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 2006

Winter Walks Slowly

I am now carrying half my body weight. This is no complaint. As the days grow shorter I am thankful for the few additions I allow myself. There is no price I can put on the simple joys, a warm sweater that stops the wind, part of a book that lets me walk with a voice outside my own, moving over lands I will never know, a small radio with a little speaker that allows me to still hear the wind, the pant of coyotes walking past, and the raking of trees in the night sky while easy songs play out into the night softly. Leaves begin to fall now not unlike the sound of rain on the tent. Lights from the homes I see through the trees where I bed down now sing like country music when the heart is already sad. I move camp to water. Water heals the heart until the lights of distant homes blink indifferently. Memories become more gentle. Sometimes I think of their sitting down at the table, blue an d white plates, and chicken shiny with oil. Sometimes I think I hear them laughing in front of a radio held together with electric tape. Sometimes I just hear the leaves discusing time, and I never see the window lights coming through the woods.

Nearly a week past as I shared the home of Robert and his girlfriend Cindy in the town of Pauls Valley, a town I meant to breeze through. Although younger, Robert and I moved from his coffee-shop tables into evenings on his porch talking about years gone by, roads taken, and not; my years as a paratrooper and his time as a police officer. Some hats we can take off physically, but we never totally take off our souls. It becomes clearer to me how much of life is trading where giving is gaining. Stories , knives, thick sandwiches with pink slices of meat, and coffee-beans black with oil all move around us in circles of waking and sleeping. In the barn we cut bamboo to make into a native flute for Robert because he feel in love with my cedar travel-mate. Sketches are made to direct him to complete the project when I become memory. Usually I spend days carving cedar to make a flute, not counting the drilling and finish sanding. The natural structure of bamboo will save alot of work, and perhaps a few cuts on Robert's hands.
Maps were studied--warnings given about crystal meth labs on wheels, and things that DO go bump in the night, more great food to stow in my stomach for the coming cold, deeper conversations that turned one overnight on the couch into nearly a week.
It was good for my head to put on a black apron to help prep sandwiches in the Coffeehouse Gallery, and give stories to customers as I cleared their table. As much as I have grown to acke for food while on the walk, the need to hear another's voice, to hear stories that are not mine, voices that are not in my head--this is a meat that I can not find inside the shell of a turtle, or in the lonely night talk of the coyotes counting clouds. This one staple can not be pushed into lightweight jars to ride tight to my spine. I did not know that I needed people so deeply until I began to know them only in small sips before leaving, and then silence is at me again. I do not walk from town to town to touch new earth. I do not rush after the bacon that curls up from the pan miles ahead sending it's scent floating down the road to me just because my ribs can be played with a stick. I push on when I am pummeled with heat or frozen fingers just to hear your voice.

A few miles down the road from Pauls Valley, Robert's mustang pulls up beside me. He is a good looking man, somewhere's close to thirty, that still carrys himself like a police officer. His hair is short and dark. He is more eager to move into a smile than a heavy face, and that is why we blend. "My son just wanted to say good-bye," says Robert as he leans over his son Dustin who is beaming up at me for the first time. Good-byes sometimes come on hard. Even when the clock is kind there is another movement behind the heart that differs soul to soul. Robert and I know that chance can be unkind. Sometimes good-byes are final. It is good to look back when this leaving might never bring our lives together again. Maybe Alaska we unite us all.
Shouldering my pack that weighs more than it ever has before. I think of cresant rolls with turkey, peppered cheese, and military MRE's that Robert somehow convinced me to carry. I may be bent over, but tomorrow I will not go hungry. A man at the gas station told me he saw snowflakes falling just up the road. It is the third Halloween of the walk. Tonight I'll hunker down early, listening to the laughter of children moving under porchlights drunk on candy.

24 October 2006

Geared Up

Base Camp Betty has arrived, and departed leaving my pack straining at the seams. There is no way to thank someone that crosses America over and over, making sure that my down has enough loft, or my clothes block the coming winds. Just to be sure to say 'thank you' before she is a speck rolling away is I can do. Early on, when the walk was just an idea, Betty asked to be my base. A person that would send or deliver gear as needed, and recieve the gear that passed its seasonal need. It was not yet clear to me that there would be a great value in such a selfless person being out there to send a smile, fleece, and an unfaltering belief in the journey I am undertaking. Betty has proved to be a friend I doubt that I could ever appreciate enough.
My pack has a few pounds of temp weight that'll be eaten a.s.a.p., dried fruit, nuts, coffee beans, dark chocolate, and veggie burger mix, health bars. I chew as Betty drove away, staring at CrowDog as if he has just wet the carpet. Heavy is heavy. 70 pounds, water not included.
CrowDog is, for lack of other words, fat. The teepee tent is gone for the winter. Seven pounds of nylon protection has taken its place. My sun umbrella that saved my scalp in LA, and TX is also in a sedan heading north. Winter is coming. Some days this seems like a lie. Today my small brim tan Tilley hat has all it can do to shield me from the sun unlike the wide four inch brim of the Tilley that is now northern bound--hunting season and big white hat don't mix. It is overwhelming to exchange so much gear. Sleeping bag, sleeping pads, clothes, hats, sleeping bag silk liner, gaiters, windproof fleece sweater, and several little toys that make winter camp a little more agreeable.

19 October 2006

Rain Waking

Sulpher, OK.

The day begins with rain. It is not angry rain. Listening to the popping of drops hitting the tight fabric of my nylon tepee I remember my food sack is hanging in the tree deep in the woods. The wind is the angry brother of the rain; angry because he is cold and I have not noticed him. When I walk across the hilltop field I feel the wind going though my pockets. I feel the wind going through my clothes. The blanket that I shoulder tells me that I need to wake my morning fire.
No bear came in the night. I am thankful for it was dark when I treed my food bundle. Even a young bear could have shimmied to reach my biscuts, cold meat, dried hard corn, dried fruit, nuts and most valued--my coffee beans, and then I would only have fire for breakfast.
The fire wakes easily with a few twigs of a thorn tree and a few pages from the paperback western that kept me awake in my tentland until midnight. The forest belittles the wind into a soft voice coming from the field. The sputter of rain does nothing to the small wood fire in my stove. A curl of sweet smoke crawls into my blanket as I wait for the smooth boil of water for my Frenchpress. I mash the coffee beans with the end of a stick in my cup while I watch the trees for a glint of fur, flesh or feathers. Nothing moves that the wind doesn't provoke. Still, I watch as is my habit, as is my need. As I wait the four minutes for the coffee beans to soak in the boiled water I feed the flames that I usually let fade to ash at this point. It is in the high 30's making the little fire a pleasant life to have an arm reach away, talking softly while it eats. The smell of the burnt hawthorn discusses with a quiet part of my brain the approach of another winter's and it's cold hand. A pileated woodpecker calls a haunting Ge-ge-ge-ge-ge from above me. Though I have heard it a thousand times, I listen as if it is the first time it nudged my ear. Looking around I think about how this is my life now. My face does not have to grin. Everything about me is moving in the inner light of being just exactly where I am. I am not on the road worring over yesterday's miles. I am not turning a knob to let some other world cover up the voice of my life happening all around me to tell me what I need to buy to be happy, or complete. I am on my knees in an ocean of small brown oak leaves, boyant in smoke remembering things that I could not know that smooth out my heart. This is my life now.

A mile away from camp, I am walking with my kit on my shoulders. In the grass is a chilled unopened beer. Smiling, I wash the can with my canteen and swollow the can in three gulps. It is not the Foster's beer that I found on the roadside as I backpacked The Ring Of Kerry in Ireland. It is not the Bush beer that I found in a ditch in New Jersey just before Halloween. This is a fresh gift that I drink fast so I am not standing on a morning road with CrowDog on my back as I drink a exceptionally rare recovered beer while drivers honk and stare. A bandana cut from a found sheet is tied under my chin to keep my head warm. Winter gear hasn't arrived yet. Six feet away I find a like new wool/fleece winter hat that I'll wash in the town of Sulpher when I arrive. My insides shine. Another half mile passes. The wind has abated so I put my wide brim hat back on. A black sedan hurries to a stop. My eyes squint at the windows but the sun is out reflecting the sky on the car glass. A window opens. "Are you the one," asks a young woman squinting back at me.
Shrugging something that looks like a yes I ask,"The man walking...?"
"Yes,the man walking across America that we heard on the radio." She is bubbling that I am the walker to the packed carload of young women that are crawling over the front seat to yell out to me even though they have their own doors and windows. "Could we take a picture with you?"
Pictures click that I will never see, and I get one arm hugs that move my mind more than the cold beer that I worry is still on my breath. They say that they will pray for me. I feel they will. There is no comparing finding a hug on the side of the road with finding a cold beer. All day I will feel the simple embraces that feed that hollow that bleeds us all when truely isolated. I have already forgotten the beer, mostly.

16 October 2006

Tent Rafting

Ardmore, Ok

The rain that the sky has been holding back has opened its mouth turning the powdered earth into a soup that no tent stake could hold on to. My tent became a pole and a wet flag of fabric with a river running under my sleeping pad. Yes, I floated. At the mercy of The Camper's Friend (RV park)in the outskirts of Ardmore I was given friendly concern, help drying equipment, and a place at the table of Bob and Betty Rose. Even as the two days passed Betty Rose was still sneaking dried fruit and nuts into CrowDog, while looking at me like I planned to swim the ocean with one arm. I assured her that she had done more than her part. Promised prayers, Betty Rose looked on as I shouldered my pack while wearing a new red shirt that I knew I'd be sleeping in within a few days. (A new shirt--and red.) After five miles the smile still hasn't worn off my face.

Today I'll head north. It is no easy decision. My eyes move over the map with a knife in my intent. Promised that the eastern run north is heaven I still head north west. There is a larger plan I must follow. Winter is coming. My feet move toward snow, empty miles of nothing but sand and thought. Oddly, I am excited. There is a romance ahead that I have promised myself. My core ackes to move over miles of memory, flat sand fields as far as I can see, and a people rare like water. Some things can't be explained. Desire moves my compass. Heart moves my feet. Today a dog thought of joining me, but at the last minute it shied and found some scrub to follow out of sight.
My journal is fat with a million great words to help express to you what it is like to come home into the wild. I am in a library though. I have limited time to tell you that I am coming home in a good way. What was hard has become branches combing my hair, soft pine needles to sleep on, and a easy feeling that allows me to sing like I know all the words to every song. Coyotes walk to my tent as if I am afforded the luxury of touch even though I am lying down. A grouse walks THREE feet from my swinging walking poles as I cross a strip of packed earth. A broad-winged hawk swoops down and kills the bird at my feet faster than a pistol. On the third try the hawk lifts a bird of the same size, carring its meal into the trees. Part of my mind that fingers reason wonders if this is an omen of good. Am I the hawk? Am I the poor bird waiting on talon? Cedar burns its sweet smoke into my shirt when evening comes as I wait on a cup of tea while I brush the shed feather in my hand. The hawk, the grouse...we just are I begin to think. I am no longer a new chair at the table called a walk. I am just a being. The hawk comes to eat and that is all. The bear and boar still leave prints near my tent as I sleep. I am being allowed to walk with my eyes open. It is everything.

12 October 2006

Red Blanket

Madill, OK

I wrote this blog once. Then I hit the NICE key in the corner Called Esc and poof-----------------------------------------------Bad word! Now I have less than an hour of library time to write. Unbelievable.

Finally the temps have dropped. Nights have been cool for a few nights to the point of pulling socks and pack cover into my sleeping bag just to make the grade so I could sleep. Yesterday I found a blanket blowing dow the road. Later in the day I found Lake Texoma. The blanket and I took a bath. The blanket turned out to be alot cleaner. As I head farther west everything thins out a little. Under short oak I set camp on Chickasaw land feeling a deeper peace come over me.

06 October 2006

Northward Bound, Whitewright,TX

By tomorrow evening,before the sun sets fire to the sand, I'll be in Oklahoma. The recent news from Lancaster, PA shortened my stride, and removed more than a little sleep from my bed in the starlight. Having lived a few days with the Amish for just a few days of this walk last winter I can not say that I know them as deeply as I would have liked. I slept in their homes, ate their foods and traded stories like old silver...or in this case plain harnesses. For the short days I got to spend with them, I was blessed. The children of the Amish are what American children used to be(yes, some still are, but this is rare). I was called sir of Mr. WhiteCrow by all of the children respectfully, while never being reminded. It was rare that these children were not smiling or waiting on a grin to come. My heart goes out to the Amish.

03 October 2006

Greenville,TX -- Still Above Freezing

** NOTE Although I can read my e-mails at this library, I am unable to send mail out. Will write as soon as I can. Thank You, Jesse

After one cool night that had me reaching for my extra shirt to wear as a hat while I burrowed into my thin sleeping bag, Texas went back to baking my Tilley hat during the day, and kicking off everything except sweat at night. The boarder of Oklahoma is getting closer. For now the roads have stopped bucking in constant hills, settling down to an easy canter that I can live with. For a few more reporters I have pulled out faded maps, telling stories that now seem a lifetime ago. Everyone wants to know miles and dates. It has been a long ways. It has been a long time.
There is a hard edge that comes with Texas. It keeps moisture in, quill and sun out. Once that light does come on over the porch you are one of the fold. Days may dust blow past in a long dull series before a voice comes to me , or I am afforded anyone to say more than hello to. My mind tries to find reason over the ruin of decent shoes...again. Five minutes into an old feed barn for shade and the parts of me that forgot what I am about, what this walk is about, remember. Bottles are filled with water by the hard earth worn hands of strangers. Warnings of hazards are given as if I am kin. Friends of the shop owner are called, and more reporters. With the cold water, I take it all inside to sip later. You can tell me that I am not homeless, that I have a cause, that this is not forever-- but this is the only now I live in. I walk in This now. The only real truth I know for sure is I have this moment, these kind people, the gathered goods on my back, and The Creator that is thankfully stronger than I'll ever live to be. Tomorrow? I don't have the luxury of that belief. I take in cold water with the decadent novelity of ice bumping against my nose, making me spill.
A young man that has been puttering with a tractor while listening carefully hands me a new micro flashlight that I don't need. He needs to give it according to his eyes so I clip it to Crow Dog, while watching the young man beam at his mother. Crops have been hit hard by the absent rain--no, their isn't any more crop this season. Nobody wants to take a gamble and plant in dust, so seed sacks sag on crouded pallets unsold, delivered here on jacked up fuel prices that are now are down to $2.00 a gal.
Homeless shouldn't be confused with hopeless. I have so much more than hope. If I am to live day by day on this journey, I cannot get caught up on a future that blows in the wind. I am blessed to be in the company of a people that pour me canteens of cold water with joy in their faces while we lean on their future in seed talking about this road called Texas, while I wipe the sun out of my eyes.