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.

01 February 2008

Leaving Vernonia (3)

Tomorrow I leave camp Isakson and even if the weather wasn't this rain, this perpetual wetness, there would still be an internal pang to compliment leaving. Another connection has been made; another valuable bead on a story belt, a belt now heavy with blessings...wealth beyond the value of currency. For a small town two months after a 4'deep flood, shops and homes with a river running through them, Vernonia has been one of the most receptive towns in western America. Standing in front of the town market spoon deep into a can of cold chowder I watch several locals look curiously at CrowDog, preparing to ask the usual spin before placing me and this journey in a box to make them feel more comfortable. The difference in Vernonia is that I am not placed in a convenient four walled container. Bill, proprietor of Cafe' 47, gives me a strong hand embrace and promises dinner on the house that evening, anything on the menu is mine for the asking. A few hours later I am elbows deep in tender wildberry glazed ribs, potato chowder that is both smoke and a ember of warmth lingering on my tongue,sweet peach cobbler and ice-cream that is a pool of sugar rising in steam, and the folding and unfolding of maps with adhesive fingers. A glow of temporary star status emerges as my autographed picture on walk cards is mounted on the wall over the dining table I've engaged for dinner, right beside Buffalo Bill Cody and several native chiefs in all their pre-reservation glory; all within a wall of Americana artifacts.
We are back at the store now though and it is still afternoon. Rhonda Isakson is moving past me fast in route to the thousand tasks that take up a day of a wife, mother, and working woman. When Rhonda asks an opening question at the storefront in passing she applies brakes to her feet, her day; becomes the lady at the well, and feels my thirst in the pulse of my answer. From taking pictures with her two children when she re-finds me at the post office I am given an open door into their home later that evening. Rhonda's husband is Christian, a fireman/emergency rescue worker as well as a triathlete who has shined through many Ironman competitions and understands intimately the rules of engagement, of living within a level of training that never ends. We bond within our first handshake, share an understanding outside of words, veterans that don't have to talk about the heat of fire and sacrifice, pain or isolation. The memory of it is a given, a mutual respect that drapes over into trust. Days here at the Isakson's have passed in five fearfully fast sunsets; the way I am afraid a lifetime passes after childhood is put away, and tomorrow I will walk on having been extremely blessed by my time spent here with Rhonda and Christian, and their seven year old son Ian and thirteen year old daughter Evelyn. Again I am handed a picture of family to move my fingers over and advance my understanding of the internal workings of love and commitment, family and gentleness being strength. Leaving for school, I am asked several times by Ian and Evelyn, "Jesse, you will be here when we get home tonight won't you? You won't leave us while we're gone? Right?"
"I could not, would not with a fox," I grin at Evelyn, and feel that old familiar hand open inside my chest, a hand dropping everything I know. A hand that will gather together again when I do leave, feeling certain I have lost something when walking away comes. Family. Even practiced, leaving is art best left to stronger men. I feel reserve unfurling. The precipitation on our faces is a premonition of the day to come. We have practiced good-byes every morning without getting the stronger for it.
Among too many gifts to count the Isakson's have also provided me with my 28th pair of boots, the final pair needed to complete this walk. The last pair of boots purchased by Chuck and Hanna(his canine traveling companion) on the east side of the Sawtooth Mountains have withstood more aggressive terrain and weather, swallowed more miles than any other boots of the walk. Now, with all the life walked out of them, I am taking off the Tecnica dog covers for the last time, surrendering the old skins into the new shoe box, remembering to pause and whisper thanks. Under rested shoulders I stitch the depression era Indian nickles that decorated the Tecnica boots (and many pairs before them) onto the new Merrell boot insteps. In three sleeps I will be in Washington.