I crossed the George Washington Bridge just as planned on the 20th of September, 2014. My children awaited on the NYC side. They walked beside me the 7 miles south to Columbus Circle and the connection of footsteps from my original march to the People’s Climate March was completed at 12 noon. Afterwards there was a “short” visit to McSorley’s in the East Village… my favorite time defying locale in New York City.
When I feasted my eye on that Bridge it nearly paralyzed me. After more than 7 million steps I thought I would have some definitive answer to the “Why?” question. I don’t. I feel different today than 7 months ago. I’ve come to prefer the 3 mile per hour life. Perhaps I will find a way to continue this in the weeks, months, and years ahead. I dream of a world that functions to a greater extent by foot and less by engine. I walked from the heart. Sometimes I thought I might soar. Yeah, I felt as if the spirit would lift me right off the pavement. It is a wonderful feeling to forget as much as possible and make long, repetitive strides into the space in front of you .. a space that has no more meaning I can surmise than to move the spirit within.
Here on the edge of New Jersey I feel the fire within diminishing. A quest ends quietly. There will be no explosive, climactic moment. Reflection and memory waft in this space I fill.
On Sunday when I find myself in the Peoples Climate March, there will be no one who walked as many steps to get there. It will make it all the more special for me. Something big is about to transpire on the other side of that bridge. People from many paths are converging to push for Climate action. For the young this will be the movement of their lifetime. It desires to cut deeply into existing social and economic mechanisms and It’s likely to reinvigorate social justice issues within our faith communities. It is not a beginning. It is a maturing. It is a visible sign that the life I knew and accepted has had a negative impact. That life will be challenged and eventually changed. I’ll never be ready, but i’m in.
A second day walking in New Jersey and it’s landscape is still very reminiscent of Pennsylvania… hilly. Wrestling with expectation will punish now and then. That hill in front of me should always be my last, and the New Jersey I imagine will be just over the next… the New Jersey of Meadowlands and Marshes. Expectations (mine in particular) cause us to think way too much. If these expectations weren’t bad enough, the loss of a brother weighs in. I made a commitment to unbroken steps across the country. This leaves my mind to wrestle …Why the road, and not a funeral? “Thought” clogged my senses. Thoughts of the hills in front of me. Thoughts of another place I should be, thoughts about why I’m on this road in New Jersey, and thoughts on what these few remaining footsteps mean. I wrestled with all. It’s as if I have begun to drop from space and the flaming reentry becomes a fearfully bumpy ride . Then, almost unnoticed at first, my legs began pushing me harder up a hill that wasn’t supposed to be there. My heart begins to play its game. I can feel it rising high in my chest to take control. Its a powerful sensation when the heart takes over. The mind rationalizes, devises and schemes, but it’s the heart that drives us beyond. All that iconography of Jesus with his finger touching or exposing his heart, seems to have deeper relevance. Ever see any icon of Jesus touching his temple or forehead? And what about those Aztec Priests … plucking the beating heart out of their enemy? Maybe Aristotle and the ancients who believed it contained all human passion were on to something. I am conflicted by mind… not heart. That said, I march on through these hills. I close in on the goal. The heart awaits. It will rise to bear the unforeseen until finished.
David and I were polar opposites in every way the mind could imagine. The heart shows every inclination of taking me to meadowlands, marshes, and an emblematic bridge, and there David has his place to share them with me … in my heart.
These have been beautiful days for walking. Went up and down 3 ridges and crossed the AT before finally descending to the Delaware valley just below Delaware Water Gap. I crossed the river at Belvidere, New Jersey. It was my last 25 mile day. The land didn’t change much as I spent the next day climbing out of the Delaware valley. In Hackettstown now with less than 60 miles to reach The GW Bridge.
Getting to the Delaware
Hot Dog Johnny’s in Belvidere New Jersey
Crossing the Delaware
Quiet country roads are growing scarce
From a high point of 1,942 feet back in Freeland, PA, I began to fall today. The climbs still come and go but it’s going my way more often than not. There was break time down in Lehigh Gorge where I sat near ruins at waters edge. A marker identified the ruin as a 18th century tannery destroyed by fire in the 1870’s. What caught my attention was a quote from John James Audubon. He visited the Gorge to sketch and wrote in his journal, “Trees one after another were … constantly heard falling. In a century, the noble forest around should exist no more.” You see, they used the giant Hemlock along the river to provide the tannic acid. They cut them down, stripped the bark, and left the trunks to rot where they fell. The river was said to run black and the area a ecological disaster before the old tannery burned down in the midst of a forest fire. Imagine
what Audubon saw all those years ago. It is reforested now and quite beautiful …still one wonders what Audubon’s “noble forest” looked like.
Taking my time as I wander through these Poconos. The GW Bridge and Peoples Climate March are 9 days and 104 miles away.
Squirrelly roads thru these hills leads one to lose his sense of direction
Tannery ruins in Lehigh gorge
Old train station converted to “Edith’s Kitchen” in Catawissa, pa.
It’s hard to keep a good rhythm walking from trestle to trestle
There’s no excuse. A beautiful state, the right time of year, wonderful, near perfect weather, and great people. So why this shroud of anxiety? A self inflicted wound is the answer. Since entering the Commonwealth, I have been anxious about one thing or another. The goal looms over my every step. Anything could threaten my projected September 20th arrival at the symbolic George Washington Bridge … every “what if” sits squarely on my chest. I squirmed and fretted over those “hills” of western Pa. They seemed so Chaotic and never let my path make a straight line east. I must count and recount the miles each night. The goal would seem to slip further away some nights. Rarely do I take time to acknowledge the success of a good days walk.
Tomorrow looms powerfully in the psyche, and steals most of my attention. This body/machine of mine has many aches and pains … Will one pain become a “show stopper.” I’ve worried endlessly about the directions, or a lack of directions. Somehow in the midst of this state of mind I manage to walk the miles. Today was another 20 mile day. New York is less than 150 miles away. 10 days remain to get there. What need do I have with this anxiousness? Barring a bolt of lightening, i’ll make that bridge with a few days to spare.
Tonight I’ve taken a few deep breaths and relaxed. I’m thinking of these past days in Pennsylvania… these days that have slipped by in my rush of heightened expectation. What wonderful moments I have had here. For starters the maze of hills provided vistas and hidden valleys that I’ll never see at 3 miles per hour again. Eventually they yielded to the uniform ridges and long valleys of central Pennsylvania. The farmland became a tapestry woven by a multitude of crops at various states of life. The artisans of this landscape, the Amish, projected a lifestyle in tune with climate action. Their carbon footprint is very small by choice. It was not a choice made to save their world from carbon emissions, but rather a choice made to keep their communities anchored to these fields I walked thru. I wish some of their sensibilities had found a way into my life, and the lives around me. I was so very close at 3 miles per hour. I could walk with their children as they made their way home from school with lunch cooler in hand, and bare feet on the pavement. I could see the skittish eyes of a 3 mule team as it past me with harvested stalks of corn laying on the flat bed wagon it pulled. These are moments that raised my spirit, and gave me hope. We have immense capabilities of variation and change.
More on Pennsylvania later. I have four more days of walking across her back.
The garden and laundry
A church marquee
Amish harvesting corn in Brush Valley
Walking central Pennsylvania
The Amish of Brush valley
Old school in Millheim Pa.
Hiking into Lewisburg Pa
The Susquehanna River