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.