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.

20 February 2006

Magic Bus, Floyd, VA

The smell of wood smoke is set deep in my clothes. Leaning forward into my shirt as I type words into a computer at Cafe' del Sol, I am back in the woods at the fire circle in the hills. Two days ago I met Heather, and Bowels, through a mutual friend named Tiger that works here at the cafe'. It was 10 degrees when we left the vehicle that brought us to Alum Ridge from the cafe'. We were all soldiers now, winter ants carrying our stash of gear and supplies up the forest trail to the vintage schoolbus home where the forest falls flat. When we could stand without leaning, we looked up at the sky. The trees, thinned a little, allowed us to enjoy the cold stars that gathered just for us.
I was in awe instantly over this new stage in my walk. I saw my old Airsteams from years past. I saw my old dodge van squatting in a wood marsh that I called home for a few years after the army and college years. Everywhere that I looked I was met with flash cards frow lives I'd known. Yet everywhere I looked was brand new. In my ears came voices that I was still tying to new faces and mannerisms. Before me stood the home of Heather Walker and Chris Bowels, and baby Ocean on the way. They knew what the forest sounded like without the hum of stimulants riding wires into their home. They knew the weight of water. Here firewood breaks to the bite of the splitting maul while morning is still easy, just above the rim of the coffee cups. The bus puffed like a train going nowhere fast...happily tied to a station it will never leave. I spent hours on the couch carving animals from knotless firewood, while my eyes moved over the heavy curves if the schoolbus. Like an airstream, the old bus moves in the eye motherly in the hip, round in the thigh. I wanted to leave something besides footprints. Always I am taking more than pictures. We gave each other stories that hinted at whom we were. We made enough coffee so that nobody complained when it was reduced to wet grounds under a screen. Without closing our eyes we walked in Heather's native Alaska. Our feet stayed clean as Tiger acted out getting all her friends stuck in their cars by the river, and the joy of snowboarding down the hill from the bus until ice balls hung from the cuffs of her pants. Heather's baby swelled in her belly until we were all having children in the woods, and hearing first steps walking in our futures while little hands wrapped around our index fingers, damp, warm and tight. I watched Bowels alot, putting wood in the fire boxes, the way he placed each log down like a phrase from a song. He looked too much like my father, except that he smiled alot through bright blue water eyes. When he stood he held not heaviness in his bones. Bowels was all ready holding baby Ocean in his arms. There was nothing that we could say that could make him set the unborn child down, nor would we want to. It was liked seeing my father in theatre light, beautiful youth caught in his face. Bowels helped me forgive, understanding weight without lifting, being afraid without running. I carved a bear for the baby on the way. I carved a bear so that I wouldn't have to leave.
With every step the walk appears to be taking me back in time instead of into the future. Towns wet their tongues before they speak to me. Here words are slower so I'll listen. Here words regain their power, and my respect. When I came to Floyd I knew that I was not going to be introduced with a nod, as the last call came across the coffee shop at five p.m.. In Floyd, coffee and conversation flow far past the point of day meeting night. If you can remain a stranger in Flyod, then you are trying hard to do so with tape keeping your eyes closed.
The curse of Floyd is leaving. Floyd is dancing with a pretty girl just before everyone begins to call it a night, and leave the gym. Standing in the music I could weave like this forever under a disco ball of stars in the sky. I want to dance here all night until a have her name, and the kind of soap in her hair is on my coat, dancing until I say it is morning. Hand ironing my smokey shirt, I am ready to shake these five pound boots some more. Leaving Floyd is sitting in the movie house after the movie is done, and the credits are reduced to information nobody reads. I just want to hear the music a bit longer, trying to remember why the film made me feel the way I do,
Leaving for this walk was not the one time exodus that I told myself it would be. Walking across America is falling in love a thousand times, and still having the strength to stuff my sleeping bag into a bright yellow bag while kneeling in the snow, smiling with a squint at the sky to inquire the pros or cons of a coat or sweater, writing names in the back of my journal, and then leaving all over again, believing that this tug will ease after a dozen miles of remembering. Walking is believing that the little tugs will smooth the sheet of heart. So far I just feel the tightness. Drumming my chest unconsciously with the flat of my hand, moving boots sole thick with memory, I fill my water bottle knowing that sadly I will never see many of these souls ever again.