Saturday, July 26, 2008

Final Steps

After 64 days I have made it to the town of Arcata, my new hood! My last day of walking was a long one, I clocked in 21 miles, walking from the farm in Loleta to the grassy lawn of Humboldt State University. The entire day was spent walking along the busy 101 freeway. I didn't care though, I was so excited I was able to tune out the cars and cruised at an incredible pace. As I passed through the town of Eureka, a girl on a bicycle stopped and asked me, "Hey are you the guy who's walking to school?!" Yes... "I just read your latest blog last night. Congrats on making it here!" I couldn't believe it. It was Rachel, a student at HSU who had sent me an e-mail weeks ago, sending me positive vibes. We chatted for a few minutes beside the road and then I headed on, ascending my final steps to Arcata. At 5:30pm I exited the freeway and walked up the ramp, the HSU campus was quickly approaching. I had to rub my eyes to make sure it wasn't a mirage. I ran up and collapsed on the grass. I did it! I actually made it. I looked up at the sky and began laughing, thinking back at the journey, and how far I had come. There were so many times where I didn't think I would make it, not like this. I could have rode up the coast in a day and a half in a car. But I would have missed out on the journey of a lifetime. I give so much thanks and praises to the universe. To the gods, the spirits, the buddhas, whatever forces brought me here safely. I am so thankful to all of the amazing people in my life and who I met on this pilgrimage. I truly would not have had the strength to do this alone, and it was your love, support, and positivity that carried me up the coast.

I am now staying with Jocelyn, the wonderful girl who wrote the story on my journey, in her apartment in town. Now I must complete the final stage of the pilgrimage, the re-entry into society. I am exhausted and need to rest, and try to process what has happened these last two months. I need to find a home and prepare for the upcoming semester.

I still can't believe I'm here. I feel like when I go to sleep I'm gonna wake up in Ocean Beach to find that this was all a dream. I need to find a job...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Soft Bed In the Road

I have now been on the road for over two months! It is incredible how quick this time has past, yet when I think back to the beginning, it feels like years. When you're on the road, time melts away, bringing you into the present. I have received some incredibly good fortune from the universe and some amazing people have offered me beds to sleep in as inch closer to Arcata. A friend of my fathers, a Meher Baba lover named Ron, invited me into his trailer in Gualala, a seaside town right on the Sonoma-Mendocino county line. His trailer was in the trees and was small, tight for two, but we made it work fine. Ron is a wonderful man with many stories to tell. He spent many years in the sixties, walking and hitchhiking through Europe, Asia, and North Africa, a real Dharma Bum. I really enjoyed my time with him and he even walked with me for 3 miles on my way out. Jai Baba brother!

When I got to the notorious coastal town of Mendocino, I couldn't help but walk into this little bookshop (I can't seem to walk past any bookshop without havin a peak). I asked to put down my pack behind the counter and fell into a conversation with the two women who worked there. They were both real sweet, and Mary even invited me to stay the night at her home. "I must warn you, I have two teenage daughters," she said. I told her I think that would be alright and she sent me up to her house just in time for dinner. They live in a cute little house above a record's store, right next to the post office, in the middle of town. Her daughter's are Rosie, who's home for the summer after her first year at UC Berkeley, and Margie who's in High School. A few of their friends came over and we had a little party. We all got along great and they even invited me to stay another night, but the road was calling me. 

A few days later, I reached a point where Highway 1 turned inland, and I had to say goodbye to the Pacific, for now. I took a moment to sit, to breathe in the ocean air one last time.  I walked a few miles inland and suddenly found myself surrounded by giant Redwoods. I was instantly filled with strength and a peaceful wave came over me. I stopped for lunch and had a really great conversation on the cell with my Mama and my brother Joey. She informed me that Reggae on the River was going on, right now, up near Garberville, about 40 miles north. I felt it was too far for today, but when I got off the phone I decided to hitch a few miles up the road towards Legget. My mom sent out some good energy cuz someone stopped right away. It was a women named Liz who was drivin up to Garberville to visit her boyfriend. There was already a hitch-hiker named Gypsy, riding up front, so I jumped in back with my pack and off we went. It is always bizarre, getting into a car after miles and miles of walking. My mind has to adjust quickly. This ride was great. The music was playing, the good vibes flowing, I rolled down the window and the wind was blowing. I was feelin so good I decided to ride with them just about the whole way, to the Reggae on the River music festival! We drove along the winding highway until we hit the town of Legget and suddenly, after a month of walking along highway 1, we were suddenly flying along 101. We crossed the county line into Humboldt County, my new home! I jumped out of the car at Benbow and said goodbye. A tattooed man with long gray hair working security, named Rainbow, let me stash my boots and pack in his truck, and I danced into the festival barefoot. Then it hit me, like a wave. After months of walking alone, in solitude, I felt as if I was suddenly teleported to this festival, with two thousand people in my face. It was a little intense. But the positive vibrations swept over and I had a great time dancing to the sweet reggae music. I spent the night at the Benbow Lake State Park Campground about a mile away. 

I woke up the next morning and gave Margaret Taylor a call. Margaret lives with her husband in Garberville and invited me to stay with them in their home after reading about my story in the local paper. She came and picked me up and brought me to their beautiful house in town. I had such a wonderful time with Margaret and Jay and ended up staying for two nights. They really made me feel at home. I even got to soak in their awesome hot tub! They moved out to Garberville 30 years ago during the "late 60's hippie diaspora." We seemed to share values about people and the environment and it was really great getting to know them, I feel I learned a lot. I was really taken back by their generosity. Thank you both for your incredible warmth.

Margaret took me up the road to the Avenue of the Giants, where I got back to walkin. This may have been the most spectacular part of my walk, certainly the most straining on my neck, as I walked with me head tilted up, gazing at these giant trees. These are some of the tallest and oldest beings on the earth, our ancestors, our true roots. Being in their presence produced a profound shift in my state of being. I camped at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and hiked into the forest. 

Swaying in the wind, the Redwoods croak. Like a door swinging on rusty hinges. 
I stare at them in absolute wonder and amazement. 
(Like a cow, watching a human walk by). 
The Redwoods are ancient Buddhas.
The most incredible sentient beings on the Earth.
This moment, my life, is just a flicker in tree-time.

I made it to the little town of Loleta. The town is real small. There's a "main" street with a Post Office, a Bank, a market, a few empty buildings, and a bar with live music at the end corner. It looks like a movie set. I got in touch with Jeanne Van Der Zee, another woman who read my story and has invited me to stay with them. I'm here a day early. I can hear her surprise and excitement through the phone and in minutes she's there to pick me up. She gets out the car and gives me a big ol' hug and tells me I'm beautiful. Then she took me up to the bar, her bar, that she owns, and treated me to an ice cold local beer. She introduced me to everyone in town, telling my story, and how she read about me in the paper. I felt like a local celebrity. Jeanne is an incredible women with so much love to give. She took me to her home, on the farm, where Peter her husband, and Taylor her daughter were waiting to meet me. Taylor just graduated high school and will be attending HSU this fall too! She took me around the farm introducing me to Papi, their watch dog, their goats, and chickens! The goats were real friendly and came right up and licked my hand. We went back to the house and had a lovely dinner and conversation. Jeanne and her family have been wonderful and I feel like a part of the tribe. I slept incredibly on the soft bed in the road. 

A Californian Summer Song

California sure is a beautiful state. I have lived here all my life but have not truly experienced the land until now. I feel like I have earned the right to call myself a true native Californian. As I walk along the highways of the north, I wonder what life was like for the natives, the Pomos, and other tribes of the land. Before the roads, before the buildings, before the pollution. I imagine walking through vast Redwood forests  in between villages, sipping cool, pure water from rushing creeks. I look out at the vast Pacific to the west, and the powerful mountains to the east.  I pick delicious blackberries on tip toes beside the highway. I wipe sweat from my brow and look down at all the dead bumble bees beside the highway. I have seen thousands. They must be flying into windshields. 

In between sets of speeding traffic,
Empty spaces of deep silence.

The ocean is timeless,
Neither coming nor going,
Eternally present.
Constantly changing,
Rock formations re-arranging.
yet still.

A perfect moment. Breathe.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Footsteps of a Pilgrim

After crossing the Bridge, I entered into beautiful Marin county. I am now literally following in the footsteps of John Francis, as I walk along the same roads as he did, in silence. A couple days later, I entered into the small community at Pt. Reyes Station. As I walked into town, after a long 15-mile day along the highway, the first person I see, is none other than, John Francis himself, standing in the street talking with a friend. I limp over and we give each other a big smile. We sat down on his favorite bench in front of the post office and chatted for a while, making plans to have lunch together the following day. I met up with my moms' friends Steve and Susan, who live in town, and they kindly let me stay at their beautiful home. I had a really great time with them, and exploring the town of Pt. Reyes. Susan is an incredible artist who's paintings I found spread all around town, and Steve is a carpenter who's working on developing an electric vehicle kit for the Prius. Wonderful people.

John turned me on to another active Peace Walker, a man named Brother Northstar, who actually just recently passed through Arcata! I looked him up and found out that he has walked over 15,000 miles on his One Earth, One People pilgrimage, following in the footsteps and continuing the message of Peace Pilgrim. Walk on brother! Click here for a story on his pilgrimage. Learning about Brother Northstar, and spending some quality time with John was incredibly inspiring. I felt as if my pilgrimage was taken to a new level of meaning.

While of course I knew John has had an impact on me, greatly inspiring my walk, it was not until going out to breakfast with Steve (who is also a friend of John's), on my way out of town, that I realized just how much his life has altered my own. Steve and I both noticed how subtly John's life and story has influenced countless peoples' lives, including our own. Steve is now working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, by creating electric vehicles. Shortly after I read John's book, "Planetwalker", I sold my car to my roommate, for two months rent, and began walking and busing around town. Now, for the last 2 months, I have been walking on this Pilgrimage for Peace. John is an incredible, inspiring man, who I now think of as a friend and mentor. But I think what is so powerful about his story and being around him, is how clear it is that he's just a "regular" guy. When you're with him, it's just two people talking, having a conversation. If you look deep into his eyes though, you can sense his incredible journey. He has showed me that one person's life truly can make a difference. For the last two months, this pilgrimage has completely changed my life, it has become my life. Because of John, I am a much better person today than I was a few years ago. It fills me with such hope and excitement, and I wonder how I can direct my life to have such a positive influence on others as well. Thank you John, may we each be the change!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

40 Days and 40 Nights

After 40 days and 40 nights, I made it to the Bay Area at last! There I spent 6 days resting and visiting with family. I even got to meet my niece for the first time and was officially dubbed, Uncle Seth. Welcome to this world, Karly Alexandra Powell, you are a beautiful shining star.

After much anticipation, Monday July 7th crept up, and it was time to celebrate my journey and cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Thanks to my Pops, who put in tremendous time and effort organizing the gathering, around 30-40 people showed up in support of the pilgrimage. We all circled up on the grass with a beautiful view of the Bridge, standing strong in the backdrop. The highlight of the event was the appearance of John Francis, the "Planetwalker", who spoke about pilgrimage and the ability for individuals to make change. It was a culminating event of my journey and left me feeling good all over. I felt an overwhelming feeling of joy as I looked around at all the smiling faces who were gathered. It was the first time in fourteen years that all three of my brothers and our father were together. Even my little niece, 6-month old Karly crossed the Bridge with us as my brother Adam strapped her to his chest. 

The fact that my walk, this Pilgrimage for Peace, has the power to bring all of these people together fills my heart with joy. It was an epic moment, and now a memory I will cherish forever. Thank you to all of you who came out. Your love and support was strongly felt and I am filled with gratitude, reminded once again of the incredible abundance in my life. 

There is now nothing standing in my way between here and the redwood forests of Humboldt. Re-fueled with strength and faith, I now walk tall, as I inch my way North along Highway 1, for the final 300 miles. Ho!