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.