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.

27 March 2008

All These Words

Yesterday is working toward memory but I can still taste it, feel the eagle feather presented to me by Polly and by the Makah tribe, hear the great inner silence that comes internally before any great passing comes up to our feet.
This entry will not be enough so I will write it again, and again until I can set it down, make tea, and step over the distracting smell of clothes that are too clean and begin to carve out a book that kicks fiercely within me. Today I have spent at the Clallam Bay High School talking to one class after another, until I am in the gym telling stories to row after row of new faces and the reach of questions. I am hearing this new voice come out of me for the first time. Today is the first day after the walk. I am talking about bears, showing strings of ivories and playing the same worn cedar flute but this voice, this voice is new. I don't know this me. I don't know this voice, this man. He is braver than I am. He is stronger. He is already trying on new boots and countries between words he speaks, and I wonder about our future, our next road.

24 March 2008

Mountain to Blue

To the left is the Olympic Rain Forest that spoils its rain on me. The ocean comes in between the trees and then it is gone again like the ravens that are always searching. 19 miles of the walk remain. I could walk that in my sleep, and I will.

22 March 2008

Port Of Angels

Port Angeles, Washington

The islands are behind me. Miles remaining are in the double digits. Neah Bay. Cape Flattery. If I could get lost, take a wrong road that would spill me a thousand miles away; call on that part of the brain that makes the lost walk in a slow arch of circling confusion, then I would. This is normal I tell myself for the hundredth time. There is a ship that is coming to make my rescue from this island and I am seeing myself running to hide behind a palm, camping deep in the rain forest to avoid detection, chewing calories slower so I can listen.
Yesterday I saw a homeless man and I dug in my pocket. I ask about his sign, as I take in the sprawl of his belongings that lie scuffed by the Walmart entrance. "Oh, never mind about that. It looks like you've come a long way. A fellow man of the backpack. Bet you have stories to tell?" He is smiling through heavy stubble and takes my money without looking at it, without thanking. Somehow he makes me lonely. Somehow he makes me miss sitting by a river and the thick confusion of trees I often call home. I walk away without saying anything, feeling him staring me down the long grade toward the city.

16 March 2008


At Zippy's Java Lounge yesterday Marilyn asks me to speak at her coffee shop gathering scheduled at four tonight. With all my socks oiled with sweat, clothes quickly losing the illusion of clean traded down to a woven dishcloth wrung around fermented sleep and the grimy spittle of a thousand semi's roaring past, I measure distance I need to travel against the memory of dryer fresh socks and a shave. Some decisions decide themselves. I can walk faster if need be. I cannot walk myself clean, and since giving presentations about this walk is already contracted into my future (for which I am thrilled), I embrace the opportunity. Given a couch and a bowl of cut fruit, I am again a guest.
Later tonight I will catch the ferry in light rain, and stare into the evening water that is as black as a crow's eye. It will not be the first time I set camp in the dark on a field I have never seen, or squatted under a small dock where the mud flats wane. So I sip from a blue cup that isn't mine and just let my mind wander back and forward again, carried by some inner tide that looks forward to all the questions, questions that will remind me of all the little roads I never wrote down.

15 March 2008

Catching Waves

In a few minutes I walk to the ferry, set down CrowDog, feeling I have left something undone; a forgotten fire left burning back when wood still took to a match. For a day I have been lost on the coast though unconcerned as I moved miles along a river I couldn't cross. My maps are poor, ignorant of detail, tears folded on tears. Walking against traffic it is easy to miss signs.
Last night I slept under the perfect mouse trap, a fat barn owl that promised to safeguard the remainder of my cliff bars, cheese and jerky after enduring mouse raids three nights in a row. If I do not mention the weather, it is raining. It is a constant;not rude or aggressive, just the sky breathing in and out in a damp cool room.
From here I take in some islands. From here I walk through this vapor coming up out of my coat knowing I will again be clean soon. From here I begin to relax my grip on measuring the weight and longevity of everything I own. From here I see myself with new eyes that are easier on my history, steps missed and stumbled along before this road soften on the edges, back before all these roads walked.
There is a hard apple in my left coat pocket, almonds dry in the right. Even while walking I am sitting down and the sun refuses to tell me what time it is.

12 March 2008

Duvall, Washington

The cadence returns, the click of poles, the pattern of thoughts. Television has taken away my cloak if invisibility. The kind and curious stop throughout the day to take pictures. At C.C's I 'm given the largest mountain blackberry ice cream cone I have ever seen, and plod on down to the library sugar drunk. It is nice to have conversation seek me out on the road. Nice to hear confirmation that it matters, even this late in the game,.. especially this late in the game.

I got a note from a kind person saying that she wished she knew that I was in need for she would have raised money for a tent and a sleeping bag. The gear I have is worn and tired, but I have all that I need...though I am warmed by your concern. The only thing I fear now is weathering the end of this journey, not rain or the last snows of winter, not here, not now.

Sleep comes slowly now so I drug myself walking too many miles, and still the end of the walk keeps nudging me awake. In the back of my mind I weigh the few investments I have made in my old life and wonder how many roads and countries they could purchase. 'Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow' I read long ago, and I believed it then without proof. Now I have proof and I question the constancy of the rising sun. This is my heart love though, and I ache at the thought of leaving it. This is the song I was meant to push out of the pink of my lungs. Yesterday the thought of money quickly came to mind, walking this road north toward Monroe and the islands. In a few steps I found eleven dollars. After all this time, after all of the prayers answered you would think that I would relax the grip I have on the controls (controls that Have no real control) and trust that I will be given what I need when it is time...when I reach the ocean I will receive wings...or be taught to swim. First though, I will be given a computer and a pen, and then I'll take your memory out of a pile of books and listen.

Yes. I miss Roslyn.

10 March 2008

*** Please Note

Although I take great joy in all of these notes along the backroads and small towns of America, this is not the final product, this is not the book. After the journey's end, which is coming on fast, I will be melting all ten journals and all of these blog entrees into a book or two. What is rich will be richer and in color, what is...not, will be set aside and hold onto in memory.

If there is happiness that comes with this walk ending it has not nudged me yet, nor left a promise under the parka that is my pillow. My legs will stop because I have reached the ocean again, because there is a book to write, because I have an old lifestyle to turn into script so I can walk again...and eat without measuring days in my wallet. It has been three years since I have worked for money and not just volunteered, and through this I have lived mostly on my savings. My bank statement is thin but still has some manner of pulse that I now need to blow life into. Already I look at new gear and hear soft music playing as a wind machine lightly blows loose fabric from bolts of gortex and rip-stop nylon, while I inhale the scent of the next adventure. I allow myself this amusement, this placebo of freedom remaining to a walk that's ending. There was a time when I was afraid to begin walking. Now I camp outside the settlement, and feeling insecure I move closer to the trees until I am in night shadow. Still I listen as I wait on sleep. No answers have come yet and I wonder if I should pray for a window or a door.

09 March 2008

Wet Moose In My Pocket

The race is over at The Brick. Hands that feel like mine, and move like those of a stranger push gear down into the floor of my pack. This is the time that I am least aware of the value of socks in zip-lock baggies and the weight of envelopes stamped but addressed to no one. Leaving is many faces saying good-bye all at the same time even though I am alone in this one moment before I am again separated from companions entirely except for my own words blowing back on me, the imperfections of memory, the constant subtle seduction of miles unwalked beckoning me on.
You would think by now that I would be a master at disconnection. I thought I would be like that by now too. No matter how we exercise some muscle groups though they never seem to gain the girth and strength we desire, the speed of reflex, the mass of true confidence.
For three races my carved boat with a paper moose riding solo won clear victories. Then my hand carved maple 'Northern Expo' got caught up at the launching gate while the boat to my right went on to cross the finish line with my boat just beginning to figure out what direction the water ran. Race after race went on without me until it was time to put N.E. in the water again. This would be my last chance.
The death blow to my little craft happened in a great race though. My little craft 'Northern Expo' was blundering about for half the course, front to rear, bow to stern it turned in a little dance, and then, finally, at a start it woke up and slammed the accelerator down, caught a breeze, began to kick all four Flintstone feet. Out of nowhere my little craft raced up on the competition and drew to what looked like a tie from my vantage point just as we hit the checkered spittoon finish line. It was ruled that I lost so I put my wet boat in my pocket and felt a pout come up to my face... then I laughed. It is funny that a 3" boat and a stream of water can regress us to being 5 years old even if just for just a moment. In a few minutes I was rooting for my new friend Marilyn's boat called The Skillet. There was a tie, and another tie, and then victory. A hundred and seventy five dollar victory. I delighted in a celebratory hug and a Roslyn micro brew!
Now there were some of the most creative boats, hours at the kitchen table with paint,glue, carving knives, band-aids flagging primary fingers; all bringing to life some incredible ideas...and then there were wooden drawer knobs and plastic Happy Meal toys, and painted sticks, and a rubber 8 ball tossed into the race. Being a purist at heart I was glad a carved 3" wooden boat won. Since the whole idea of the regatta at The Brick sprang up from drinking a few beers and racing popcorn and wooden matches for the prize of a single cigarette or a local draft, an attempt to kill the taste of Tuesday afternoon boredom, I remind myself it's all for fun. In a 23' long running spittoon that runs under patron feet the length of the bar I guess anything floating downstream in a race is worthy if you have a hundred and fifty people cheering and everyone is glad they're here.

Larry, owner of The Brick, orders our table a round of drinks, shrimp and steaks, and for a little while I am family. Stories move around the table until we are closer, allowed to understand paths chosen and not, what it is like to own the famous Brick; the line of separation is not as wide as I once believed--the line that separates one life from another. Somewhere in my televisioned brain from the 90's I am still doing a series of comparing and contrasts with Northern Exposure but I have new faces now, new stories from people I already care deeply about, and brighten to see on the street.
We always remember how we fell in love with that special someone, the coffee shop she walked across and how all the world filled with perfumed music only we could hear, and to this one crystal foundation we begin to attach our lives, placing each stone hand. Roslyn.

07 March 2008

Moose Walk

Yesterday my friend Jan and I were heading up to Speely Beach when we spot the crew from Seattle, King channel 5 filming on Penn. Avenue Roslyn for Evening Magazine. Part of me wants to approach the three men working cameras and light reflectors. A larger part makes me do nothing, so it is only with a few prompting words from Janet's good intention that I am scribbling out a few details of my walk on a piece of paper and moving toward the men standing across the road from the well known camel mural. After a brief wait while John Curly gives details about Roslyn to the rolling camera, the four of us are shaking hands. Half an hour later I am outside The Brick with CrowDog strapped on and buckled to my back and a big kid's grin drawn across my face with a Sharpie marker.

Tonight on The Evening Magazine at 7p.m. I will have a small spot answering a few quick questions about this transcontinental walk across America. Oh, I pull out all the wrong words. A cold stole my voice so I sound like I ate a sock, and my clothes look like they have just tumbled out of the dryer but it doesn't matter. I am in Roslyn.
The camera rolled as I walked past the Northern Exposure totem pole, away from the camel standing in the Roslyn palms. Somewhere inside me this kid I used to know is sitting up straight and beaming with a thousand new eyes. For ten minutes of filming I am the stoned moose from Northern Exposure walking on four wobbly legs (two are hiking poles), moving past century old facades, feeling nothing but this huge glow in my chest that is leaking out in my expression. Janet is on the sideline shining at me with her camera moving on and off her pretty face. In my head I sense the Navajo children standing all around me, each one moving toward the movie camera toward their own reflection. I smell a thousand campfires burning and the punk of damp wood stuttering toward that burn, Amish families I stayed with are smiling away from the lens but still smiling modestly into their clothes. Cajun music swarms around my head in a small cloud of spiced wasps, as I look up at the long beaked bird grinning down at me from the totem pole, feeling every river I have ever crossed moves in and around my feet. How funny it is that I used to think I could walk across America alone.

05 March 2008

Regatta At The Brick

Saturday is the boat race at The Brick, in a 23 foot running spittoon racecourse, so I am working out my 3" craft design on paper before taking the knife to wood. Ideas are wallpapered in yellow paper stick-ups all over the inside my forehead. It is the twentieth year in a row of the spitoon race, and the reason I extended my stay....the excuse I used to extend my stay. The only race of it's kind in the world in a 115 year old saloon is here in Roslyn. The race lasts until early evening followed by 'The Brick Nautical Ball" at 9 p.m. with live rock n' roll music and dancing. All this plus food and a bazillion people yelling for their team. I don't care if I win.

Six hours later and my bruised fingers hold my carved moose in a bowl of water. Two other creations sit and watch knowing I didnn't pay attention when I read the rules. The moose is too wide. Maybe he doesn't need ears.

Leaving On A Sunday Morning

Yesterday I took down the sign on Dr. Joel Fleshman's office and brought it inside to dry out before it's rejuvenation, NORTH WESTERN MINING CO. The quarter inch plywood surface is beginning to delaminate into tan ribbon candy. The back structural frame is solid. Years and weather have consumed most of the white paint and black lettering so that it is more like a sign of suggestion than a statement, edges softened like memory. Marianne Ojurovich and her husband Joe own the historic building used in the show Northern Exposure, and they allowed the crew to use the building through years of filming. Now it is Cicely's, a gift store that is set up in the barely altered set interior of what was once Dr. Joel Fleshman's office. Yes, the dismal paint and torn wall paper in dreary sand tone is still there, the same depressing blinds rattle the front door when it is opened or closed...and it is absolutely beautiful to any Northern Exposure (N.E.) fan; and with the snow melting and summer coming the fans and tourists will come back --by the bus load.
As is my nature, or the nature of this journey, I wanted to get beyond the peeling paint and old stories now accurately know by only a few concerning the N.E. years. Within days of my arrivial I volunteer to redo the famous mining company sign and paint the facade of Fleshman's office. The weather slows and stalls the paintbrush with rain then snow and back again as the days begin to get warmer. Quickly Marianne becomes a good friend and we cluck away hours and through days. I sit at Marylyn's desk(the one used in the show) and flip through years of filming photographs taken outside these windows, in these streets and I am thrilled to have this passage, this invitation to share the N.E. years although my arrivial is late; a dozen years since the cameras stopped. Marianne makes tea for us in what was the exam room and taps the play button on the compact disc player. The opening theme for N.E. hums its drum beat and harmonica out to our delighted ears. Boom Ba Ba Boom Ba BA. Stacks of N.E. t-shirts and shining moose coffee cups underscore where we are. Across the street and to the left the camel is still walking through the palms (as on the camel cigarette pack). "People say to me,'oh man, I bet you just about hate that soundtrack from N.E. by now?' And I tell them straight out that I love it, I loved N.E.... this store is my way of keeping contact with those that loved the show too,"beams Marianne through morning sunshine blinking off her glasses at me. I can ask Marianne anything about N.E. and she never tire of my desire to travel back. Joe and Mariannee's son Steve was in nearly 50 shows as an extra and she becomes even more illuminated as if back lit when she tells me about the eposodes he was in. She is a sweetly proud mother.
No longer will I just watch reruns as a spectator when I leave here and so many are to thank. Just as I am now known here, the town shares its secrets and backstreets with me. Though I have no idea where I'll call home after the walk, this town, 'Our Town', already has a large place in my heart that will use its gravity on these feet.
Constant filming, a crew and sea of cast and support crashing in and out of Roslyn weekly frayed more than a few nerves understandably. Not everyone here grins when asked about the years when the series was being filmed here so I listen silently often and I'm allowed to understand the frustrations of not being able to get your mail because they are filming The Running Of The Bulls, or a chainsaw is asked to keep quiet with a few twenties so a scene can make a deadline. I am sure with a half dozen years of fulltime filming in a very cozy town 'the moose' could get old no matter how endearing he is.

01 March 2008

Walking Roslyn

Roslyn has not been just another town. After an interview with the Tribune Mayor of Roslyn Jeri Porter presents me with of pounds of dried meat and several pairs of hiking socks that are gifts from the town. I feel very honored. In another day I have a choice of places to stay, one friendly face after another telling me stories, the town's history, details about the Northern Exposure years, the ebb and flow of prosperity, residents, record snows, and where the mercury settles during the short fruitful months of summer.
Just as a television series has a cast of people, the set location is also an performer, a face that displays the emotions brought out by the lighting crew, season, music, and the actors moving in and out of each frame expressing their words. It would be difficult for me to think of a television series that used a setting more favorably, more inventively than the producers of Northern Exposure did when they put Roslyn on CBS for six years as the town of Cicely, Alaska. Even though the cameras have moved on, the expression of the streets, the tangled jingle of car keys and evening conversations spilling out of The Brick at closing time, the string of pearls under the full moon that is the historic buildings of Pennsylvania Ave(main str.); paint worn down to wind polished wood, the quilt of stone patch cemeteries upon the hill past the Roslyn camel in palm, and the facades of KBAR radio, Fleshman's office, Ruth Ann's Central Sundries, the barber shop and too many other locations to list, these pieces, these fingerprints remain. This town is an loved actor long after the show is over, I can't help but to remember as it worked the camera though much of the make-up has been removed by years, the progress of new town construction moving through the woods, and the unbiased weight of weather and age.

At 2a.m. I am with CrowDog leaning against the totem pole on Penn. Ave. The cold night air moves easily through my thinly layered clothing till my body shrugs warmth against it though I hardly notice. My natural stance has become somewhere just outside comfortable; too cold, wet, hot tired, under fed. It is no complaint, rather the edge on my thinking, my appreciation level over every gift, every blessing. Usually I am in my tent or some form of shelter by this hour; vapor from my breath annoys me by hanging repeatedly just in front of my face so I blow downward as I exhale into the open throat of my coat and untie the flute from the frame of my pack. Behind me, behind the totem pole is a new ugly lumber barn that shines vulgarly of new plywood, disrespectful of its surroundings so I don't allow myself to look there as I move the brass reed on the cedar pipe over the square hole that will channel the air and then I tighten the brain tanned leather that holds the reed and a carved Coyote Oldman fetish to the flute body. My breathing slows and deepens. This is the reason I am here at 2 a.m. This one glass plate of silence waits for me. Lips move over the tapered red cedar end where the New Jersey bear fat has been polishing a glow into the wood from nearly 3 years of rubbing on my right shoulder. Eyes close as the first notes move away from cold toward warmth, a weak puff becoming strength, becomes a current washing between buildings as if they were stones in a river bed. Nobody is on the street. Nobody is listening. This is when the cedar sounds the best, when the prayer has the most power because I am only playing to fill my soul, and all the roof tops and tributaries that lead up, up into the range of snow anchored to stone. I am up against the mural and curling back from glass storefronts, moving around the corner windows where the lighting falls out onto the sidewalk and waits. With eyes starting to open I am walking my gaze over a main street I have seen through countless reruns inside the plastic frame of television. The sound lifts the fine hairs on my neck where I am no longer cold. I am going back farther and then I am there; back before Iris Dement closed the doors on Cicely's last season singing poignantly the sweet sadness of 'Our Town'. The snow banks are more blue in the starlight, the facade of Roslyn Cafe is a hum of red florescent lighting lifting up from the door entry sign blushing the stonework from underneath. My eyes are too weak to memorize a feeling, still they strain outward then retire to close, then peek again. I have walked many of these roads now. I have stood at the fence of Maggie's house watching her porch light remembering, and I have counted the logs of Maurice's cabin then turned down the hill to watch the wavering light from over The Brick. As I put more sound into the air I realize no matter how much I take away I will be leaving more of myself here like these notes spilling away into the sky.