Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Big Campfire (Taylorsville, GA)

George, Ann, Cory, Nathaniel, Sarah and me on Tuesday night

Me, Adrienne, George, Nathaniel and the dogs on Wednesday morning

I finished my first week of walking by lumbering into a parking lot near Poughkeepsie, NY and being picked up by Bruce Smith. That night he and his wife JoAnn hosted me and I was given a Follow Your Bliss T-shirt she had painted for me as a gift using the design from my website.

Three months and 1,000 miles later I still had that t-shirt in my pack as I lumbered through rural Northwest Georgia in search of small crossroads town called Kingston, GA. That is where I had arranged to be picked up by Ann and George Lowe. On the face of it there doesn't seem to be much of a connection between the two days, other than getting a short ride at the end of a long day of walking.

Yet with all things on this walk there is an unseen linkage between event A and event B. In this case that link was Nathaniel Smith and his partner Adrienne. Nathaniel is the youngest son of Bruce and JoAnn and after he heard about his parents hosting me, Adrienne contacted her parents in Northwest Georgia. If it wasn't for chance connections like this I wouldn't have found about 1/4 of my hosts. Thanks to Adrienne's help I was able to find a place to stay in Taylorsville, GA two nights before Thanksgiving. What was cause for even more thanks is that on the same day Nathaniel and Adrienne just happened to be driving down to Taylorsville from their home in Indiana to visit her parents.

Taylorsville was quite a bit more than a country mile beyond my typical walking distance, which is why I arranged a pickup in Kingston. As it was, I slogged 22 miles from Calhoun to Kingston. I've said it before and I will say it again. 18 miles feels perfect. 20 miles is a grind. And 22 miles is just a royal pain in the ... yeah, you get the idea. So I was thrilled that they could pick me up and end the misery of my sore feet for one day.

The pick up was also quite useful because the Lowes live way out in the country. I'm talking this-road-bears-the-family-name-because-ain't-nobody-shares-this-road-but-us country. George and Ann bought it years ago when it used to be the edge of a wheat field. Now it is undeniably home but retains a quaint country eccentricity. George has all sorts of trees planted and there is a garden and a place to sit and have a bonfire (which we made use of later on). Inside is decorated with tons of pottery they have bought and collected over the years. There are paintings and collectibles and pictures on every wall, giving it a warm, lived-in feel.

I arrived well before Adrienne and Nathaniel, so I visited with George, Ann, their son Cory and his fiance Sarah while we waited for them to arrive. Before dusk George took me out into the yard to show me a large wasp hive. There it was, perfectly shaped and nestled way up near the top of a leafless tree. If this had been a cartoon it would have dropped, broken and a swarm of bees would have chased me around the yard Benny Hill style. As it was, we just stood there and stared at it. George had heard that in years when wasps build their hives low to the ground it was an indicator of a cold winter to come. Peering way up at this hive near the top branch of a tall tree I silently hoped that was true. I could use a mild winter with 500 miles and the month of December between me and New Olreans. As far as I'm concerned, the wasps have spoken. I better keep that SPF in my pack.

Adrienne and Nathaniel arrived well after dark and we all hung out and talked around a roaring bonfire George had constructed to take the chill out of the night air. There is nothing like a fire, some marshmellows for toasting, stimulating conversation and the company of friends and family. It brought me back in mind of another night I had on my first week of walking.

On the third night of my trip Nick & Bert Tebordo hosted me in Cohoes, NY and after dinner Nick built a fire in a pit in his backyard where his family and I and a couple of friends sat around and talked the night away. The longer this trip lasts, the more occasion I have to see how one event connects or reminds me of another. All of my experiences are strung together by the beautiful willingness of all my hosts to broaden their definition of family for one evening and methaphorically allow me a space around their campfire.

In this way, I survive the cold, dark nights surrounded by the love of many, who are really just One, and in the light of the morning I set out to find my next campfire, warmed by the sun a promise made to me by a hive of Taylorsville bees.