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.

27 January 2006

Rumurs of Bagels, Harrisonburg,VA

In a home where ten college students live together on the mountainside above Harrisonburg, VA, I am home for a day into a night. Tomorrow? We met at a small diner in Harrisonburg. The Little Grill. It is a co-op diner that is full of aware faces where wanting to know their world is cutting teeth in the back of their mouths. They want to know the height of God. All the whys of being full when people are the most empty sit in their laps. Smiles are hats here in the resturant. Everyone is wearing a different cut and brim, yet nobody looks silly. My bulk is leaning forward to look smaller, less intrusive as I come in fron the noon day sun. Aiming for a corner instead of a little chair, I increase my chances of looking like I am not carrying the world, and we're all going down. The room is all energy as many faces wait for me to settle for the customary few seconds new faces recieve before the silence is slaughtered in a series of eager questions that barely prime off, before another round is fired. I love this eagerness to know. The three college women from the Eastern Mennonite University are the first to speak to me. They sit close to my table where the floor lifts up onto a small triangle stage in the corner. Only one small table and their three chairs fit on the six inch tall platform. They are perfect for the mount. They are are art majors, as I once was. It is on their clothes, in their hair. It is in their rapid eyes. They are three cats preening their fur with just a touch here or there every once in a while as they talk. They are three towers too. A second is a long time to be surrounded in silence. Everyone begins speaking at once. Where one mouth begins a thought from the micro stage, another carries it through like close siblings do. It creates a running light humor.
"Would you like to come home with us,"inquires Katie, as straight as a line from a script, minutes after she has my sketch in her mind?" She is serious. Perfectly.
I am off guard. I just got into town. I've only walked eight or ten miles so far today. It is such a good day for walking. My body is in the groove. Nothing hurts.
"Sure!" In one word I am less stable than Katie was in all of hers. This walk is not a power position. I relearn this dayly. I can not ask to know a people, simultanously telling them who they are. I have become a light on the table. Less. I will move as they move, or I will change their picture as I take it. Amanda is an animated life sitting between the two towers of her friends. Amanda is taking my picture now. It is an exercise on light, and shadow. It is a picture of my mouth sipping coffee out of my titianium cup as the steam curls around my head. Am I supposed to swollow? Amanda is up, down. She is a smell in my head, then she is on the floor with her camera lens up like a snorkle. We all keep talking. This is our normal. We are aware that new angles give new answers This is our medium. We keep talking, only slowing a slight pause when the film runs out.
The three women are electric. We do not talk about anything. We spark on that. We arc on this. When we hit a desired series of words, or adventure, the lighting in the room changes. As we all drain our third glass of water to remove all traces of the food I'm sure we ate, yet that got overrun by words, we are on our way out the door to Becka's Volvo wagon. Becka smiles through her green bangs as we all pay our fare out of the resturant. The real tour begins. I have forgotten the college rush for life. It is contagous, but nobody covers their mouth in hopes that we'll all catch it. In minutes we all are talking about all the great things we'll see,and do in life. And we will. I have the coveted front seat. It is an honor. Crow Dog is sitting up all kinds of proud in the back seat next to two pretty college women. I see Crow Dog grinning in a quick angle flash of the mirror. What a green ham.
A plastic man in a green hola dress dances on the dash in front of me. He is not smiling. He is not frowning either. With every wiggle from the dash, I try to see everything. It's a college car. It is a great college car. We drive around town until north is south. We drive until I know only the women in the car, laughter, and the univeral mingling of strangers just outside our shell of rolling nowhere that could be from a thousand places as easily as here. Eventually I am brought home just like a big chair found in front of someones front yard. It is rare that everyone 'home' does want to hear my story just like I am told they will by a new friend on the side of a country road before I am taken home. Alot of new college faces I have just met want to pick my brain. We unwrap words over and over. New faces all bright. I am drunk on thoughts, ideas, the refreshed ability to stand up in a living room and run my fingers across the sky. Amanda is in the kitchen making a chocolate cake do crazy things in the oven I have never seen a food product do. Amanda is worried about a fire coming out of the oven. In the batter there is a tide. There are bodies moving under smooth black soil that smell like cake, yet spews black strings of batter around one edge of the pan. We all try to be encouraging. A lie is a lie. We all leave the kitchen with our smiles on mute. Kaytea moves in and out of her activities. She is a strong presence with a tight wit. She has short dark hair, and dresses mod and lively. Kaytea is easy to like. Her strenght is a flat paw without nails.
Becka with the green hair has just spent her future college money on a new used bike. She tries to smile her uncertainity away from a overstuffed chair she sits in across the room. We watch her knowingly, with supportive brows above our eyes. Choices are hard. The new bike is nice. For now though, college is over for Becka. The three women delivered me. They are back to their Friday afternoon tasks. Now I am property of the house. We make food together. Kurt and I walk to live music back down in the valley at The Little Grill. The music is loud local talent in three bands. Even though Kurt and I sit up front on the floor we keep our ears.
It is a great late night walk home. Kurt and I are new friends that walk the dark mile together as police cars cruise by, silent sharks looking for prey. A dark tail flashes in the night, then escapes back into shadow. We talk about the new world, as my mind hums electrically. It is as easy to be here in this moment as sitting back on a good couch. Kurt is a thousand old friends. Kurt is brand new. When he asks a question I really dig my nails inside of myself. I don't want easy answers. Moving over old ideas I begin touching on new thoughts. We move over ideas together when they are large. A stranger stops in a van offering a ride. He is insulted that we won't take a ride on this pitch black back city road. He asks over and over. He is too eager. Kurt asks what I think about taking the ride in the white van. We are in a good now. A ride would kill this moment dead. Maybe more. The van argues on. The van is gone. I feel that something evil has moved away.

The day began so differently. I had forgotten how retarded my hands become when the night spends hours chewing at any gate I leave open; a zipper left undone, a tent vent left too wide into the wind. My breathe is falling snow all over my face when I wake. During the night my breath became ice crystals affixed to the tent walls again above my head inside the tent. Whenever I move, down comes the snow, in a light movies try to capture, plucked violin stings try to emulate. It is early. Already, I know it is a great day. I know it will be unseasonably warm. I have begun to sneak more fat into my diet. My mind is stoned on the wealth. My feet nudge one another to wake up. My bladder makes my stomach look full, but I delay the moment by rolling over one last time. The sun is climbing on the tent now. There is no going back into the sleeping bag now.
Quickly, all is stowed in the green bag. I am a greensack through a rusted wire fence I didn't mean to bend to break. I am four miles away from last night's camp with ice in my water bottle nudging my lips as I try to drink the heavenly cold water without wearing it. As I open a snickers, a brown pick- up yanks off the road right in front of where I sit. "Oh no," I think.
The man is a series of happy words coming around the truck though when I look up. His legs are as fast as his words. I am a slow draw with a cold unloaded gun of answers. I stand leaving my candy bar unbitten but open on the grass. The retired mayor from Mt. Jackson is putting his warm smooth hand into mine. A hand obviously worn more from taking out of his pocket than from collecting wealth in. He tells me how he thought I was a hobo, a man down on his luck. I explain what I'm doing, wondering if he is believing me. I don't believe me. I'm thinking now that it shows. A twenty is put in my hand. How bad do I look, I wonder? The money is wonderful. The money is a few hot meals I do not have to weigh finacially. My heart wants words though. I want to know this warm man. My heart wants to listen to a mayor that cares so much about people, he stops his truck in a rush with money already anxiously set aside in his pocket. I want to know this man now driving away; a man that worried in bed last night to his wife because he had passed me for days, and he hadn't yet stopped. Mr. Jordon was already miles away as the last of the candy bar went dow with an ice water.

The bikes with my new friends rolled off to gather bagels from dumpsters some miles off. It was to be a fresh take right after the bagel store closed. We all gave a list of our favorites as if a fantasy cast of parents would petal our hearts to bagel round joy. No bagels came back. I do have the image of my half dozen friends rolling off on mismatched bikes on an adventure with all of our eager hearts wishing them truely the greatest sucess.

24 January 2006

Cedar Creek, North Virginia

For two night I sleep in the woods at Cedar Creek Battlefield. There are not many trees here now. Luckily, there is not alot of me to hide. The rain came in just as the snow did at Valley Forge when I made storm camp there, yet it is different here. I keep expecting something from the past to reach out and touch me here, something that feels more buried at Valley Forge. No ghosts run across the fields where young men prepared to fight and die but not all the blood is dry. It is still in the air. It is still feeding the grass. No horses neighed at the night, that don't now live here. Still, there is a feeling resonating off these rolling hills that keeps the heart mindfully looking back.
I rise in a cloud today. When camp is lashed to my back, I walk into the same cloud. No antique soldiers march out of the line of trees with me, but I kept looking. I am walk in history books, while someone else turns the pages--or is it my feet?

18 January 2006

Great, I lost twenty five pounds...and my pack gets fatter.

Bears Den, Blueridge Mountain Road, Bluemont, VA

Although I do not frequent the Appalachian Trail because it is not the nature of this journey, so many people mentioned this castle in the woods, I had to check it out. Plus I have been seriously sick in my tent for a couple days. Did I mention I smell slightly...alright, bad will cover it.
Always I am eating. It is the nature of the walk. Still I managed to misplace twenty five valuable pounds. Somewhere I ate some bad sliced meat(it's the only food that when thought of I have to run for the forest). For two days into nights,then back again, I shook like a madman. My head filled with sick dreams that took me nowhere--over and over, and over. Water ran out after a day. I lost that much water after one jog to dig in the leaves. Dehydration quickly found camp, then sat on my chest. By day three I could add mindlessly dizzy to my list of tricks. Everything I owned was crammed into the sleeping bag rated for thirty below. I still froze. Guess the rating is good only if you have a pulse. I prayed. I think I prayed. It seemed like a prayer. After a couple of days inhaling sick man in a small tent smells I figured I'd rather die wobbling in front of a truck then rot away, fermenting in a delux dowm filled zip-lock bag.
Not eating saves alot of money. Down side is I stop on hills that I never would have noticed a couple of days ago. I walk six miles, smile, declaring in a very serious question, "I think that's enough...How's that...That's a great place for a tent...Look, water!" I roll my eyes at myself. Six miles?
Bears Den? Showers? Warmth without an intro of shivering melodies? The mountain up to here is steep. If your just joining the two-legged(and the living), it is hell. Crazy me even thought of hobbling past on route 7 west to grab route 11 south. That would have been worse. Outside the wind is polishing stone with stone. I would have walked a few more miles, forgiving my ailed ways, then begged a tree to hold all its branches till morning. Trees really don't remember long like people say they do. I know. Then again, by three in the morning I am sure that they get kind of bored. Remembering the little man they have tucked in down below, they get ...creative. "Surely, one little old branch wouldn't hurt. " I won't be alone anyhow......crack!

14 January 2006

Leesburg, VA Back Country-Horse Country

Crossing the Potomac from Whites Ferry is a trip back in time if you relax your brow, forgeting the sound of the motor. A cable guides the diamond steel flatbed boat across the river current..at that point it is how it has been for hundreds years. The cars and trucks that are at rest beside you are of no consequence. We are on the brown water. What once was, still moves in and out of lungs, smelling of moist river air, and winter fields tired from the short damp days. Somewhere through the trees just south of this barge named Gen. Jubal A. Early, old wars are drilled out with a gentle coughing of powder charges in the mid-morning light, telling some poor souls to lie down all over again. I have seen bodies bloated, near yellow after days in the sun. I know lead personally: the holes it makes...in bodies,and families. When the ferry stops I shy up the old simple road to a sound almost gentle of more firing that goes to my stomach. War I understand, but that doesn't mean that I can't love the part where we all yell,"Get up, get up. Let's all go home!"

Running out of time. I will get in touch soon.

Poolesville, Maryland Library

The male libriarian that took card when I walked in appeared overly friendly, walking quickly from tbe counter as he walked me toward a door I wasn't ready for. He smiled alot, and he liked his words. He used alot of them to get where he was going even if it was a otherwise simple distance. It was late in the day. Camp was still a question mark. I looked alot at the windows the way I do when I see no progress in exchange for daylight. After explaining what I was doing, I asked to use the computer. The man with overly dry lips under a head of good hair told me about policy. Sort of.
Being the same age bracket that I am, he filled in about his dreams far away in Montana that would never grow. Nodding understandingly, I waited. My peer was in charge. That was fine. This was his stack of books. He told me in many ways. I showed him my belly like a good dog, hoping he would grant me a little screen time. More words about policy came up, words about policy to come. In the end I was refused use to use the libriary system with a huge smile. This was a first...anywhere! Churches that didn't know me from Adam opened their doors, and laptops. People that took me in for the night when they saw me cross their fields let me use their computers. Of course I was told about his personal power to grant waivers, and how he had in the past. I was not directly told why he wouldn't help me, except that he didn't want to.

"Ain't that somethin' though," asked the angled clerk?

"What's that," I asked in a even disconnected tone, my body already wanting to get ouside, away from this man?

"You can't use my computer, but I have your card here. Well, I can look up your sight any time I want to." He smiled like he had come up with a clever joke.

"Yeah, that's somthin' all right." I put my smile under my shoe. As I was turning to leave, night stealing all visable paths into the trees, my new 'friend' still tried to ask me more about my walk. A personal extra from me to him. I spoke a little until I internally yelled at myself for being too nice. I cut it there. He tried to tell me more stories he thought I still had a ear to hear.
In the end, I found camp a few miles away from town, where good water ran through the long bent yellow grass. It was in a hurry much like my own. No hurry. Listening to the geese come in on the pond through the trees, one poor bird kept complaining, then settled. I thought about the man that had to control who touched the keyboard. I didn't miss his type. Never would. Then I put him down in the water, forgeting about talk over fees, being a resident, the (un)Patriot Act(?), new state controls.
When it all settled on the bottom where the stones sat together in the center of the three foot wide of water, I pushed my hands into the brook to wash my face into the cold numbing I have come to love. As the water fell back to itself, I could see nothing in the waters. Night was coming alive.

08 January 2006

Eagle Morning

29 Dec 2005

In the tree top above my tent a pair of bald eagles chirp happily, falling from limb to limb, catching air at the last possible moment. Now they are feathers over the river joined by an immature eagle with an umber splashed tail, and a head rushing toward white. The rain that held us all in our nests for and a day and a half is gone. Our beds are still warm feathers--and sticks.. I stretch, talking to my neighbors about little things, and how great it is to be rid of the sound of water falling on everything. It is clear that after so much down time we all just want to hear voices over the water. I play my flute because it sounds like their language. It is not the windy part of the day though, or the hour when the moon nods through the trees. Morning makes the notes weaker. It is talk about food after a heavy meal, and no ears are listening. At night the cedar flute prepares the heart for peaceful ease into evening. With a few high notes from the flute, I say good-bye to camp mates. Turning from the water, I begin to pack camp. There is a sadness not easy to touch that comes with seeing gifts of creation with no other eyes to see them, confirm them. No eyes to touch them with yours, smiling back at you in verbal silence. On a level not easy to explain, wine is turned back into water.

Without eating breakfast or mashing coffee beans in my cup for the press, because all the easy wood is soaked, I push past the first half dozen miles of the day. Bad call. It is miles up a steep hill, making me wish that I at least ate cold batter rather than nothing. Towns are dots on clean paper as I fall to the bottom of PA. I know that I will feel the void under my belt for hours to come. It is a long time before my cup is filled with coffee. It is also a long time before my ears take in another human voice, but I do not mention the eagles. In my mind they are done flying.

07 January 2006

Mt. Airy, Maryland

Although my fingers are begging to put hard journal onto computer keys it is Saturday, and everyone wants a ride. For now it will have to be enough that I get to check my mail, write this note, and wash my socks in the bathroom sink on the way out the front door. The people have been beyond wonderful these last few weeks. I have lived with the Amish, a carpenter and his family, church guest homes---even a stranger named John that heard my story, looked out at the water-logged weather, and then offered to set me up in a hotel all expenses paid. Winter may be here, but the people have opened like it is spring. When I miss a night or two in the woods the hawks pretend not to know me no longer trading chirp for chirp, and the morning squirrels grumble barks at me as if we have never met. In a day I smell natural again, shaking the lingering perfume of soaps In two days we are all related again.