Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Healing

What urged me to put myself out on the road was to grieve the loss of my brother-in-law. Talking to hundreds about his passing during the walk along the Arkansas "Trail of Tears" helped to bring my feelings up to the surface. Sharing vulnerable thoughts is not a practice "hard wired" in the culture today. For years after my mother passed I bemoaned her loss. Through a strange development of circumstances I found myself literally telling the world about her death over and over. She did many great things during her life to help others but, after sharing what she could have done had she lived longer I had to "come to grip"that she had faults(hard to even write those three words) like anyone else and had not balanced her life properly with exercise, healthier diet, proper sleep, checking her "sugar" while working to champion causes as a state legislator. Two days before she died she was in intensive-care, her heart too far gone, she wanted only to attend a hearing as an advocate for coal miner's rights two days later. Dedication? I am proud that she was determined to the end and have to take a lesson or two that "come knocking" as I open that door over and again. Einstein said life is like riding a bike, easy as long as you keep your balance. Stubborn dedication toward a goal is fine. Giving myself an equal measure of care is a hard lesson to grasp. Even if the need is great giving myself permission to heal (on many levels) is part of life. Of only I can remember that as I charge against windmills or traverse rocky fords in the dark.
It took my walking about two hundred miles for me to get in touch with something about my brother that escaped me until the day I walked to downtown Hot Springs. I was angry at him, frustrated he left two daughters like my mother left us, sad that I knew his habits and the way he balanced his meals with a shot ,didn't exercise or seem to care, and I spent the day telling everyone about it. I mimicked dead brother-in-laws' tone of voice, I flailed my arms in his characteristic style, I called him every name in the book and professed my love for the old grouch. To my surprise many, too many, shared tales of lost loved ones and friends who did the same and had passed. A photographer from the Sentinal-Record in Hot Springs got the same as all the rest. When he asked how far I was going. " I have walked in thirty eight states, walked with this dog over six thousand miles during seven other walks and this one began in West Memphis. I've walked thru Little Rock to here. What more do you want from me?" I told him I had a torn heal, I should allow to heal and I missed my son so I was debating going home for Thanksgiving. He was very understanding, our photo was on the front page the next day despite my honesty.
We laughed with one another the last time we met, I smile with your memories.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gravity and Pull

Walking the world sometimes draws me to the unexpected. Though filled with hot air I am often led to a spot by the wobbling canvas planet making me wonder what forces are at play, gravity, wind or influences "out of this world". I had been rolling down a narrow shoulder keeping the world on the line while I was scrambling along a ditch like Groucho when I felt a pebble in my shoe. Across the road was an overgrown driveway that I thought I might stop at to clear my shoe. Then I had the thought I would keep going for awhile, the pebble was not that large. Then the world stopped, a bunch of tall grass halted its momentum. My phone chimed a suspenseful alert. Suddenly a line of cars sped by keeping me from continuing. As the road cleared a breeze urged me across to the overgrown lane with two metal posts at its entrance. Once to the other side I noticed a broken board with the word cemetery on one broken piece and the name of the cemetery on the other. They had hung from a cable that had been strung between the poles. If there was a cemetery it was either too far back to see or in utter neglect. When I let loose the leash from the world it wobbled uncharacteristically to the pole and broken sign some fifteen feet away finally coming to rest against the pole and the boards. I tried to roll the world back to the gravel, it seemed to resist until the moment I had the thought to prop the sign up off the ground. With no further effort the world rolled out of the way. I leaned the pieces against the pole and walked away forgetting all about the boulder in my shoe.
Thru Arkansas I have been scanning the ground for broken ceramic or china for a mosaic. Many times I have been walking along endless fields and a glint has me look down to find a shard from a cup. In some unlikely places I am brought to a halt by the wind as I come over a hill or bank around a turn or the wind funnels at edge of tree line. Not long after the cemetery grounds we had climbed a hill and rounded a bend that opened to new road construction where a hillside had been blasted away and a new roadbed sloped gently to replace the twisting narrow road below (locals call it Dead Man's curve). At the outermost edge of the newly fashioned bend in the road a wind surged and the world rolled back up the hill a few turns at the edge of the fresh tamped gravel shoulder under the last shaded spot for as far as I could see. I bent down to remove my shoe and the pebble to see there were several pieces of thick pottery amidst the sea of newly quarried gravel. The wind subsided and then gravity allowed the world to spin again.
Where a pond was separated by the road and a large culvert that didn't warrant a guardrail but did have several reflector posts which made me need to wait for traffic to pass. When I had a clear path I was held in place by Nice (the dog). He had found a tuft of grass to sniff and was anchored to the ground where he stood. I pulled, he resisted, I surrendered, he sniffed . I relaxed while I waited and looked out at the shallow pond I was about to race past and was compelled to take a picture because... It was picturesque. Then two families stopped, two mothers with many children. They took turns posing for pictures and we all had a happy visit by the pond. When they had left Nice pulled me over the roadway past the culvert as abruptly as he had stopped me ten minutes earlier.
Gravity or pull by a force of nature, sometimes it's better to relax and go with the flow.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Waxing loquacious

I was feeling rested and enthused when I began the day. When people stopped to talk I was full of stories and answers to their questions. The layover on Saturday was relaxing and I was in no hurry so when I was asked a question they got a long winded answer. I had to stop myself a few times. Recalling people I have met was helpful when a woman and daughter stopped. The mother said she might cry as the was walking up to me. Her daughter had just said she had lost hope of "them" finding a cure for diabetes for type one diabetics, she was one, and there I was on the road with a few tales of a research scientist I met in Connecticut who was working to regenerate pancreas and other insulin dependent people I had met who love long healthy lives with diet and exercise. All the twists and turns somehow had me there by the road to maybe bring a little hope.
The entire day I couldn't shut up. At the end of the day when I was relaxed in the van and almost asleep I received a call from a man writing for "the Village Voice" in Hot Springs Village ,the largest gated community in the nation,who I had seen on Friday as I was working hard to get to my stop so I asked him to call me after dark. When he did call I was still busy and turned him away again. He got an earful once I got started. I could hear his keypad whirring away over the phone as I spun yarn till he'd had his fill. I laughed at myself as we said goodbye and I drifted off to sleep.
Today I will try to keep it short and sweet on my way to Hot Springs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Loosing spark

We walked along the Hot Springs Highway for fourteen miles over hill and dale through ditches into the dark and during the night both my feet did "protest much". I was willing to give the nine miles walk to the next stop a chance with a small bit of enthusiasm. Very small. I started the van, as I do every morning to use the air pump and "pressurize" the world. It ran normally for a few moments then died. I was relieved more that I would not be walking than I was worried how I could find a place to fix the van. Luckily there was a service station nearby that was able to tow and repair the problem, on Saturday, and get me on the road before noon. By back I mean to say, a dozen miles back outside the Hot Springs Village community to the shopping center parking lot I had began the day along highway 5 where I inflated the world, spent some time adding new and repairing loose patches. Now the patches have cured and the world is ready for another day. That day is not today. My foot very much needs the rest, as does Nice (the dog), the world is better than it was when I crushed it and crammed it into the van this morning and the support van has spark. I intend to have spark tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A few good men

The first pulled up just as I was taking the first steps away from the van. I had a hard time starting and almost dreaded walking. Reminding myself that I may reach some old grump that may begin to walk every day and that couldn't happen if I gave in to excuses. This first gentleman told me he had heard I was stopped there and had come to thank me, he was insulin dependent since he was child, had taken good care of his body but as his family members who also had suffered from the disease had passed at the same age in their mid forties he had recently redoubled his efforts to watch his diet and pushed himself to hard exercise even after his twelve hour work shifts. He said his doctor, at his last checkup told him he was the healthiest patient he had. His story energized me and brightened the already cloudless morning.
The next morning after I began walking the first person to stop and talk was also a man dependent on insulin since he was young, also a father, also went to the gym to keep active. Like the day before, meeting someone who for one was more fit than I have ever been, I was humbled by the thanks he gave me when it was obvious he had been more dedicated to a healthy lifestyle than I during my life. I have said it before that some of the healthiest looking people I meet are diabetics who care for themselves, in turn, for their loved ones.
The third, more a story like mine, a man who was overweight, had decided he would change his diet and get back to walking and exercise rather than slip into diabetes and dependence to medications. He had lost and incredible amount of weight and enthusiastic about getting back to the man he was when he was when he served in the military. Again I was inspired. If I could eventually loose the weight he already has I would be the size I had been when I left high school.
I have many friends and relatives who gave up and are no longer here. They didn't give up really, they didn't see signs, listen to their loved ones trying to help. Because of these relatives, friends and a few god folks I meet on the road who spur me on positively, I will walk... One day at a time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The middle

A coat of frost covered the world as the sun rose over the trees. The morning chill tightened my muscles and my will to get back under a blanket battled my enthusiasm while I prepared to head down "the pike". Once I got going the next two days were a stark contrast to the days since I began. After I walked past the stone that marks the middle of Arkansas people were nicer and more talkative. Some nice women got together last night and got me a room. Showers and a warm bed have given me a better attitude.
I'll write more later, now I am going to walk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The power

We crossed the bridge to Little Rock and rolled up to the state Capitol before heading thru town. All day in the city folks had time to stop, many asked how I managed and where I slept. When I explained how we get help from good people we meet to leap-frog the support van up to where we finish the day all I actually had at days end was many well wishes . As the sun raced to the horizon I began to loose faith in this system that seems work in all places but in large cities. My foot was sore and I could feel it swelling . As I walked past a seminary some young men came to the road and asked my story. I half heartedly shared and to my surprise they helped. The man who helped with the ride was a veteran who shared his experience after returning home from "the war", becoming lost in drink and depression. He shared with me the night with a bottle in one hand and gun in the other he had his moment where his faith called him to give his life for ministry rather than end it all.
A powerful choice, a good choice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

North Little Rock

From Lonoke the distance was more than I like to push us. Nice(the dog) and I hold well up to fifteen miles. By sunrise we had walked a few miles out of town. When the sun went down we were on Broadway in North Little Rock. Both of us were sore after the twenty-plus miles when I finally called the one man and his wife who had taken the time to offer help that day. People stopped during our walk from Lonoke but most snapped a picture then drove on with a thankful word for the cause. They have lived along this highway since childhood and I learned much of the changes and events on this road, The Trail of Tears, heritage trail, butterfield trail. I have followed this road from West Memphis never realizing it was the path also of the famous civil rights march. That, in an abstract, explained to me the distance I have felt along this trail of tears. Because the area I stopped in and the threat of heavy rains on Sunday we loaded the deflated world in the bed of their truck then rolled it up and got it in the van back in Lonoke where I was too exhausted to drive back to the city so I curled up next to the hard balled up world.
When I awakened my old Achilles injury caused so much discomfort I was gasping for breath. Nice was content to rest while I washed a load of clothes at the laundry before heading to North Little Rock where I parked at the vacant lot of a leveled drive thru restaurant. The rain finally came late in the afternoon followed by a cool front. During the night a local officer checked on the van. He quickly recognized who I was having seen our story and recommended we begin in the morning from the riverfront a few blocks away. It is brisk with clear skies this morning. A beautiful day for a walk over the bridge into Little Rock. The swelling has gone down and if I don't attempt walking to Hot Springs all in one day the heal may allow me to keep going.
Thanks to the NLRP and my new friends for the help and advice.
Walk daily, take a friend.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Another quiet day walking. The usual tug-o-war with Nice(the dog) for a mile as we walked among the Arkansas farmlands. The Little Rock tv 11news came for an interview. The reporter/meteorologist asked if she could walk Nice as we walked, I told her not to resist when he tugs but she may have weighed half of what I do and she soon was sitting on her haunches, she was not ready for a Nice tugging match.
A few quiet miles later we arrived in the town of Lonoke. The final mile had a paved walking path parallel to the highway, a repurposed railroad bed, where met the first two people I had seen in Arkansas who were out just walking, they told me that they walk twice each day two miles. They seemed to glow with a happy attitude as they bounced along. Of course they agreed walking was a good thing for all.
I stopped for lunch at the center of town where the Lonoke newsman sat and asked questions as I ate. When we left the restaurant that was across from the police station the sheriff and another officer along with two women and another man asked from the opposite side of the road what the world/ball was made of and if Nice(the dog) protected it. He had let the women come and pet him but had put himself between the world and the Sheriff. It worked out well in the end, the sheriff gave me a ride to the van and made sure the whole police force knew I would be parked across the town square that night. If not for Nice standing off men with guns in Arkansas we may have been without a ride. Like I said, it was a quiet day.

Hazen to Carlisle

Not much happened along the road. Just a few people stopped for a photo. Most simply stopped, snapped and thanked me as they drove on. A man who I had met in Hazen stopped three times to chat and even brought me a subway sandwich. He was originally from Connecticut, though he had a southern twang his nor'easter habits gave him away. Asking if I was "all set" and knowing what a "grinder" was gave him away, aside from stopping and being outwardly sociable three times. Somehow that is not atop the list 'round here a'. As I walked in Carlisle I did meet a woman who knew where I could park for the night. A vacant lot with just a concrete slab,,, all that was left of their family business after a tornado a few years ago. I was a perfect spot with a small bunch of willows. With help from the chatterbox of Hazen, an import from California I got a ride back to get the van. I didn't get to say much. Same as the Connecticut Cowboy,or me, you can take the girl out of the valley but you can't take the valley out of the girl. I am joking when I say all of this.

Whatever (roll of the eyes).

At the end of the day a man and his wife brought me fruit and a hot plate of pork chops and greens and a young woman came to find me and tell me her father had recently been diagnosed with adult onset diabetes which scared her enough to start dieting and walking. She now is up to ten miles a day and has lost and incredible amount of weight. The hardest part is her father is doing little to manage his condition...

Friday, November 9, 2012


Aside from the strong headwind I pushed against over the flats and ponds with no cover to break the force of the wind it was a good days walk into Hazen from DeValls Bluff where we began the day with an impromptu interview with Ernest P. Glass and his sidekick. The windshield squeegee was a nice touch. Gotta' have fun wherever you can.
I had a relaxing afternoon and evening with a nice family in Hazen listening. I hardly said a word, refreshing.
As always I met diabetics and families who dealt with diabetes. None disagreed that walking helped control the ailment . Love yourself, go for a walk daily.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The skies cleared

Grey and cloud filled skies loomed all morning as I walked out of Brinkley on election day.The first several miles were wide open with a broad paved shoulder with room enough for me to stay off the grass wet from the rains of the previous day. When the road narrowed through the wildlife refuge the roadbed was elevated above marshlands making the way slow because of the steep drop along the roadside. Whenever a car or truck approached I would stop and hold the world off the road but standing under it to keep it from getting any momentum down the side. U.S.-70 is the old road and the bridges are narrow . When I rolled up on the first long bridge there was a man waiting to take a picture of me. His wife had told him of me so he came out to find me. He knew the narrow stretch and offered a ride over the rest of the dangerous span of road. Sorry to let anyone down, I took the ride. My knees and shoulders were stiff from the rain on Monday, the wind was strong and the bridges as well as the roadsides were too tight. He let us off where the highway turned back to farmlands and wide sloping ditches. He may have saved me from being hurt or worse.The winds were strong across the open fields only lightening up when I got close to the little town of Biscoe before the next little town of DeValls Bluff. The owner of the grocery came and gave me a ride when we got to the park along the White River.
Because of the good Samaritans I was able to have enough daylight to do some repairs to the World before enjoying a beautiful sunset .

-to clarify-
A number of diabetics who happen upon me not knowing what I am doing then thank me for walking for them. I am , more than that, walking to get through to them. Walking is helpful to the one who walks. Not so much for those who do not.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lost and Found

Outside Palestine I took a picture,then clipped my phone back on its harness that hangs from my neck, walked about one mile before looking down to see the phone was gone. All I could do was walk back scanning the ground for a small black phone. Not far from where I had holstered the phone it lay in plain sight. A heart stroke of luck because I walk sometimes far from the narrow shoulders in the tall grass which could easily swallow a tiny wedge of plastic.
Then the rain began to fall most of the day to Wheatley thru to Brinkley where it was well past dark when I finally found a place to park for the night. Without the help of K and the Brinkley police we could be out in the cold instead of under a warm blanket in the van. Thank you all.

Busy work

As we cross Arkansas encouraging everyone I meet to take time to walk, to stay active for their health and to control diabetes I collect tiny pieces of broken china and ceramic tile for my friends college mosaic project. She has some philosophical theme to the fact it will be made completely with discarded scrap of our time. Often ancient digs leave only pottery. Maybe these pieces will be found by our descendants. What a happy note.
Enjoy a walk, love yourself as you do that for your body.
It looks like rain is on it's way. If I don't go now I might be stuck here...palisteeen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Walking tall over the bridge to Madison

Didn't make the full twenty into Forrest City because of the winds. The breeze died down just as the storm blew through just after I was escorted across the bridge heading into Madison by Arkansas own "walking tall" policeman,he let me hold his big "walking tall"stick later when I parked outside city hall for the night with the help of the good couple who I had first met this morning, they shuttled my van for me getting it there just as I rolled up. Didn't have very many conversations today but the few I had we're golden, from first to last.
The wind put me through my paces today so I will have to wait for morning to see what parts ache. It may be raining when I awake, if it rains I can sleep a little longer. The storms rolling past already have my shoulders feeling like I bore the world on them today. Today was no picnic with the winds , it ended well. What more can I ask?
I could ask everyone to walk...

Plain windy

The wind picked up awhile ago blowing hard directly at us. It is warm and the sky is almost clear with only a few white clouds to the north. I have had to take a roadside break from this wind that is wearing me down with ten miles still to go.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lehigh to Heath

Ten miles with new shoes doesn't usually cause a blister but it being my second day after two and a half months walking comfortable sidewalks then going to grassy shoulders friction got the better of my left foot. Not enough Bag Balm. Tomorrow the distance is twenty so we will need to start early. Blisters or not, it is still twenty miles.
All the people I have met in Arkansas have been nice, most talk with the accent I grew up with so I feel right at home. The land is pretty flat so far and the spiders ride the wind leaving single strands in my path covering my hat by the end of the day with glistening webs and fluff of cotton that hitch a ride.
I still have writing block. A long walk might loosen my tongue. I certainly feel better when I walk. Give it a try.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Leaving the nest

For two and a half months I have been at home, making a home, letting myself be at home, nesting. During that time as I picked up a few pounds of leasure-weight despite long walks, bike rides, yard work and regular "work-work". Whenever I would have the thought to stay home and leave my efforts to get out the message of moving to prevent or control diabetes I would receive a call or a message from one of the many people I have met encouraging me to keep pushing. Several things in my personal life and of those close reached completion of sorts. So many things I wanted to write but I couldn't , I had writer's block. Losing my Brother-in-law to diabetes, my son finishing high school after his trials and tribulations both rocked my World and lifted it up are just two examples. Though it has rough edges my nest is as tidy as it ever has been. My boy is on "the road to recovery" with a plan for his future I have to watch from a distance. My Brother-in-law passing despite my asking him to "walk with me" each time I stopped by to visit has me charged to keep the "movement-movement" going. It is time to fly the coup, to inflate the World and West Memphis is a good as any place to yourself, walk.