Saturday, July 19, 2008

"This love has got no ceiling"

It's been almost a week since I've left Washington D.C. and bid my walker family adieu -- it doesn't seem like that much time has passed already, and yet...there it is. I've been in touch with a few of my folks, through email and text messages and phone calls...thought it might be fun for you all to see a little follow up of where everyone wound up, or is going to wind up since leaving camp.

We travelled with 60-100 people on and off, and obviously they aren't all going to be represented here. But I tried to pull up photos of people I've mentioned most frequently in these writings...if I left anyone out that you are curious about, please let me know and I'll try to get a bead on them.

Little Booger is travelling with Addie. I dearly hope we get follow-up pictures of this little guy, who provided lots of furry love for us. I know that when Addie returns to the farmlands of Wisconsin he will likely become a happy, frolicking farm dog. For a guy who started off his life under an abandoned trailer in Mississippi, this is one of those endings that I will cherish about the walk.

Carrie and P.J. are travelling in and around Michigan, participating in sacred ceremonies and catching up with friends and family. They head out to their home in the Bay Area in August. They're both happy and well and have absolutely no regrets about leaving the walk. We missed them both to no end, but are grateful they followed their hearts to do what was right for themselves. Dear, wise Carrie-foot who taught me so much, and P.J., who probably understood the most tender parts of me better than anyone...I so appreciate you coming into this family, and that I get to be a part of yours. I love you both so much.

Jen gets the 'tenacity' award for finishing this walk despite everything she went through early on. We almost lost her back in Alabama when she had "had it" but I am so glad she finished with the rest of us. She's tucked at home in Ohio, love you lots my friend, thanks so much for making me laugh as often as you did. I could listen to you say, "Come see the Natives in their Wild Habitat," - mocking that ridiculous announcer - for hours. And I'm sooo honored I got to see you sing up there with Kid, one of the highlights of my walk experience. Thank you. Oh..and this just in, from an email I just received, "When are we starting the Longest Walk refugee camp?" Lord have mercy.

And speaking of Mr. Kid Valance...I don't know what it is with this guy. If I didn't know better I'd say I had a wicked crush on him. I feel though, truly, that Kid and I just have our heartstrings pulled by the same chord in life. You're a beautiful man and I know you'll keep writing all those gripping, melancholy blues tunes. Kid was on his way to New Haven, Connecticut, headed towards points to be determined later. Rumor has it he may be settling in Ashland, Oregon...something I pray for on a daily basis. Favorite moment of the walk for me was having him wake us up that morning in Canton, Oklahoma...birth of the "gerber daisy" moment...precious.

And here's the little Gerber Daisy herself. When I talked to Kathleen this morning, she was home in upstate New York, happy now that she had set up her tent (Golden Bear!) in the backyard, "I can sleep now," she said. The entire Perillat and Carroll clan are preparing for their family event I would be at in a flash if I wasn't locked in to other things. Sixteen kids and umpteen grandkids sounds like a recipe for...well, it'll be somethin I'm sure. The White Pearl made it home intact and is still ferrying her about. I'm sure the little squeeky circus horn is still right active. When I asked her the other day what she hopes to be doing in 6 months she said, "I want to be locked outside with the my canoe." You taught me so much about....well, you were a blessing, let's just say that, shall we? I love you, sister.

One of my favorite walking buddies, Patrick is at home in the Bay Area, getting back to business with his rafting company, Birch Circle Adventures. I asked him what one of his favorite moments of the walk was and he told me, "well, watching one of the monks jerk around to James Brown was pretty cool." Thank you for all your bus companionship're an amazingly cool guy and I'm very much looking forward to seeing you this November my friend. Oh, and you get the 'surprise mushball' award of the walk. Loved that.

Raymond Muckuk you glorious soul. Ray is home in Minnesota where he'll be resuming his work as a medic and counselor for chronically homeless men at a shelter facility. Ray told me that the moments he loved about the walk, "were those mornings when we would all just get up and work together to get back on the road. Without fighting we would just get the job done so we could get our message to Washington. That's when it was best for me." Some of my best moments, Ray, were getting to listen to you while we were walking and I will hold your words in my heart as I continue with my own journey. You helped me see the Spirit on more than one occasion and I will forever be grateful to you for that.

Roman and Amy have commandeered that ridiculous bus and are turning it into a environmentally friendly "commune on the road." I'm not kidding. Talked to Amy this morning and they were in North Carolina at a inter-tribal gathering, hoping to continue to take the message of the walk along the way. I wish them well. If you see them rumbling through your town, offer your support would you? Their gonna need it.

Shun had some time left on his visa and is travelling in Mexico with Chikaru, one of his fellow Japanese compatriots. Shun left his job as a Toyota factory mechanic when he came on this walk and doesn't really want to return there. "I want to open a coffee shop in Tokyo, sell c.d.'s and books, good food." He says it'll take him couple of years to realize that dream, but I have no doubt he can do anything he wants. I will always love him for his ready smile and his ability to make everyone laugh...and his love of noodles. It's so Shun.

Sunshine, my sweetheart, darling boy. I'm going to miss your hugs tremendously. From the Bay Area, Sunshine is going to spend some time travelling the south - first stop is on a friend's organic farm in Tennessee where he will work for awhile and decompress from his experience here. I hope he gets that "breatharian" thing going. Hope you stay in touch love, but even if you don't, I know you'll be well and spreading your sweetness and light for the rest of your life.

And as for me...I'm heading back home to Portland, Oregon via a stop in Northern California to lounge on the South Fork of the Smith River for about a week. I'll be in town for just 10 days though before I hit the road again - leaving August 12th for Spain where I'll spend three weeks or so volunteering at a farm in Lerida. From there I spend two months hiking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain and Portugal. I'll be doing it alone this far as I know anyway. You never know what can happen out there in this beautiful world.

I wanted to thank everyone out there who encouraged the writing of this blog, especially the family members of walkers; Peggy and Lisa and the many Perillats who kept track of Jen and Kathleen respectively through these pages. Also thanks to Michael Rumble for his many kind words (Wade and Mary are well and good and heading towards California, btw).

I also so much appreciate my own friends and family who helped keep me sane throughout the course of this whole thing. To my father Bob and his wife, Liz. And to my untiring phone companions, Gwen and Joan and Lisa, who never hesitated to listen to me rant and laugh and cry throughout these five months. Couldn't have done it without you my friends.

Hard to sign off on this one...but it's time I think. I'll continue to keep this blog going for all of you who want to keep up with my upcoming travels.

Much, much love to you all. Okay. Gotta go now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

we never use the word 'goodbye'

For our last cafe, Kathleen sweetened it up a great deal. We had the faux "gerber" daisy, we had a tablecloth, we had marshmallow peanuts. Quite, quite lovely.

It was a surreal morning and nobody was really moving very fast. There wasn't a super hurry - we still all get up so damn early that there is plenty of time when you don't have a plane or a train to catch. Everyone...except me (with the train to catch), was pretty much in their own vehicles or riding in other folk's cars to their respective destinations. So...we took our time having our coffee (and tea).

Forgot to mention that a couple of nights prior, Theresa brought Kathleen a couple of presents in the form of scrapbooks she had made with pictures and news clippings from the walk. They were sweet. I probably looked through each of them 5 or 6 times and found something new each time. Super fun.

We did a couple final group photos. Of course, we're missing a couple of people...'cause that's just kind of where we were with things at this point.

Here's the three of us...Carrie, you are here in spirit love!

And then we just sort of had to get to it. As we were all packing up our tents and our gear, loading it into cars, people would come by and say their was getting quieter and quieter.

I was kind of excited at this point...eager to just get the rough stuff done and be on my way. I felt like many of us had been waiting for this moment for a long, long time and now we just had to get through the worst part of it. I remember talking about the separation anxiety with a fellow walker, what we were all kind of experiencing over this past week. It came in waves for me.

I was ready to go and I was ready to strike out from the family and I wondered how much I was in denial about the whole thing. I figured, it would hit me at some point. I knew, even in these last moments at camp, that I was going to miss these guys terribly...and yet, that didn't sadden me. It was's so hard to wrap around...I think I just feel confident that I will be in touch and see them again and that's what I was holding onto. I didn't have to say goodbye.

My train left at 1:30 and I needed to be there between 12:00 and 12:30. Kathleen said she would take me in and drop me off. One last ride in the Pearl.

And really was time to go. Kind of just like that. We had been packing and loading and hugging and taking pictures and then we had to make the move.

It was really hard to leave Jen - the big mushball - said see ya to Roman and Amy and Larry and Ray. Kid had left earlier. We got into the truck, Kathleen honked that little squeeky circus horn all the way around D Loop. We cruised around into A Loop and got out of the truck maybe 20 times to hug people and wish them well.

It took us probably close to 1/2 and hour to get out of the campgrounds. Which was fine. It felt right, and sweet and necessary.

And then we were out and on our way.

We started heading towards D.C. but passed by the exit.

"I know you don't think we have time for this...but we last one for Carrie-foot," Kathleen said

Ahhhh....Starbucks run. You bet we have time for that. I cannot tell you how many Starbucks we have visited across the little coffee fiend friends. god, Carrie would get these triple shot mochas, I don't know how she managed it. I never did get a bead on what Kathleen ordered seemed to change a lot...maybe it didn't...I know that whatever she got came with an extra shot.

Starbucks is also how we kept ourselves in 'Sugar in the Raw" packets. We always grabbed a few extra for the "cafe." Helpful, they were.

We got back into the truck and she put in the "Into the Wild" soundtrack - the music of this trip - first time I heard the cd was the first time I was in the Pearl. Glad to be hearing it in what would likely be my last. ("I'm not driving this truck for months after I get home," she would say).

We drove off towards Union Station and found a surprisingly easy place to park, right out front. It was Sunday, which was helpful, and parking was free up to an hour, which was about how much time we had before my train left.

There were two things left on the agenda.

One was to help get her out of the city and pointed towards New York. She had all these maps she was sorting through. We had a ton of maps for the D.C. area 'cause we had to negotiate Virginia and Maryland. It was a lot and she was over it.

"Here, help me please," she said, handing them to me, "find me a highway out of here, one that gets me out of this fricken city and somewhere North. And somewhere that doesn't go through Philadelphia."

Got it. How about this? Perfect.

The second thing was to find a bumper sticker from D.C. Surprisingly, just like the damn camp stove fuel (which we never did find), we couldn't find one bumper sticker to add to the truck from Washington D.C. Wouldn't you think that the Nation's Capitol would have several, probably stupid, bumper stickers advertising itself?

Yeah? Well, think again buster.

After we got my ticket and found my gate, we spent the rest of our time looking through every shop in Union Station for a bumper sticker. Nothing. Lots of Obama and McCain stickers...could wallpaper a house with the amount of those we found. But nothing could we find to finish out the White Pearl's adventure. Kinda sad.

I went to get some food for the trip and she went to search for vendors who might sell one. We met back up outside the train station, where I was getting ready to board in about 15 minutes.

"Any luck?" I said.


"You coming in or should we do this here?"

"Yeah, here."

There are those times, that you know you will always remember. This whole morning will be one of those for me. It'll be in snapshots...watching Kid walk down the road and away...seeing Crystal pull off with Larry and Andrea in the car...a few of us standing there quietly while Jen and Ray hugged...and this one, here at this train station.

"We put the fun in dysfunctional, didn't we?" She said, as we hugged.

"No doubt," I said.

We high-fived each other; and then she was gone and I shouldered my backpack and went into the station, towards Gate K and onto a train to Boston.

It'll take awhile, I know...for all of this to settle in. I can't even really get there at this moment. I know this all would've been a much more shallow experience without them, and there aren't words to express my gratitude that this group of people touched down on this particular piece of life for these months. What a blessing.

And as the train started rolling, taking me away - I thought about Kathleen heading off in the Pearl, and Jen with her mom, and Ray in Margaret's car. Kid was with Kendra - Larry with Crystal. And Patrick...Patrick was home already. Amy and Roman and Shun...all the rest...Nathan. And I don't know when I will see any of them again; but that's okay...they'll be here with me...always.

but before we do all that...

Before I get into the sadder part of this blog...maybe I should say...sentimental part...I wanted to show you a few more random photos that didn't make it onto other blogs. So...let's do that shall we?

Here we have lovely Addie with lovely Booger. They're riding alongside the walk in the back of a pick-up truck, looking cute as can be.

This was taken on the same day, walking towards Delaplane. This is Ammon, carrying the Dine Nation flag.

You know, if one more thing was gonna fall off the White Pearl, let's have it be the glove box door, ok? This happened about a week or so before the walk ended...perfect really. What makes me laugh about this is that out of all the stuff she had crammed in that glove box, I love what she decided to keep resting in the remaining section. If you blow this photo up you can see she has chosen Advil, hair ties and...super glue. Nice selection.

Just say awwwwwwwww... and be done with it.

We had to abandon the bus to any further travels in Greenbelt Park, two days before the walk ended. Why? Because it got in one more minor little scraping of another car incident. As was finally revealed, the bus didn't have insurance on it. It also wasn't registered, so it was decided that maybe we shouldn't be driving it anymore. Funny since we'd been driving it since...Arizona...back in I think, March. But never you mind, we won't drive it anymore. Really.

When Kathleen was cleaning out the truck for one of the last times she came across this. Hysterical. We were driving one day, her, I and Carrie and we noticed that Carrie was using this wooden fork to tease out her dreds. "What are you doing?" we said.

"What?" she said, in pure Carrie innocence.

We labeled it so as not to mistaken it for anything other than what it would now be used for...for all time. And yeah, I wrote on it and am responsible for the misspelling, but I think I got it right on the other side. Love you Carrie!!!

Jen's mom, Peggy got some great video of'll have to blow the picture up to really see it; but this is Ray in one of our final circles completing 65 pushups. Anytime Dennis would be running the circle, at some point he would find Ray and say,
"All the Way Ray! How you feeling today!"

"Feel good," Ray would say.

"How 'bout giving me 50!"

"No problem." And he would do 50 strong. On this day, Dennis asked him for 50 and Ray personally bested himself. Love it.

This was taken at the park near Capitol Hill. I asked Jun-san how happy she was that we were done with the walk. She was pretty darned happy about it. I know a lot of folks had problems with Jun-san, including myself at times...but I have to respect what she has done over the course of her life, even if I don't always like the way she executes it. I love this photo of her.

In D.C., here's Mucaw in all his magnificence. He wore his Grandfather's feathers into Washington, and I just thought he looked proud and beautiful here.

Alright then White safely onward. See ya down the road.

slow morning...long afternoon...longer night

After all the excitement of our walk into D.C. it was truly wonderful to wake up slowly and without too much of an agenda in front of us. And...for the first time in 5 months, there were no drums to wake us up...that's when it really hit me that the walk was officially over.

We still hadn't been able to find camp fuel, amazingly enough. We had tried the night before, making a run after dinner to a Walmart outside of Greenbelt, but had no luck.

We were lucky, however, that Susannah has skills equal that of her sister to make up a homey little cafe right there at the truck. She used the hood instead of the tailgate, and had a few more accoutrement's coming off the was a lovely thing.

Jen's mom, Peggy also provided coffee from the nearby hotel so we were all set towards getting good and caffeinated for the day. Here's a sweet photo of her and Jen.

After our morning drinks we hung around for a bit, showering at our leisure and making a game plan for the day. We were going to be heading into D.C. in the afternoon to attend the final concert and closing ceremonies of the walk. I was most excited about the show because Kid would be playing, and Jen would be singing back-up with him. We'd been listening to them practice together for about a month now and were excited to get a chance to see all their hard work pay off in front of an audience.

But until then, it was mostly just lounging about. Here's a photo of Jen, Kathleen and Ray checking out some photographs.

Peggy also brought us our daily allotment of dollar we were all set there as well and we sat around munching happily on them, drinking our beverages and getting ready to head into D.C. Here's a photo of the gang, Kathleen is holding up the hat of Amy, so imagine that she's sitting there too with us. She was still MIA from an evening of carousing in D.C. the night before. Tsk, tsk, Amy...

Somewhere in the course of the morning, Larry came over and gifted Theresa with a beautiful Pendleton blanket.

The blanket obviously meant a lot to him, and he had lovely words say so as he handed it to her. Here it is on display. You could tell Theresa was very touched by the gift, it was a sweet gesture.

The time finally came for us to head out of our relaxed little party and into town for the concert.

It was quite the scene when we got there; the first order of business was to find out when Kid would be playing...5:30pm...very good...that gave us some time to go and check out the American Indian Museum directly across the street and make it back in time for the show. We got over there and got a phone call..pretty much immediately from Jen saying we needed to come back right away...they were going to be handing out our "All The Way" walker badges to the folks who had completed the entire distance.

I had actually forgot about the whole patch thing; or dismissed it as something that really wasn't going to happen. But...apparently I was wrong...which was a good thing.

Dennis started out by distributing the runner patches. Kid approached me right before he took the stage and let me know that he put me on the list to receive a runner patch. I was stunned. I hadn't started running until Louisiana, but he felt I deserved to get that honor. It was very generous of him, and means a lot to me. The runner patch actually means more to me than the walker patch. It was such a gift to be able to run during this event, and I'll cherish the memory of...I also plan to continue running well on down the line.

Here's Kid and Dennis on stage...

Here I am receiving my runner patch...the other folks up there with me are Marek and Maggie. Joining me would be Shun and Ray. I was grateful to be sharing the stage with all of them...

After the runner patches, Kid and Jen took the stage and played their four songs. They sounded so beautiful together! I could've listened to them play all night...the crowd wanted them to do an encore, but there were many people slated to play, so we didn't get that opportunity sadly. I know a bunch of folks took video, and I hope I can post that here at some point in the near future.

We had to wait some time for the walker patches to get distributed...they did them in little bunches. In between we spent some time hanging out and waiting, enjoying each other's company. I love this picture of Kathleen and Jen.

Here's Little Booger, being his cute self...and quickly becoming not so little anymore!

Finally Jen and Kathleen got their walker patches. Ray and I had gotten them along with our runner badges. My camera doesn't do so well with long shots...wish I had better photos of this.

After all the patches had been distributed, we all got together for one last group shot...

Several folks took the stage to sing songs while all the walkers and supporters made a huge circle and danced together. It was a truly moving sight.

Here's Masa on the left, singing his little heart out...he's such a ham, but I love him...

Kathleen and I both jumped up on the stage to get some better photos. She was taking a lot of video.

And you know...that was that. The dancing continued for just a little while longer and then everyone broke into a huge group hug. I didn't get a shot of it, cause we were already on our way out; but it was quite the sight, there in the shadow of the capitol. It was truly over. All of it.

Except of course, for a couple of things.

One was that I really wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial and I hadn't gotten down there yet.
Two...we still had to get home.

I had ridden with Kathleen and Larry, so I asked her if I could hoof it down to the memorial and they could pick me up. No problem. So I made my way down...took this shot of the monument from up close. See the moon? Yeah, it's night, dark is closing's about 8:00 or so at this point, maybe a little later.

As I'm making my way down to the Lincoln, I get a phone call from Kathleen, who was going to try and park down near the memorial and meet me up there.

"Dude, there is no parking down here. None. Your just gonna have to get up there and take your pictures for us and then we'll have to find some way to get you from the street."

Bummer. I was hoping she and Larry could experience the monument with me, not get stuck circling the park at night. But this was how it I started moving faster. The Lincoln memorial is much farther from the Washington Monument than I thought, so I was pretty much jogging at this point. I had my runner patch with me for motivation, which was good 'cause I sure didn't feel like running. But I got there and got these two shots.

I called her once I got down onto Independance avenue.

"We're still circling...I'm near the monument, it's on my left...we're gonna head to the WWII Memorial. Try to meet us there."

I start running again. At this point I'm all warmed up, so the jogging comes easier. It's actually a pretty nice night for running, since it's cooled off considerably. But it's dark now and I remember passing the WWII site...but I don't see it at this point so I just keep going.

I get another phone call.

"Okay...we're parked at the Memorial...super illegally...where are you?"

"Closing in, I just passed the sign, I just need to get through the park now...(I'm still running while I'm talking with her)...I can see the fountains, are you near the fountains?"

"There are fountains all over the place, I don't see you"

"I'm really close...really close...okay...I gotcha, I'm here."

I see the White Pearl, with the passenger side door open. I'm sweating.

"Larry went to take some pictures for my mom...but he just came back and all he had were pictures of feet...can you try to take some pictures. Kind of fast?"

Larry was having issues with the time delay and the flash, but he got it worked out and we were both out there, running around this memorial taking photographs as quickly as possible before somebody noticed just how illegally parked the Pearl was.
Between the two of us, we did a pretty good was for Theresa, so the motivation was pretty high.

We got all the pictures we were going to get there, and we started heading out. Kathleen wasn't done taking photos though, so we spent about twenty minutes circling the monument and driving at a snail's pace through the mall so she could get some shots. I actually thought the night shots were pretty cool, the way things were lit up.

We finally...finally...found our way back to Route 50 East, heading for Greenbelt and home. I think we got home at...what time was it? Oh yeah...12:30. It's the vortex of that truck, I tell ya.

We tucked ourselves in...tomorrow was it...we would pack up for the last time.