Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ann and CK Sisters


Thank you and God bless you!
In the heart of our merciful King, I am,
Sister Maura Thérèse, CK
Mission Advancement and Archives
School Sisters of Christ the King

 "Stir in flame the gift of God that you have . . .
          for God did not give us a cowardly spirit,
                    but One that makes us strong, loving and wise!"
                                                                                      (2 Timothy 1:6-7) 

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day 25 Happy Thanksgiving

I'm still having a delightful - surprisingly hilly - autumn walk on the arrow-straight quiet gravel roads across Nebraska.  Having crossed south of the Platte River now heading to the capital of Lincoln, the terrain has gotten more rolling with small rivers and marshes adding textural interest.  The perfect one-mile grid of unpaved roads overlay the topography like a graphical network display - it's not possible for someone on foot to get lost here.  Now walking due east, I've been on the same dirt road for days.

Noisy Sand Hill cranes are keeping me company overhead migrating south in their rather untidy vee-formations that would certainly entitle the Canada geese to sneer with superiority in their efficient and silent vees.  Despite the sub-freezing night temperatures, there are still plenty of locusts and snakes keeping me company on the ground.

How tame is an American pilgrimage?  A pair of unleashed dogs - a young St Bernard and a Golden Retriever mix - lumbered across a farm field as a passed close to a house at Road "Q".  With wagging tails and slurpy tongues, I was hardly afraid.  Big, of course, without collars, they obviously were pets rather than strays, and revealed the full understanding of "down" and "sit".  By Road "R" a mile away, they equally revealed a lack of understanding of "stay" or "go home".  They ran huge circles around me, so for each straight mile I walked, they romped at least two.  I tried the tactic of disinterest at one of the occasional old family cemeteries - on a bluff, encircled with a fence, and entered through a gate.  With them outside the gate and me leaning against a stone dated back to the 1880s trying to enjoy a snack, their whimpering and whining tugged at my heart - come on, let us in, we only want to play... that's what they were saying... trying to dig under the fence to get close to me... ach, leave me in peace...

I couldn't take them with me, didn't want to make them stray too far from wherever their home was, but how to get rid of them??  I tossed a few rocks at them, but they only fetched them and frolicked all the more... I tried 'whipping' a cornstalk at them, but they only played tug-of-war... I continued walking to be sure to arrive in the next village before dark, and they stayed with me.  They adopted me.  With big eyes and goofy hanging tongues.  A pickup truck came by, but the dogs hid in a gully when I flagged the driver down and asked if he knew where the dogs lived, what dogs? no.  The dogs rejoined me when the truck drove off after frolicking more in a small river.  I walked all the way to Road "X", then "Y", then before "Z" another pickup came in the same direction as I was walking.  I flagged down the driver again, this time a woman, and this time the dogs leapt with their paws on the door - both taller than I - as I explained that the dogs had been following me and implored her to drive me a mile or so to loose them, though the idea of them not being able to find their way home hit with a pang...

After all that, I laughed at the comparison to so many of the wild animals and narrow escapes I've met on past pilgrimages... here in the heartland, foolishly besieged by two sweet enormous friendly companions, who no doubt slept well that night from all their exercise.

Happy Thanksgiving my American friends,
cheers from pilgrimland!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Day 14 - There were 20 miles to Ogallala...

There were 20 miles to Ogallala when the 'blizzard' hit... such advanced warnings, such turmoil and discussion... bah, that was no blizzard!  A tad of blowing snow in the morning, turning to slush when it hit the ground... all rather pedestrian, a strong northerly wind, ok, but the sun was out by mid-afternoon... the kids off from school hadn't a chance to even make a snowball before it all evaporated away.  Yawn.  Everyone was of course very kind to me, insisting on giving me a ride - which I did for two short distances just to get off the road and not be a hazard.

I'm having a grand time walking eastward - the corn harvest is full on with giant machines and haulers in the fields, mice scurrying everywhere and hawks swooping without noticing me at all.  I'm trying to stay on the little roads, mostly north of the South Platte and south of the North Platte.  Despite the one morning of snow, the weather's been nice for autumn walking, though a bit on the warm side, keeping my pack full and at the weighty ready for real winter weather.

I'm still happily engaged with the folky history indicators - on the Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Trail... - and meeting loads of people everyday, many of whom have never heard of a pilgrim before.  I'm happy to educate them =D  In a delightful village named Paxton, several different people implored me to stop in Sutherland where there is a local newspaper, to give them the opportunity to write a little story about why a little woman carrying snowshoes is walking across their communities... alas, the office was closed when I walked through, so I wrote a little note as I sat for a rest on their autumn-decorated bench out front - a pilgrim passed by, heading east, thanks for the resting place!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 8 Along the Overland Trail

For those thinking that I'm some sort of super-pilgrim, rest assured, my feet hurt just as much as the next pilgrim's.  With them elevated and resting after a particularly asphalt-y day, though, I can put aside the tender throbs and report that I'm again a happy little pilgrim.  Middle America is as good a pilgrimland as anywhere... people are friendly, gracious, and generous, especially with that left-over Halloween candy that seems to work its way into the side pockets of my backpack so easily.

Walking out of the city limits along the South Platte River - described in a novel as being 'too dry to drink, to wet to plow' - I haven't let the rustling golden cottonwoods out of my sight for these nearly 200 miles.  When I've been wedged away from the banks of the river, the farm tracks and stubbly cornfields have been by and large serving me well, although I've popped out on paved country highways a few times to walk the hypotenuse rather than the right angles when necessary... the farm roads commonly seen from the air score the earth into a grid with tidy one-mile spacing - due north, due east.  Songbirds entertain me; flustered pheasants startle me; leaping deer and pronghorns delight me; and whatever little critters slither beneath the ground cover politely keep hidden from me.  Approaching the border with Nebraska, I'm traveling on the Overland Route used by countless westward pioneers back in the day, 150 years ago, and there are scattered information plaques telling some of the details, mostly where sod houses used to be, cornfields and feedlots now.

I yearn for proper winter weather as soon as possible, since carrying my snowshoes and heavy winter clothes has made for an uncomfortable first week of hazing for my legs... on the wee pilgrimages I led from San Luis to Chimayo in September and from Oneida to Auriesville in October, I carried an airy 12 pounds; it served as little training for the compacted 22 pounds I'm now hucking on my back waiting for some good cold highs.  Since it's cold enough in the morning, I can bundle up and make good time until late morning when the bold sunshine forces it off my body onto my pack, only to slow my progress.  The vistas are expansive, so provide huge areas to occupy my mind and take the focus away from my whimpering puppies.

I'm on track toward Lincoln for Thanksgiving and encourage all pilgrims to consider making a pilgrimage across America - it's really wonderful.  People are good - better than good.

   ... and Michele in Ottawa, my faithful pilgrim follower for these many years now - look for me in that neck of the woods in late February / early March, depending on the snow and weather, eh...