
Yesterday Officer Randy Maccione pulled up to me while I was trying to cover alot of miles before eating, or coffee. I was fried before nine a.m. At first I was offered a ride, and I wondered if this was a front seat, or a back seat offer. It is a worry from too many viewing of Rambo, and also by not being raised in a way that enables a trust in authority figures. I explained that I couldn't take a ride. Inside I hoped that that was an option. My card was given, and ten minutes of talking flew by. It was fantastic to find that not only did I like this man, but we really got each other. In three and a half years Officer Maccione (Sorry, I didn't note a rank although I looked)would be retiring. We talked about places to see, shortness of life, and the illusion of living forever that we dangle in front of our days like carrots--so that so many never live. Another friend pulled up, so I began walking again. In a couple more hours I would see the same officer again for my picture taken next to his patrol car, a handshake, and a few more questions that left me feeling empowered, like this dream wasn't for people that couldn't make the grade, but for the few that could. I felt very honored to meet a man I respected, and also respected my dream. He did not see a wasting of days. He did not see someone that flushed the status norm. Out of nowhere I had more energy to do more morning miles than I ever do.