Sunday, August 30, 2009
Food, Glorious Food, Raspberries & Ice Cream
I am at the starting line. Four and a half months from now and many thousands of expended calories later I hope to walk into New Orleans. But for this weekend it was about enjoying West Hebron, spending time with the people who helped raise me into the intrepid walker I am today and [grinning devilishly] ingesting thousands of the calories that will give me energy over the long days ahead.
When I first decided to take this walk, I immediately knew I wanted to start it in West Hebron. I lived in this village until I was 10 years old, but its impact on me was much greater than those first few years of life. West Hebron was where I learned the joys that come from open homes, shared meals and tight-knit communities of friends that really feel more like extended families. That is what the Waites, the Campbells, the Coldwells and so many others in Hebron are to me. They are family. As a kid, their houses were always open to us and ours to them. It was a place of unlocked doors and tons of shared dinners, picnics and birthday celebrations. It's lasting legacy for me as a child was that I grew up thinking the world was a trustworthy and loving place. I still believe that, by and large, and this journey is less about reaffirming that as it is about simply experiencing it day in and day out for four months.
On both Saturday and Sunday I experienced it in a familiar way with people whose love and care for me stretches back my whole life. I had dinner on Saturday with Mary Emma, her son Rick, his wife Mary Ann, Dick & Margaret Waite and Don & Alice Coldwell. If you look in my parents photo albums, you would think these people are actual relatives for how often they appear in our lives. Effectively, they are. We gathered around Mary Emma's table and they plied me with helping after helping of pork, corn, finger rolls, coleslaw, you name it. Then, the pièce de résistance. Mary Emma's Raspberry Pie. I could tell you what happened next, but it wasn't pretty. l'll let pictures tell the story instead.
Sunday dawned cooler and overhead was a beautiful mix of blue sky and clouds. More importantly, I got an early start seeing old friends. I took an refreshing walk around Barkley's lake with Sarah Fronhofer, her father Frank and her two cute daughters Maya and Marley. After that it was church and more hellos, old friends and words of encouragement. I picked up my backpack at Mary Emma's and set off for what I might call my "honorary" first walk - the one and a half mile stretch from the Cambpell's back into the village of West Hebron. Luckily I didn't collapse half way. That would, methinks, have a been a bad omen. Instead I arrived at the Waites no worse for wear and in fact invigorated by the promise of more hours of walking in this beautiful part of the country.
I would have time to genuflect later. For now, it was back to storing up some more of those glorious calories. A lunch of tacos (with plenty of sour cream) and fresh fruit and then a midafternoon stop at Batenkill Creamery for a coffee milkshake took care of that. With my stomach happily following its own bliss, Dick and Margaret and I wove our way around Salem and East Hebron and took a literal drive down memory lane. I wish I had a pen that could describe the beauty of nature as descriptively as John Steinbeck, whose To A God Unknown I am currently reading. But I can't. So instead l'll borrow from a hymn of my youth and one that I always associate with West Hebron. It popped into my head today as we drove past lush rolling hills and bubbling streams and I thought back to those years from 1973 - 1984 that I had a chance to live here. These lyrics speak to me on two levels, both in a larger sense as someone who is daily awestruck by the beauty of creation and more specifically as a son who grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the country.
This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.