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.

21 July 2007

Reunion Weekend and 109 Degrees

Across America high school alumni are remembering faces of classmates from so long ago. I see notes on the doors of restaurants offering specials for class reunions and it sends my mind skidding back. On the road today a disguarded sign read 'Class of 1957,' and I remember my graduation of 1982, the long string of leavings that began then, that brought me here. Hotels bear signs welcoming us all back in time complete with smoke-free rooms and HBO, back to a place that no longer exists except in old yearbook photographs and the romantic moving pictures of our personally edited memories.
Twenty-five years ago I graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT. I was told then that the years would fly by after that warm June afternoon spent sitting in the sun on gray medal chairs under a blue board hat waiting for my name to be called. Before I knew it I would be a quarter of a century away looking back over my shoulder, over my backpack, wondering what roads my classmates had taken; people that were once my Venus and Pluto, people that were all of my earth, and the young women I was too afraid to talk to that made up the stars in my Berkshire mountain piece of sky. Where had the universe gone in twenty-five years, the universe I knew? Years have evaporated, flown by until I start palpating the vein of each of those expired years, and all of the volumes of change that coursed through their thin walls of illusions, of relative safety, of hope; lives of friends and relations that have ceased living, the promises we made that failed to rise with the yeast of our good intentions, the stories we tell ourselves that we no longer believe but begin to tell all over again, and all the tragic graves we dug for each of our untried dreams we set to rest before they were really dead.
Walking across America is alot of time spent thinking, remembering everything said, remembering everything that was said to me, to you, and four full oceans of forgetting. There are days I wish I had walked slower down the halls of my fluted column high school with my beautiful pimple faced friends skating around me in the vibrating expectation that comes with growing freedom and youth, walked at a snails pace listening to the inner ear roar of four hundred bodies trying to make sense of the nonsensible saturation of change between history class and homeroom, and the times that I wish I ran with my arms out, desperately pulling air behind me toward separation, toward the future and all its sythetic shine. There are the two girls I wished I asked to lunch, to a movie, kissed under the white oak tree behind room #133, and of course the bullies I wished I faced down but outgrew instead, back before the army made me shave a face that didn't grow hair, back before I wore the right shoes and found peace in my own cadence. Back to a time when school was really teaching me above all other things how life is about weaving people together, and how, just sometimes, it isn't.
Still the romantic, I think of the video I thought of sending to my 25th reunion explaining what I was doing, and wasn't doing anymore. I wondered whom would understand among them..then heard the fresh question in my heart,"Does it matter anymore?" Of course, sofly I heard my mouth say,"Yes,...yes it does." We became a family, as odd as any, my class of '82. We watched as seeds were sown into the chests of our classmates, seeds for college, seeds for military service, farms and mothers to be, drove our first miles in battered cars we battered into rust, found love and loss and its child ...hope, and our teachers stepped down from their clouds of separation and many became our friends, our understanding handed back to us in the first flame that would guide us into their world, into our lives, and we could never thank them enough, and that, in itself is enough.
I have walked myself into high desert in WY at 109 degrees and it isn't even August yet. Offered an open house with a.c. from new friends going on vacation, I thankfully wait out a week before I 'm again sipping hot water I carry in large sun beaten tanks on a cart pulled behind me, again sitting when spent under a large faded golf umbrella that is mounted to my packframe; a three foot round of nylon giving me a puddle of shade to melt into, and wait. For now, for this week, I listen to voices gone, hearts and trackless faces I used to know, and in comes a knowing that they are still a part of me, and I them. We were the Mountaineer's of Housatonic (river between the mountains), and have climbed the world because we had each other in blue and gold, in folly and grace.....and hope.

14 July 2007

Griz At First Sight

The first griz I see is a flash of bulk and a panned face looking in my eyes and then nothing remains. My eyes search and search, questioning tree stumps and sagebrush for confirmation. Nothing. It is outside of Yellowstone, ten miles east, and all the air is silver with coming darkness. It is their time. At four times my weight it is always their place, their time.
Montana is alot of hard roads to choose to walk through. Beautiful, but a dangerous place to back-country alone week after week after.... Studying a new map, unmarred by camps noted and kindnesses given or roads that grilled me, the mountains and the thick islands of forest of Montana that I will be hooking left through make me sweat in an air conditioned library. Offered by several people real firepower with it's burden of weight and the lightness of peace of mind, I consider both the anvil and the cost and walk away with nothing to fill the void. Men that live in these mountains, hunt these lands, know and share all the stories before the facts are scrubbed by government agenda and an often overly opinionated press against gun ownership, tell me to choose a caliber. "Do not choose between packing or not or we will find your bones." In the end I will not type everything until the row is hoed and I am beyond harms way with loan returned. All that I will put down for all to read now is this is partly why we have the Bill or Rights; the right to bear arms. Personally, it is part of what I fought for in the military; the right to freely choose, outside of any ruling government's good intentions and bad laws. Yes I have the pepper spray that should become a stone wall, a spear that has dispatched lions in Africa, and nearly seven thousand miles of hard training and near misses with man and beast rattling in my head and harness, but-an eight hundred pound grizzly unzipping my tent with it's claws has not been part of the equation until now. I have yet to meet anyone (except for the dim witted) that would take my yoke without packing authority...or should I call it a last chance just this side of prayer before dying.
One book after another I have studied breaking down bear attacks, and FEEDINGS. From the protective sow with cubs that can be two years old and wander anywhere around you so you can't help but be trapped between mother and offspring, to the predator bear that hunts man as a food source, my fingers have turned neatly typed pages to search for windows, hopes, answers and tactics to surviving. As in war, preparation is survival. I love bears too for they are the wild places, but I have also grown to like my funny looking face as it is, and have grown accustomed to breathing in and out without air vents in my ribs and my inner noodles dangling out. In the gravest extreme....I begin a new kind of walking, of sleepin in clothes rich with patina, of once again filtering water while doing a 'Where's Waldo' across the ridgeline. Through the land of Lewis and Clark I make camp and wish I did not mill alone by the fire.

10 July 2007

Neck Silk Fading From Red

Cody will fall behind within the week. I could write that it will be hard, it will be hot, it will be painful and waste words for these things are all a given. There is no way to know when I will be at a table again, any table and not sitting cross legged in the desert dirt tempting ants and scorpions to run up my pant legs and pierce my legs. It all comes back in less than a mile of walking. The road takes up where it left off. In five miles I will look as if I have never rested. In five miles I will listen to my body tell me about all the little things I will never see again. I am at Vail's Stage Stop Horse Hotel and come to love Paul's company and endless history lessons he offers up about Cody and the surrounding region. We toss broken bails to his prize horses of perfect lineage, scoop oats into an old coffee can and feel the cool wake of morning put on two coats too many as the last of white status clouds melt into blue heat. In a half hour hay is sticking to our necks and I am thirteen years old loading a hay wagon that moves across the July fields in a creaking memory of Becket, Ma. All of my life has prepared me for this land, these people of the horse. Liz and Paul's place is an old stage stop where Wild Bill Cody rested, Chief Black Kettle stretched his legs and history thicker than all time painted every cut of earth with memory. I am going back to go forward. Always it is this way. I make pancakes on gravel stones always feeling that people from times gone by are watching, approvingly. If we are silent, and very still we can here the land speak, telling us where we belong, and where we don't. It is there when we arrive at a new place. It is silently speaking when we leave if it recognises our stance at the fire, and how we left the large black spider living by the door just as we found it.

04 July 2007

Well It's The Fourth of July

Over Heart Mountain the sky spits and sputters in historic revelry that makes the heart of man and woman want to sky walk with equal freedom through Yellowstone, past the mountains that remember earth wild, across rivers of elk with thick velvet antlers two seasons from the shed, pass the borders that some agent of state has painted on a map in Washington, to an America that is still wiggling hard toward freedom that's really free. Firetrucks sing down in the valley in route to water some dry sage turning yellow red before the sky is another bouquet of weeping willow fire and then a report. Red, white and blue in flame. The Cody parades are over with a thousand thousand pictures flashed and micro chipped. The crowds have cheered and applauded until all of the participant's are full and thirsty for something cold to drink and looking forward to head tipsy conversation with new acquaintances.

Through morning hours we all brought our tack and floats past Buffalo Bill Heritage Center, back where the churches spill out into lines of tar on back roads with pretty shuttered houses winking from behind landscaping spoils we'd all love to call home except the sky hungry. "Too many trees," Paul smiles at me. You couldn't even see the stars if you lived here. We talk about New England and the oceans of green up in the northeast. Paul would drown there. I am beginning to understand the lust for the open land. My goldfish never grew until I gave them a pond in the back yard waist deep. Only then were they fish two feet long that ate frogs in one gulp that happened past. The right to bear arms is alive in Wyoming and nobody is mugged out here.
The ribboned pony carts braid through the crowd as we look for our numbers painted on the rim of the sidewalk that line us for the parade. I pass a rolling statue of John Wayne and smile though his hand is on the butt of his pistol. The Duke is the man of honor, and would be 100 years old this year. I walk past a flag for the 82ND and wonder if I should still drop and give one for the airborne. Crow Dog my pack prevents me. A man sees my old rank on my pack. "Morning Sergeant," he smiles. After a sea of horses fit with brown leather I am a backpack and cart standing by #91 waiting for permission to walk behind the Pizza Hut truck and commence waving to the gathered crowd like a drunk sailor leaving port. A nice lady steps down from the Pizza Hut truck and the piece f pizza that will be waving to the croud, handing me a coupon for free lunch somewhere on my travels. Smiling, I tell her I did think it was cruel to have me follow a float for pizza without the carrot on the stick giving up something. She laughs. I smile as I am putting the coupon carefully in my wallet and already smelling melted cheese and garlic mushroom sauce that's just aching to burn my tongue. Pizza Hut, 24 years in Cody. Strangers shake my hand from their mounts as well used horses fail to shy away in a thunderbolt like the cart horses in the Amish land of PA. often did. Some disbelieve I have walked America for two years and poke at me until I don't bite. Some believe and hope I believe them when they tell me that they wish they could join my leaving when the time comes but... Watching their eyes I know they speak the truth without unblinking. We all have different walks. I respect that. This is Cody. Tourists move in and out spawning through Cody, Yellowstone, and across America in climate controlled pods with flip down flat screens playing the Walton's television series, and Little House. Those that remain in their chairs and saddles through heat and the frigid winter winds are just leaning back in their chairs just like their teachers told them not to; hoping to fall...back to a simpler time, back to earth pelted under the sound of hooves running over open land where a broken watch is just as good at keeping country time as a top of the line 18k Rolex. My second watch died in the Rocky Mountains last winter and has gone unreplaced. In Cody just looking at my naked wrist and guessing is usually good enough. See you in the morning, before lunch.

03 July 2007

Losing Callus

It is after midnight and the parade, the idea of it, kicks my legs under the table. I know better than to stop for so long, the blood changes for the heart remembers, and punches hard in my chest to think of leaving again. Sleep? How silly. It is nothing to draw a sharp knife over and over across the hand. The body, the heart, the arch and heal all grow callus, grow accustomed to being without a tender comb of the hand. In the shower I see my restraint, my conditioning peel away from my feet to be lost in water, in the circle of the thirsty drain. Of course, of course, this is all of it. Birth pains. Dry laugh. Rather a push start to a laugh that won't turn over because of this fist in my throat that has me mouthing a index knuckle as remedy.
I have played one song, one song over and over until my heart is wet with it. Replay is pressed again. I can do a bear growl that makes the neighbor's lap dog hide behind the tree and whimper, yet plug me in to 2007 society, a landmass that I swim separate from and feed me too many emotions and I drown. It passes, given the sweet elixir of time, and it all passes. Hey, it all passes right? Outside of the weight of the sun furnace I walk in I have been shining for months. It is good to have a wet eye now and then, just for a bite, a remembering. Yes that is it, a remembering. It is all a women in the river walking toward me, singing over all that has floated past.