The Heart

theheart

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.

The Delaware Gap Region

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

Getting to the Delaware

grapes

Hot Dog Johnny's in Belvidere New Jersey

Hot Dog Johnny’s in Belvidere New Jersey

Crossing the Delaware

Crossing the Delaware

cow

Quiet country roads are growing scarce

Quiet country roads are growing scarce

Drifting in the Poconos

Lehigh Gorge

Lehigh Gorge

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.

Poconos

Poconos

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Squirrelly roads thru these hills leads one to lose his sense of direction

Squirrelly roads thru these hills leads one to lose his sense of direction

Picture perfect

Picture perfect

Cold revival

Cold revival

Tannery ruins in Lehigh gorge

Tannery ruins in Lehigh gorge

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Old train station converted to "Edith's Kitchen" in Catawissa, pa.

Old train station converted to “Edith’s Kitchen” in Catawissa, pa.

It's hard to keep a good rhythm walking from trestle to trestle

It’s hard to keep a good rhythm walking from trestle to trestle

Anxiety in Penn’s state

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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.

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The garden and laundry

The garden and laundry

A church marquee

A church marquee

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Amish harvesting corn in Brush Valley

Amish harvesting corn in Brush Valley

Walking central Pennsylvania

Walking central Pennsylvania

The Amish of Brush valley

The Amish of Brush valley

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Old school in Millheim Pa.

Old school in Millheim Pa.

Mifflinburg cemetery

Mifflinburg cemetery

Hiking into Lewisburg Pa

Hiking into Lewisburg Pa

The Susquehanna River

The Susquehanna River

Pennsylvania

I crossed the state line near New Castle almost a week ago. It was a steep drop to this riverside town. The next morning it was quite a climb out as well. That’s how Pennsylvania began and I have a strong suspicion, that’s how it will end. I am now in Allegheny country and it isn’t for weak legs. There is up, down, and little in between. I am now 120 miles into the state and the physical demands have left little time or interest for my blog. My foot pad is pushing off the pavement much harder as I walk up the hills and this impact has the effect of bruising the foot. The sensation is most difficult in the morning when I begin to walk. It takes a good hour to loosen up and get a normal walking rhythm. Before that happens I hobble along like Walter Brennan. But there is good news. I am now within 300 miles of the George Washington Bridge. Can I keep up another 15 days of 20 mile bites? Stay tuned.

Scrap yard on the Allegheny River

Scrap yard on the Allegheny River

Yard art in new castle

Yard art in new castle

Yard art

Yard art

Home outside Emlenton Pa

Home outside Emlenton Pa

Emlenton, PA

Emlenton, PA

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Typical Farmhouse on a hill

Typical Farmhouse on a hill

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Brookville, PA

Brookville, PA

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Sadly, I didn't follow...

Sadly, I didn’t follow…

Birdhouse in Reynoldsville

Birdhouse in Reynoldsville

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Sidewalk Pavers

Sidewalk Pavers

“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on”

A shell from another time in Canton Ohio

A shell from another time in Canton Ohio

I listened to a song of the civil rights era with the verse “Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” It spoke to me of this march of mine and so I wiki’d it to see who I might attribute it to. Turns out the roots of the verse are from a gospel song that has no known author. Originally the verse was “keep your hands on that plow, hold on.” This fits. It speaks clearly of the repetitive aspect of committing to our convictions. I sense it is no different today than it would have been a hundred years ago. A connected, purposeful life takes plowing ahead with straight and tiresome rows. We can’t relinquish control of the plow, and must be mindful and engaged or our rows will wander and the plow will rise and fall in this earth of ours.

As I walk Ohio’s roads, I have seen layers of human effort resting upon the land. Houses and barns constructed by hand, Factories and grand public buildings built when block and tackle raised heavy granite stones into place without aid of a combustion engine. Within the lifetime of these edifices something changed. On my journey across the country I sometimes walk for hours, even days to free myself of the sprawl which is intensifying as I continue east. It is our pattern to allow growth to expand while the core decays. Our lives unfortunately seem driven to consume more and more without much concern for the costs. These times will pass. They have to, and we will find sustainability to be the answer. I Look past the delusions of this world, and turn inward to consider the life I live. What matters? What is important? It is no longer realistic to preach consume and prosper to a world in such a precarious state. Seven billion people now inhabit this earth. What can we do? Go out, take a walk, live at three miles an hour for at least a part of each day. Deny that other world. The one that moves you about so quickly and rewards you with such minimal effort. Find your own pace … find yourself. “Keep your hand on that plow … Hold on!

Walking a bike path to Massillon Ohio

Walking a bike path to Massillon Ohio

The glory days of Methodist edifices

The glory days of Methodist edifices

A timely interest of northeast Ohio

A timely interest of northeast Ohio