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 June 2010

Jackie From Dinosaur-land...Please Re-email Me

Hello Jackie,
How's this for a personal note. I know you said you e-mailed but it fell through the cyber slot and never arrived. Since I think it is really important that we stay in touch I am leaving this memo. With so much going on it is important that like minds stay connected. Hope our trails meet again.

Jesse WhiteCrow

14 July 2009

I Thought I Heard You Talking But It Was Only Me

The rabbit hisses on a bed of garlic, onions and spice. One shot; the sound of a cough and then thanksgiving. Necessity was absent, but it is coming so I open old skills hesitantly. It was a warm life running at sunset and then a pistol sprinkling a little blood where the mountain lion hunts. The rabbit is young and small but can feed me for two days over rice. This is the salary I get without counting hours or braiding my hair with a silk tie of conformity.
The observing setting sun knows what is coming and says nothing as I wipe my hands on sage and green denim, then spit wipe my knife.
Last night I bought you and your new wife a simple dinner in a Tex-Mex diner because I was in your feet not long ago; though I didn't catch cars with my thumb. You knew about the coming storm and that conversation alone was worth a table and a glass of water that wasn't rain rolling off of canvas. You knew of the season of the fig tree though your words became tired quickly, the way the road ages even a good conversation; and two people have conversation on tap...they know nothing about fasting without words for weeks and that kind of wanting. And then you and your packs,and a boxed guitar I never saw outside its casket, are in my truck and I take you three miles away from town and questions so you can sleep in a quiet free camp. Some people need lights of the streets to sleep, and I wonder about this as I leave for my trailer across town.
This morning I brought donuts to the camp I delivered you to at the cotton wood grove on the Big Horn River. You were already gone though I wasn't to meet you till ten. After I walked down to where you tent was and studied the flattened grass to know your night and morning, I ached into the sunrise toward the Wedding of the Waters and hoped I'd find you both assembled there with packs lazy in the park. Last night's dinner was good-bye unspoken.
I ate two of the donuts and hated the warmth of the perfect morning dough. Hands sticky, I talked about leaving to my heart until there was no place to go except to step my shoes into the deep brown river, and rub my stickiest fingers in a fist against my chest.

04 February 2009

Breaking Trail (2)

In Cody Wyoming I step out of a coffee shop across from the Irma, a hotel/saloon. A rugged unshaven cowboy getting out of a large pick-up walks up to me. "Hey, your the man that walked across America." It is not a question.
"Out of all of the states, out of all of the miles and years you've walked across this U.S. of A. and you picked here to scratch out a home and write in?" He smiles hard enough to rise the peppered curtain draping over his upper lip. "Well, that there says something I tell you. Yes sir, That says a whole lot." We are standing where Sitting Bull once stood while considered the same setting sun. We are standing where Buffalo Bill Cody walked his horse toward the bar for another round of stories and moose steaks. We stand on historic land as we cut our heels across conversation about this big sky country; a place where grizzly and elk haunt the same mountains we saddle and pitch tents, and where a rifle in the rear window of a pick-up truck is as appropriate as a wide brim beaver hat weathered and riding three finger widths above our eyes.
Massachusetts is buried in ice and snow far behind me; buried like an outlaw gun. Seven months of too much solitude and a gnashing winter is over with few good-byes and no need for a rear view mirror. It was time to escape west between storms, between changes in political offices. I was born in the state of Melville and Rockwell, Thoreau and Emily Dickinson, and walked the liberty land of Lexington and Concord, and the harbor of the Boston Tea Party that apparently needs to be fed more tea. The nation is changing, and Massachusetts is lost in an ocean of anti Patriot laws and staggering taxation. Having walked the freedom road, I too have changed during my years without goverment regulation and wide open spaces. Ah, I've always colored outside the lines of the settlement. It was time to move to where some freedoms remain, and where six hundred thouusand people in the state of Wyoming mean less for mindless regulation. 5 people per square mile. FIVE. I think there are more horses than people here and a camper in every other yard. So much in this country is changing drastically. It is good to be under a wide forgiving sky, and know that for now I can breathe easier.

22 December 2008

Snowed Under

All of my hopes of beating the snow out of New England are dismissed under two feet of the white stuff. With jobs going belly up across America I was cautious to leave the minuscule salary I have coming in for the few hours I offer assistance each weekend. Now it is too late to leave. There are times when we are in places that are less than desirable. The trick is to find the reason, the covert blessing even, if it is at all possible.
At zero degrees outside I wake up in the vintage airstream. Even with the furnace on low it is 32 degrees inside my twenty foot home; this in spite of the insulating drifts of snow. My blanket is frozen to the wall at the foot of my bed. As I heat water for coffee beans I've just ground I know I have to thaw the venting windows before I turn the furnace up higher or the fumes will...well, it wouldn't be good. "Should have gone with the tiny wood stove," I mumble to myself as I turn on the lap top that I'm certain will shiver and sputter for an hour or more before it'll think of writing.
Like Minnesota, and the walk before that, this too will lapse into memory. Sometimes that is enough of a foothold to stand on while we wait out a less than ideal situation. It will get warmer. The snow will recede. I will get west. The book will be completed. Guess the big delay is that 'the book' is still happening; the visiting bears, washing my crockery at the river beside my trailer in banks and boulders of snow, and contemplating on all that brought me to this forested island of Otis. I am as unplugged as a man can be...next to my prior life of 3 years in a tent. All the news I get here is still second hand and old. When power goes out for days into a week, little changes in my routine. The river still brings me water. I retire in curtained and unheated section of my silver trailer so no fumes can dispatch me in my sleep. Meals are simple wholesome quiet affairs spent alone or with a beeswax candle and a book I am in love with.
It is time to be where I am for this moment, and I am thankful for all that I have to be here, for in a unique way I am rich. I walk to visit friends that tell me their stories both lived and those kept as pet dreams. We eat and laugh without clocks watching. Once a week I buy a tall bottle of beer to carry home and nurse for three days in a hand blown glass with a white crow carved deep in the side. The bears have found their own slumber on the east side of the uprooted tree, or perhaps in the hollows where the boulders are raked together during Creation.
In a week it is New Year's. When we need time to think, ruminate, focus, and the world takes our wheels away along with all of the roads leading out, it is a perfect time to be thankful that we have been saved from ourselves. Of course I would love to be with you now, and caress a thousand other adventures, or sit beside a humble mountain fire and listen hard, no, harder...but then again, I would not be writing this down. No. I would not be writing down.

14 November 2008

This Leaving Place (II)

This dirt road is a sharp smell of rock before it is a throated sound under another pair of exhausted shoes. Rain waxing and waning has had my legs swimming for two weeks in the cold bite of freezing water that melts leaves. It must be therapeutic; attempting to warm these wet socks dry walking this deciduous road as seasons merge. Leaving is a place I must go back to if I want the light returned to my eyes. The road knows me and counts my steps out loud in reverse; circling words that never land. Days till leaving. Days until knowing. This mouth of gravel is tallying, discussing. My ears erases and subtracts pauses spent in thought from miles served. The wet polished shine of the dirt road licks around another turn I must decipher before I can turn back toward my silver home by the river. The turn pouts where water has risen to cross over, then relaxes its mouth again into a line that is not partial to anything but the next mile, and then the next.
With what I earn in a day of light carpentry I could nourish a month of walking. This will forever be what I use to measure employment against now. In a week of nailing two hundred year old 26" wide pine boards, training saws down chalk lines and spitting out antique nails I could have a hot plate of greens, heavy bread, and a shingle of meat every day for half a year, and morning oats boiled soft while I wait for the sun to take the hat from my head. The road knows that I am an agitation of thoughts; senses the internal gravity pulling me toward where I should winter; knows I prepare my leave from where I have patched and processed.
Leaving is the lover as I entertain: have entertained in a while, and this intimacy I have with leaving, well, it's right there next to sublime... at least until I can't get my fix....another town, a strangers voice over a chipped porcelain cup, and all the uncertainty in the world. Alone beside a cold river is no place to sit and listen to rocks until spring. Soon the ice will move away from stone, cover the wide calm bellies where the fish nudge death, and then the rocks too will sleep.
Dark at four o'clock. These were hard months walking year after year when winter threw its white skirt over my head and made me dizzy with dehydration, and beauty, and hunger. Sewing seams that torn to a fray,and shucking chapters off second hand paperback while I read myself warm could eat only so many hours while I shivered on earth; the cold of the grave crawled up into my bones, my breath snowed down on my face, and there I slept. It was the cold that would always save me though, each winter as it filing all intention down into a black well of delicious sleep oiled with indistinct memories free of agitation and remorse. Winter saved me from thinking myself broken, and the cruel way a mind envisions the idyllic comfort of warmth always dancing with two good blankets always just out of reach.

22 October 2008

Our Breath Before Us

Flurries fall as I talk to you on the phone outside the airstream. It is too cold to talk long standing just in my capalene underwear and I'll lose you if I step inside the trailer, so I talk faster and skip words I think you know. I can feel the Arizona sun in your voice while hearing the wind blowing in through the open window of your car into your upbraided hair. The bear visits me now nearly every night, as does the sleek black porcupine that comes to my door asking for the tips from my okra and the peelings from the onions just skinned for a stew. The bear is apple fat and too curious so I watch him: I watch the killing frosts make him brave.
Where will I go from here that won't be a stepping down; that isn't moving into a dank room with windows painted suggestions on concrete?

BaseCamp writes to me from the mid west to tell me that half a year has elapsed since I put CrowDog to rest under a winter coat worrying two hangers, and an elk skin shirt I painted for a month yet never wear. Without saying a word I look over my shoulder toward the computer as if it is the dog that is misbehaving on the rug: causing me to write so little in so much time. It drops its eyes. My eyes soften toward it. Both of us are being bad on the same patch of rug. Summer is spent. The computer is patient; then it bites. I am a man designed for adventure and making Hemingway scribbled notes in a Moleskin pad yanked from my coat during a reservation mock up of a bull fight. Domestic I am not.

"Where will I go from here", fills every hour of my internal banter? "When will I know I've arrived," is the next question? I talk to the bear now as it turns back at the old stone wall by the creek, then hesitates. Its round face blinks at me; asks if I want it to stay. Fear is like any high, any trick. After a while it no longer accelerates the blood or unsheaths any new emotion. The bear sits on rocks heavy with brittle white tripe and thirsty moss. I am not fool enough to feed the bear, or incited enough to send it off to where I should be following. I had a dream while on the walk. Maybe I told you about it? A large griz had me on the run until I sought a hide in a large hollow tree. As I climbed high into the inner tree the bear plugged the mouth of the tree with its upper body as it tried to lash out at me with claws and teeth to pull me down. Retrieving a pistol from my coat I shot down at the great bear's skull. Without ceremony it went silent in death below me, silent as a prayer; and in dying it sealed my fate to perish in the nailess coffin of the tree. When I awoke I was gasping for air, and certain that if I ever took the life of a bear I would lose mine in the exchange.

It is easy to be unafraid talking to the bear on the stone wall when we are both soaked in darkness except for this one hard beam from my flashlight. I don't wake my pistol any more to go walking at night. There is the scent of being brave, but this is not it. When a person is looking for answers, direction; it is no foolish thing to be in the dark with a bear that listens to my voice move out to it as it sits on the stone wall by the creek, and our breaths dissipate between us, and return anew. The leaves are breaking down, already a month past pretty. We are both hungry, this bear and I, both wondering if we should venture into the tangle of woods, or move toward the soft rot of apples and the yellow light that falls out the windows from the warm houses in the valley below where we know we don't belong.

07 September 2008

Leaves Coloring Water

Summer months in the Berkshires have passed by with pages written, then re-written as I reside in my '48 Airstream with living easier than I can remember it ever being. The young, and age weakened maples already garnish reflecting ponds with red flames that will soon engulf trees and water in canopies of fire. The F-150 pick-up I left behind during the walk has become wormwood waiting on a grave, promising to take me nowhere; so I put dollars away and watch local driveways for a clunker to purchase that can ferry the Airstream and myself west before winter tucks me into New England without safe wayfaring options being again available until spring thaw arrives, and my convictions to travel undoubtedly weaken.
These are simple peaceful times of predictable pleasures; coffee sipped while proof reading chapters in the coolness of morning, watching wild turkey and deer nudge apples outside my windows, and meeting the few friends that still reside in the area to share fires and popping clams on grills until evening becomes early morning and hardwood ash...and of course I am delightfully reunited with the delicious sound of rain on the airstream roof chanting me through night of sleep. It is a good time to take stock of blessings, and consider each sip of cedar with renewed gratitude as I size up tumble worn sweaters that begin to take on an autumn appeal I couldn't imagine feeling weeks ago. In my small silver longhouse everything that decorates the walls has a list of stories that come down to me as I write and prepare for walks (and on those rare occasions that I linger between being awake and approaching the blank canvas of sleep. New walks begin to murmuring in my ears when it is late and all else is silent, and I am most vulnerable to suggestion. America is still talking to me about winter farm houses twinkling across three fields, and weaving steps under the smell of laundry on a drying line. Although I thought my wayfaring lust would be silently content by now a voice I can hear inside my head is whispering "There is so much more I need to show you. Is this what you walked over eight thousand miles to find? You are resting Jesse. Writing,...and resting, just as do the birds that align their thoughts toward migration. It is good to heal your feet and get some of the words out of your head so you can forget and remember. Just don't forget that you have found your voice, your calling, and your voice is in the leaving."

02 August 2008

Writing For A Fall

Evenings are usually my strong suit. The air is cooler, and life outside the airstream is quiet. Only the river moving past appears to grow in volume. Blue berries are freshly picked and in the frig for breakfast, while tea slowly cools inches from the mouse I scroll words with. As much as I love to write, it is heavy labor to keep myself behind this desk as I write down from journals a thousand reasons to begin anew. Selling possessions at this sale and that is a contagious, infectious way of seeing what I own, or I'm owned by. Now I sit on the couch and wonder if I need to own, or be owned by anything...if that is all the sea and land that prevents me from returning to the great red road, and writing again with new stimuli. These are grand considerions I place on myself, the incredible yoke of owning nothing, and the marriage of leaving without one thought looking back: nothing to be stolen, lost, rusted to worthlessness (like my truck that now coughs down the road), stored in rented space for mice to dine and nest, and/or beg relatives for half room to harbor boxes to open someday...if someday ever comes again.
Returning to the Berkshires after nearly three years of walking is the Rumpelstiltskin of my life. I go to the markets when I want and need no food in hope of seeing a face that will welcome me back; that will remember my leaving and beg for an account. No familar faces come at me hungry. The rare faces familiar yawn a greeting as if I have stepped out and then returned with a drink. If you are about to leave all that is for three years abroad, do not take one step if it is merely to feed the imagination of some great return. I will tell you now that the curtains will still wave you in but all occupants will be different, even if they are still there, especially if they are still there. The spindly fibers that will be the same are simply the long term props, and they offer little to comfort a soul with hunger for a house. No. It will never be enough to return to if you too follow my leaving. But leaving for the leaving? Now we are drawing with markers and bright paint on the end of sticks and anything glourious is possible.
When the walk was almost over I promised that I would sit down and write this book before I take on another adventure; before I stand up and push in the chair...or sell it to buy new boots. Keeping promises to myself, and others is how I finished the walk. It is how I will finish the book. Come spring I do not know if I will be barefoot in a field of berry bushes, or somewhere closer to leaving...a leaving that really, is going home.

21 July 2008

Raising The Dead (Edit, take two...or three)

The '48 Airstream is now my home, while everything that does not make the cut into this reconstituted life; boxes that have patiently awaited my return, and an odd assortment of treasures carried over from my life before the walk receive price tags, and sit on Saturday morning tag sale blankets in hopes of adoption. Even the rifle I loved weighs too much with burden of bullets. What was a sweet taste in my mouth has become sour. Walking I was less alone simply because I had not arrived.
Everything now has the rose and thorns of old memories, associations that usher me back to what was before, little lives that went jaundice and died before I could live this one. Ghosts of three winters past pull their sheets off and stomp their feet in hour after hour of deafening memories silence. I am really alone for the first time since the walk ended, and the initial curtain falls hard. For three days after I arrived back in the Berkshires I sat on my half moon bed without taking food or water, letting a thousand memories feed on me until they had their fill on what was my flesh, on what was the pink of heart and lungs. When I was reduced to bone, I stood up slowly, got dressed, opened all the windows, and then I looked for writing paper as tea water called from the stove.
I phone the paper to work up a story, but there are are new stories involving shootings, fires, or who will be the new president. There is always a new shine to tend to. It is time for me to write from journals and look at pictures to show you, while I wonder if I should sell everything that I own under this humid sponge of sky ...knowing that I can live on ferns and turtles, and the emergency reserve of a gold coin sewn into the tongue of my boot. A seductive autumn that is already nudging the valve off inside the stems of maple trees is weighing clothes I think to keep.
The good thing about all of this is it is all transitory. Nothing I touch is solid. There is peace in my perspective where there was once urgency. There is no place that I have to be. The only employment I hold is to my self. There will be colors to startle come late September. A creek that runs past my trailer runs cold even in August, and somehow, across a mottled quilt of country that I now know intimately, I got your letter today.

15 June 2008

Shining Time

There can be no harder way to sit still than to write about the joys of a journey; to chew each day from journals ten inches deep with all of the people that were once strangers, coming to life again. Once I can get myself to sit still and write, I am excitedly turning each page, sinking again into the cypress swamp while I portage CrowDog over my head to save myself redundant miles of road, skin out a frog that is as big as a plate as I give thanks for his buttery legs, or make camp under your field of apple wood knowing your trees will erase the cumulus clouds of my cook fire. As soon as I start reading, my feet(feet that once complained for the loss of all luxury)get to where they can barely be contained in the crib that is the space under this desk; heart joins feet, lungs inflate as if preparing to sing, and I am certain that I am only strong enough to write a little while longer before I am a once again life simplified and buoyant under a backpack with a world filled with possibilities known only to the living, running for the door with my favorite dirty hat girdled under my chin by cord.
Two weeks. In two weeks I am gone from Minnesota, a Minnesota I have grown to love, pulling a wagon east (with a jeep)to Massachusetts to reconstitute some kind of life from boxes of memories, a motorcycle, Airstream, and a truck I am afraid will drink too much. In two weeks I say good-bye to Basecamp with completion in our eyes, and a unique sadness smooth and proud on our faces. From Maine to Louisiana, Louisiana to the Arizona border of Four Corners, north to Montana, west to the Oregon coast of Newport, and lastly a wandering line up to Cape Flattery and the end of well over eight thousand miles of walking. Basecamp and I have kept our promises to each other that will forbid us from ever truly being lives unrelated again. It is summed up in the one word that is in calligraphy in the white gold ring she gave me when the walk was completed..."Always."
Life is a funny creature. There is no figuring the depth or marvel of its plan. With Alexcia and her new husband Paul, I prepare to head east. We share dinners, go to plays at the Guthrie Theater, and thus begins a new chapter in this wonderful life. In the end (that is really the beginning), Alexcia and I are allowed to be the cherished friends we were alway meant to be outside of parental constraints, and this is all the joy in the world.

27 May 2008

And So This Is Christmas, In May

In four days, it will be a year ago that I walked into Thermopolis Wyoming. The longest stay of my walk across America was spent in Thermop as the temperature rang up to 110 degrees and all the grass turned into sand. Two months after the walk was completed finds me again in Wyoming, except now I carry a small backpack, and although the calender nudges me to return to my writing in Minnesota, there's no urgency to walk into the Rocky Mountains again as another winter approaches...( it hasn't stopped snowing here yet from last winter). I've made my way back to Wyoming to return an unfired .44 mag that I unsheathed twice to hold ground against a couple of grizzly's that proved to have no threatening interest in me. I also returned to Wyoming to touch base with the family's that opened their lives, hearts and homes to me. It was in Thermopolis that I lived with the pastor's Ron and Debra Higgins, stripped and shingled their roof, and bonded with the Higgins family and the surrounding town of Thermopolis
It was young Jessica and Ian Higgins that came up with the idea of throwing a big party to celebrate the holidays I spent alone on the walk, and that idea was all Debra needed to deck the halls. Last night in Thermopolis Wyoming, friends came out of 'Dinosaur Town' to join in a feast of pork tender loin in peach apricot glaze, shoot me with streamer popping firecrackers, tell of new paths and roads that have been penciled into their tomorrows, and open their presents wrapped up in bows.
As I look around a jubilant table of friends, I can not help but shine bright. Jessica Monday catches me starring at her after she closes her eyes to a flavor across the table from me. She gives me an expression that is an embrace, hearts bound in likeness and a promise of words that in time will be the new movement under our feet. Lisa and her mother Mid are dressed up in red and green, and smiling through red glasses of punch. Ron and Debra Higgins are making a toast that bookends all the emotions, the reasons that we pool around this island table of Thermopolite friends, and how lives have sewn been together by a man walking through their lives. Ian sits beside me and grins up at me like it really is Christmas and he is glad for the eating of it, the unwrapping, all is collected, at peace and good. Everyone is buoyant on the great smell of pumpkin pie, pork happily tender and sweet to the fork, almonds flickering in a sea of green beans, steaming wheat rolls, and real mashed potatoes speckled with the color of the earth. It is a meal of flavors and faces I have missed for so long. It is the gold ring I found in the snow on the last pass over the Continental Divide. I am again in the hot air balloons over the Rocky Mountains flying on a childhood promise.
This is not the brown Thermopolis I walked through, or the scrub grass of a blistered road to Cody. Every thing is mint, sage, forest green, and the delicate pale leaf hue of life just stepping out into the sun after a long winter white.

11 May 2008

Under A Weaker Sky

The play Gem Of The Ocean is over, as is the dinner that was at Alexcia and Paul's, eight miles away from Joppa Lane,where I reside for another month. Funny how life pulls some strings together, and unties others. These are tender times I wouldn't trade for the world. In some ways it is dying off and seeing how the living take our place after we are gone. I find it a kindness to see Alexcia happy; to see her new life sitting around glasses of wine and the good clatter of people eating through smiles, and our dogs peaceful and tired on the floor. In a week she will be legally married to Paul. Saturday.
They dropped me off tonight under the green canvas canopy at Joppa Lane and backed slowly up the road to change in direction before driving home. Home. I watch as if they can see me standing here in the dark; watching because that is what the dead do. It is not like sadness though. Mostly, it is watching somebody you love win. It is smiling into a city night sky that is as weak as I am and I'm thinking that this one wrinkle that I made has been forgiven, ironed out with bigger hands of purpose. One thing crooked has been made straight.
After Saturday I alone am WhiteCrow again. In a month I head east with a box that will be the unfinished book under one arm. Alexcia tells me that her father forbids me to take my log cabin that I constructed, then I helped built his barn to work off the materials; forbidden am I to even step onto his land to see it. I wonder who is the elder and who is the prodigal son. Sometimes we all fall down. Three winters have come and gone. Some winters never leave even when the snow goes under ground.
It is good to see Alexcia, and the dogs we shared. The dogs have grown plump living away from the running fields of New England. There are days I think of dating again, but I know this is the time to be quiet inside, and listen. For three years I walked across America, talking to the earth and the wind to keep silence at bay. Now I am in the company of people from time to time, and I just try to keep my mouth still. Spring is kind. Under an open window I lie in my tent and hear what was. There are always things to miss, simple things like the one room log cabin and the sound of rain talking on the porch, the smell of deer stepping on swamp cabbage. Everything is different now.

09 May 2008

Nevada Community School

(Portion of letter re-printed with author's permission.)

Hi, Jesse - I'm at my computer listening to the thunder and rain outside my window and reflecting on our wonderful days together. The children were still buzzing today about you and your message. I was with a group of students who didn't hear your talk but saw you walking in the hallway with your gear. I spoke about you, your dream, your message; they were so attentive. I know they'd love to meet you, too! I promised them I'd get a copy of your book to their middle school library and let them know when it is available. I stopped by Kedra's class after school (the young teacher with the two children who teaches 1st and 2nd grade kids) and she already had displayed the pictures she took (she'll send you a copy). She said she had children write more about your visit than any other experience they'd had this year. I got goosebumps! When I told our principal about the connection the students made between you and their math problems, she teared up. Her comment was, "I don't know where you found him, but I'm sure glad you did. I've never seen the kids more enthralled. He gave them so much hope." So . . . whatever is next, your walk has already made a difference in the world............ once again, thank you for taking the time and energy to come to Nevada, Iowa, and share your journey (both walk and life) with us. Love, Judy

Days move past too quickly. The school in Iowa is already behind me, and I have more faces to miss. If there was one element, one thought that I hoped to give to the Nevada students it was the ability to believe in whatever unique dream that lands on their immature shoulders, blooms in their minds, and the courage to embrace it...no, the permission to embrace it. If I have given hope to even one student, that whatever can be dreampt can be lived, then I am thrilled. I received as much as I recieved. Maybe more. Now with the physical journey behind me, it is easy to forget the pulse of the walk...if I allow time to take its toll and fail to do my homework of writing the book so much will be lost.
There is nothing like a school full of energetic inquisitive students to remind me what really matters. I don't usually run to adults to hear about the magic and passions of life, and to see an electric gleam behind the eyes. Children want to know that Huckleberry Finn is real, and there still is a place Where The Wild Things Are, that the whole planet isn't plastic and domesticated behind barb wire and regulations (that succumb to even more laws daily) . Sitting here all day at the computer is easier Now...because I see more clearly that it has mattered to you.

26 April 2008

Last Snow

What was promised has made the field outside white again. I still sleep in the tepee tent by the open window on white carpeting so I felt the weather coming in, felt the lite down bag begin to work at keeping me unaware of cold falling down. Writing the book is learning new skills, and abandoning trails that lead in circles, over paths I didn't intend to take. For a week I walked around this desk and drew maps holding pictures of where we met. It wasn't until I told an old acquaintance about my journey in three sentences and saw her eyes glaze over that I knew I had to sit down and capture what it was that I experienced before time erased the details and stunted the passion. When we finally realize we are going to die we sometimes become the most worthy of living
Everyday I am with you now as journals are gleaned and poured over and I am so thankful, still sitting on that stripped roof beside pallets of shingles watching dog eared tar paper talking to the wind while you compare your road to mine until we are both longing, and yet know we have chosen our roads well. I can't carry every act or gesture into print and this is some level of sadness, as if you'll think I don't remember your couch and waking to your children staring inches from my face, as if you didn't open your Mexican pantry and tend to me with sardines and hash while your tractor froze to the field.
In a week I go to Iowa to speak to seven classes at a school in the town of Nevada. What is not in print, what you can't know is that you'll be there too. Not a hand is raised or a question taken in that doesn't make me reach back to the time when I was in your town, and slept under your sky. Already I have talked to many schools across America and it still takes me days to come down again. To talk about ones passion is to smile until the face hurts. There will be another journey. For now I cut, paste and remember laughing with Amish children, and the joy of eating a whole coconut custard pie while sitting in a snow bank watching your buggy trot past.

15 April 2008

Gear That Made The Grade

Taking things out of the Dana Design Long-bed external frame pack(CrowDog)it appears to be time to make lists of the gear that earned their keep. The entire blog is printed out inches thick. Pictures fill ten disc's and journals still hold to their dozen tall stack in wait to be tugged and filtered, enhancements and the knife. It has begun.

Katadyn hiker pro water filter and storage sack.(I also used a First Need water filter but changed over after the second filter went belly up in Louisana due to stagnant crawling slithering water. No way to really back flush the sealed system.)

Polar Bottle was a gift in the Sawtooth Mtns. It is a plastic water insulated water bottle with a nipple that can be removed and cleaned then replaced. Nice. Helped keep water water in a frozen tent, and held off some of the inexhaustable sun.

The back of a roadside life vest was cut and sewn into a seat pad for all of those thousands of rest stops where I sat on every nasty, cactus spike as well as snow bank. Priceless!

Snowpeak has been gold to me. I carried a double walled giant titanium coffee type cup that served for every eating task that wasn't consumed straight from the pot, as well as the french press I designed for it. It never failed. One of my truly prized pieces of the walk. I engraved the exterior with a diamond bit and trinkets(old earrings and rings I was given along the journey) decorated the handles. Native art in the most modern/traditional tradition. It was lost for a month early in the walk(left on the back of a gas station tollet).I wailed in a frozen pumpkin patch. Stripped of art and enhancements it is a sixty dollar cup with tax. Have I mentioned that I love it. Even a tooled sterling and ivory lid to keep the coffee hot. That's love.

The MSR fusion two man tent was a bit stout in weight...but it took me in and out of every extreme. I had nearly 2' of snow on the roof at a time and 70mph winds(separately) and it held firm. Even saw me through a tornado...squished but sprang back. 27 people died that day. I had no idea how close I was to joining them. (TN)When the tent just plum wore out I sewed it into a new pack cover. Having a brown tent of pack cover is extremely smart. So often I wanted to become a knoll of sand ..so I did. This tent was my favorite and an absolute blessing.

Small zip pouch with assorted teas...all decaf for evenings around the fire or talking softly to maps, considering roads to hoe, and journaling. A nice coming down after a 25 mile day carrying 70 pounds up a slow grade that never ends.

Separate pouch for water bottle...it stunk but it was what I had so I endured never finding a better replacement. Dana Design. The one I began with died In the searing south. It was perfect.

Evernew titanium deco tea pot. The lid loves to hop up from a good seal as the water heats. I always grumbled over as I shoved it back with scorched fingers..but I really like the pot. The round belly bottom third makes easy cleaning and allows me to fit A lot of food in a small container. Constantly in use. Needs decorating...I'll get on it.

Each yoke shoulder strap has a pouch. Both are nearly white now. They were black. Here is where I put my 82nd Airborne Division patches/and rank. They got my hand shaken a lot, especially in Texas. Nice. The pouches were so nessary, so part of a working system. For toothpaste and a brushing, camera, and lip balm nobody wants to drop the house every time you down a Snickers.

One small Sea To Summit water proof bag. This was a last resort dry bag. I don't think I ever pushed its limits but it always gave piece of mind;vital papers, pictures, sage, bear claws, windproof matches, pack towel,beaver teeth...you know, the usual.

I love titanium but a good fry pan is a must for a pancake junkie so I took a saw to a nice aluminum pot and made a fry pan with a coated finish that loved to make great cakes as much as I love eating them. 8 ounces but love is love. I made the handle out of a wooden carving tool handle, brass tacks and aluminum muffler tape. I tried to walk without it for a few weeks. Boy, those were long weeks of muttering bad words at a too thin pan that burned batter on contact. Out of a pack towel I sewed a cover for my good fry pan. It protected the cook finish...and I could decorate it.

A first aid pouch crammed fat with all kinds of goop and body patches I never used.

A glow in the dark frisbee was my dinner plate. I rarely used it but sometimes I was sharing a fire and offered a dinner. It was nice to pull out my hand carved bear spoon and frisbee...and happy smile wired to my stomach.

Most always a gortex parka and pants. I used a marmot rain coat, and north face pants that were too thin for even the dullest briar.

All fabrics were/are earth tones. Never did I want to advertise my place in field, woods or desert. This military mind set served me greatly...probably saved my life.

A lot of gear I handmade or tweaked beyond the term of simple so I can not fairly say that I used a standard.... Often standard was over produced or wimpy. This is where passion and experience come in.

The sleeping bags changed depending on season. Through out LA. and a lot of serious desert I went without a sleeping bag. In the Rockies I sometimes carried two. (one very light weight to double up with). I only used down. This takes special care. Because this was keeping me alive I find this care to be a small tax. I used primary Feathered Friends -30 sleeping bag and a 20 degree Mountain Hardwear. Both were flawless.

Except for winter hats I always wore a Tilley wide brim hat in cotton or nylon. They are expensive but do what I need and replace for free. The sweatband needs special care or it smells awful day after day in the desert but most people are less a stranger to soap than I was. I just couldn't afford to waste water washing. When I washed a pot I drank the water. On filthy days my legs got one cup of water to come clean. I hate sleeping with my legs sweat/filth welded together.

Though I carried a bug head net it was unness. When the flying devils got too intense it was usually tent time and too @%##!** hot to re-breathe what I just steamed out into a fine mesh head cover at 120 degrees.

MSR makes a folding spatula. Nice. A must have.

Just before the end of the walk I was given a three quarter length Thermarest pad that went through a flood. I got 'let down' by so many inflatables I shrugged that I'd try it. It was the only one that didn't fail. I was sooo happy. I was sleeping on a hard solid Thermarest on feet of snow before that and nights were painfully long. Not good.

Carring a couple of very large clear strong plastic bags that saved my sleeping bag in extreme rain for 2 months straight. Now one seems a smart staple.

A golf umbrella saved me from life as a raisin and rain down my spine...high winds.. forget it. Lost my prize umbrella in Idaho. I walked back up a canyon 8 miles on suicide turns only to see it had been adopted. Gone. It was 500 miles before I got another large umbrella from a kind postal employee. It wasn't a Gust-buster from Brookstone like the one I lost but it was some protection in the land that never stopped raining.

The titanium flask from Snowpeak was a gift in Penn. from Basecamp. I kept it filled with Capt. Morgan spiced rum when I could to celebrate great turning points in the walk and share with special people. Now I can't look at it without seeing the hundred faces that sipped from it. It became incredibly valuable..and will always be.

Basically the clothes I wore was the bark and the dog. I did carry a fleece sweater/windproof, several scarfs, and socks. Nothing cotton. Period. The socks were usually Workwear with Patagonia liners. Four pr. of each. The Workwear socks are similiar to Smartwool but a bit lighter as I have hot feet and size 14 shoes are hard enough to find in West Nowhere.

Gaiters were a constant to keep out stones, ticks, rain, sun and keep socks cleaner. Funny thing is that many people looked down their nose at them. "Why do You wear Those things?" As if the way they asked would have me running for a trash can to dispose them. Never. They work, and work hard. I wore through two pairs. One pair was Mountain Hardwear. They were the toughest. They hide a knife and a gold coin well too. If you have to ask... I am not airport friendly.

The cedar flute I made before the walk and its case did the whole walk. I didn't always take it out( as my playing will attest) but I loved that it was ready to compliment any season or mountainside .....batteries never included. It has similar stories as the flask.

Food food food. A lot..well almost all of my food came from Mom and Pop's dusty shelves across America. Yes, the reporters got this right, I did catch and kill to eat but we're not talking moose here...the other end of the telescope. Couscous, instant mashed potatoes, jerky, dried corn, oatmeal, Bisquick, chili peppers, rice, and everything I could glean from the land. Everything.

A couple of pens, stamped postcards, and scrap paper made up the office. Nothing fancy. Maps of course, and an always present journal by Moleskin, in a cover of beaded buffalo skin I made for the journey that only got more beautiful. Worthy of holding every story I was given.

A small titanium Snowpeak (sierra type design) was the work horse of my kitchen; coffee cup for strangers, pancake batter, mix bowl,and bath cup. Fresh (when possible) coffee beans were crushed in my double walled titanium cup with a stick I cut daily. As wood became less abundant I carved a nude woman out of gifted scrap mahogany. Her name is Latte' and in her hand she holds a miniature version cup. Through years of cook fires and tumbling in leaves and back into the pack she is the deepest brown to black and heavily oiled from coffee beans with a carved feather in her waves of hair. She is very high in caffeine.

Carried are two headlamps. One ties to the pack frame and blinks when the road is hazardous. Petzl is the maker of both and one is fully adjustable...although the blinking when the battery is low is plain stupid. The human eye will overlook a light in the woods. Nobody overlooks a blinking light. From a broken tail light I carved a red filter. That helped.

If I detail this to death I could write all day so I will round it off.My only surviving camera is a Casio 6.o mega pix digital. I love it. Tiny and great. The resulting photographs I captured are super. You'll see. One stove are a titanium Primus the company gifted me (the only company that gifted me anything) that runs on those small pressure gas cans that screw into the stove. At 2 1/2 ounces it is a constant back-up...and in months of rain the only stove I use. The titanium Sierra Zip stove is another item of love complete. I cooked with everything from moose dung to pine cones that fell on my grandparents grave when I visited for tea and thinking before I started walking. The stove runs a very small blower in the bottom of a double wall pan that has holes in it. It is a hot blaze when tinder is set inside and a flame is added. For 90% of the walk I carried no fuel. BLISS! The stove is highly decorated with a sterling war metal from my grandfather, metal tag from the year of my birth, and a silver plate marking the journey across America.

Yes there is still more...but to tie up the bag I will just add the knives I carried. For more than the first half of the walk I carried a Pipe hawk I made before the walk, weapon, tool and pipe I did rarely smoke with sage,cedar bark, and sweetgrass.

I Bartered an old blade and a gold coin for a Jefferson Spivey Cross Country Saber Tooth Knife in Cody, WY to stand off bears with.(designed by a man that rode a horse across America) I'd lose but I'd stand ...and did stand. You only run when there is somewhere to run to. I loved that my index went through a hole just short of the long razor edge so even in a struggle the retention remains. Of course I brass tacked the rosewood grips. Sadly I lost a couple blades, but adopting a few that I was given by friends including a Cold Steele knife Trail Master that was made for an adventure. The MercWorks pocket knife got attention when I pulled it out, and it was all business, truly my intimate knife that was made to gut and skin, set emergency snares, and out survive us all.

With all the laws regarding firearms and state lines I will dance over this last topic by saying I carried what I could when I could. In the south west I found a .22 against a rifle was worthless. Then, that's another story.

11 April 2008

New Snow Rising

Eating a scone, I move to the sliding glass doors that open to the balcony, chew without tasting; taking in calories I am no longer desperate for. Dry swallow swallowed. New snow is falling down, moving through the trees wearing that familiar white lace and pearl gown I used to watch her disrobe just for me. Being inside while it snows, drinking this tea...watching her, this woman of sky, move while unaware I'm watching...I feel like I am with another lover three stories up, yet alone. I am cheating on her in secret and it is only wounding me. I am behind glass standing on white carpet. She only knows that she knew me well more than a few yesterdays ago. She only knows it is spring and we had the last three whole winters together before fingers that held tight, opened. She is a more subtle memory now, delicate, a whisper turned down low and smelling slightly like ice breaking evergreen. Soon she'll be reduced to just this memory note. Who I was has also evaporated, risen up through the ceiling vent to the outside world, up past the yellow, red, green and blue kite abandoned to struggle in the leafless treetops outside this door; a reduction of myself putting everything tied by one strong string waiting on the next passing wind; putting everything into the ink of a pen.
The book gets louder, more demanding. Thank God. I can't bear another brush of soft suggestion. The floor of my room is thirty five maps moving toward a bed I won't lay on. The desk is feathers, a snake rattle, the first moleskin walk journal open, spine broken, and twenty pieces of longing; confessions shaped into bone, an ounce of Canadian gold sewn into a boot toe, silver beads separating claws on a string, and a worn pocket full of trinkets that smells like walking in a humid summer. If I just get it down on paper I can start to breathe deeply again knowing I no longer have to carry this all inside, hands already full and spilling.

03 April 2008

Becoming Unplugged

There was a part of me that was going to give this text up. There is a pile of journals on the floor twelve thick and I haven't re-read a page. They are thoughts digested and I have to chew these feelings now. Why not share the flavor; meditate on the texture, the grain, and try very hard not to swallow until I know if it will nourish me, sour my blood, weaken my bile. Or worse.
How do we come back...really? Crawl up and out of the forest floor trying not to wake the sweet gum tree beside us? Comb the desert and three years of wind and silica from our hair using a brush with two broken teeth (a brush that sheaths a hidden knife)? Pretend ignorance until we forget what we've learned? Do we sit in a dark room until our old distasteful habits call out our name in a voice that sounds like corn husks falling on flagstone and then let the old habits spoon beside us until they smell comforting again like a reason and a cause to regress; and worst of all, they again smell safely familiar? Do we disregard praying for everything and become thankful for nothing because... well. lets face it, we have so much? Early on I believed that I had enough time to figure it all out, to make a perfect peace in a littered skull; sweat out salt until there is no more salt to give my shirt. The few pictures I carried were enough then, a folded dead marriage, an old lover lost, and a grizzly claw stained with my grandmother's red paint, a 14k gold watch whose guts fell out within the first miles of the walk so I glued in a round quarter size mirror where the face was and then rarely looked in it again.
Maybe we will all sit down together when the music stops and there will be enough chairs, and I won't feel this 'ashes, ashes all fall down' feeling coursing through my veins. Time grows comfort.
Today I staked open maps with blood lines running through the heart of each state I walked through and thought that it should have taken longer to the point of cursing the miles I hurried through. In another pile newspaper stories, old but new to me, flattened one another with their weight. My eyes in all the pictures, at least they looked like my eyes, all have 'the look'; a cross between falling in love...and just falling without consideration over gravity's intent.
If the preparing to walk America was important it is even more important to write the last pages.... the long awaited kiss felt round and full. Will the man get the woman? Will the castaway 'get rescued' and leave the island without forever looking back? Now that our character has learned how to travel in time, can he be at peace living in the present?
This must be one of the short comings in living a dream designed by a child, for as a child I never designed in a return. The walk was my Radio Flier, a wagon that could take me away perpetually from sadness to bounty, from neglect(even when self induced)to embrace. The walk was the air in the lungs of Simon Birch; promising myself if I went under the surface of the pond over and over, longer and longer, extending my ability to hold my breath, I would never again have to surface and plead for air. Now I know that all along it was the walk itself that was my home. There was no destination. No longitude or latitude crossed bars setting a cage for me to fall into. When I walked I belonged.

01 April 2008

The Morning After

As I begin to gather and separate I realize I will not carry away everything that has taken place. Everything that has taken place will not live again in the book, for whom could carry the weight? So I write little things; notes between classes that in some way prepare me for the real assignment. Maybe if I were to really talk to you I would never mention the pants that I wore for three years, the dog cuff I made of tooled quarter inch leather and wore to fight roving strays, or the 28 pairs of boots I killed. Maybe I would just talk about the comfort of a good chair, and how special it is to not look out for ants before I sit down, and no longer needing to dust off my pants when I stand. Maybe I would just sigh a lot and you would think I was just tired. I have learned another language since I left you. That means I have gained another soul according to the old men. Mostly I am quieter now having heard all of my conversations as of yet unspoken, and in that I can remain silent a lot more, and need to be right a lot less.
The day after the walk ended I did walk into the ocean. I had to. You understand. I would still be there if I didn't..and then again, that would be alright too. Now though, I am in Minnesota and no longer wet in ice water to my thighs and sticky with salt water over sweat. Even though it is not detectable yet, not to our eyes, photographs have already begun to fade; soften at the edges. That is the difference between yesterday and today and it carries a new pang.
The morning after I went to to the school in Clallam Bay where I was asked to speak for twenty minutes. Hours later I was gratefully still speaking; in the gym talking to the bleachers of faces, standing in front of crowded class rooms and meeting halls and making children giggle in the over-flow rooms as I told them about how large swamp snails tasted like toes. The childhood delight of a month without a shower. With my words I took them camping with no end in sight. With my words I took them to 'where the wild things are' and they all wanted to know what we'd be eating come dinner time.

Evening came in bearing a privilege I will always greatly treasure. Polly of the Makah Tribe helped organize a dinner to honor my journey and the tribe embraced me with freshly caught fish cooked traditionally into a soup, buck skin Indian bread, and wild blackberries over cake and whip cream. The women of the tribe danced the shaw Welcoming Dance to the singing and drumming of a tribal brother and we were all transported somewhere ancient. The elders told BaseCamp(she joined me for the last miles and to drive me to Minnesota) and myself about the old ways, and the strengths and challenges facing the tribe today. As I stood as requested to tell some of my stories I received many gifts to include a homemade drum made from wood and stretched over with raw hide, a tribal sweatshirt, miniature paddle to connect the tribes relationship with the sea, and a string of olive shells beaded and placed around my neck. One of the deepest joys was the nodding approval of the elders as I told of simpler things regarding the walk, the quieting of my heart, my new found relationship with the earth and my survival largely based on the old ways that appear now largely ignored.
Later in the night, when my flute was silent and stories tired, I lay on the floor in Polly's den beneath the wide old growth cedar planks painted traditionally with eagles and long beaked birds, ironing out the days events into terms I could relate and remember. Mostly I lay there and heard my friend Kirin talking her sleep talk over on her sleeping mat. I smiled and wondered if I missed something that kept me from sleeping. Had the Creator given me a sign, a new job and I was too tied up in myself to listen? Surely He would get my attention if He desired it. On the walls above me eagle feathers hang down shining like scales. I know this is where I come from and I can smell the rightness in it, this is my world and I smile without moving my face.

Alone With Your Drum

Walking the final miles to Cape Flattery was all the rose and thorn you'd expect with nearly three years of walking coming to a conclusion. My emotions were as tender as my feet. No. My emotions were my feet as final miles, laced with gravel, scuffed under me.
It was rumored to be so, but I was still surprised when I got to the Cape and the crashing ocean was three stories down cupping in and out of the cliffs. Untouchable. In the morning I will move around this wall of stone because otherwise tonight the thought of not touching the water would steal my sleep. Tomorrow I will walk into the waves. Tomorrow I will rise and walk into the ocean with the sun rising on CrowDog. Today though, together with a few friends we drink the bubbling glasses of wine and I pour an ounce over CrowDog as he leans against the protective coral of fence that keeps up from falling into the rock and ocean below. CrowDog is just staring at the ocean silent as a stick. CrowDog still looks strong, ready, perhaps a trace disappointed even; as if I had not dreamed a journey big enough for his metal shoulders, as if I had not taken in the width and stability of his frame, or mine, and I kept the sun off his cordova nylon skin through three years of sun only to now let him dry rot away in some tired closet. "Why stop," he asked simply without moving, without mouth, without looking at me. All my inner protests are weak; not protests at all. Looking out at the same lighthouse island, past the same crockery of stone far off, garnished in waves and softened by the coming sleet storm, I too begin to wonder through the sweet flavored plastic smile of my cup. CrowDog carries the last full journal so I don't have to tell him about the book I need to write. No need to preach to the choir. CrowDog whispers so only I can hear,"Then what?" Any answer I give short of walking on I know would have no pulse, no possibility of being believed so I just listen to my half circle of friends as today's miles drain from my muscles. BaseCamp Kirin (changed her name from Betty), Lisa from Thermopolis WY, Stan (a new friend), Polly from the Makah tribe witness the last hour of the walk. They soften the sound of the ocean. They soften the tide roaring in my head. The sound of hundreds of coastal birds looking for a mate stills nothing. Sleet begins to pelt onto my hat and then pushes us back into the woods. From no one direction the settlement calls out. The domesticated yawn of predictable days and weeks already makes requests from far away in a voice I had forgotten but never missed... from far off on the other side of the woods it stretches out. In a couple of days I will be in north central America surrounded by boxes overstuffed and spilling socks and sleeping bags, shirts and parka's, cook sets and trail worn high-lighted maps . I will find your address and write you a letter with missing words because my mind will be running too fast. I will call your radio station and tell you the world isn't flat and you won't believe me. On my bedroll in a tent set up in an apartment in MN. beside a perfectly good bed, walk-in closet filled with my gear, and my own bathroom I will lie on the perfectly flat floor with no pine cones knuckling my shoulders and hear my heart complain. There will be no smell of earth on my hands and I will not hear the rain tapping fingers over my head, or punch out at mice in my sleep. Nothing will be wet in the morning.
Tomorrow I will start looking at pictures to show you, and begin the careful task of remembering...so very afraid I'll forget.

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.