Journey to the Heart Land

After a full week of walking along the Miami-Erie Canal Towpath, along country roads, and through small towns in rural Ohio along the Buckeye Trail, I’m convinced that walking is my calling. 

  • Walking as an exercise tones my body and gets my thoughts clear and my creativity flowing.
  • Walking in Nature connects me to Spirit and to the realm of infinite possibility and joy.
  • Walking through towns connects me with people.

Meeting people used to be scary for me, but now that I am living my own favorite expression, meeting people is a delightful stream of magical encounters. This week, my hiking partner, John, and I have met over a dozen generous people just by doing our walk!

Here are the stories of a few of them:

Minnie walks for exercise regularly in St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos, OH. “I walk for 30 minutes a few times a week. While I walk I say my rosary. If I get finished with one rosary, I just start over and say another one. “

“That makes exercising and praying go together, bringing the spiritual world and human world closer together.” I said.

“Oh, I know about that! Here’s something that happened that still gives me chills to tell it.. Just a couple of weeks after my mother-in-law died, I sat up one night hearing a harp playing. It was very loud and it was a whole orchestra! I nudged my husband, ‘Do you hear that music? He said yes, he heard it too.’ I’m hesitant to tell people, because they might think I’m crazy. But, it was so beautiful.  If heaven is like that, I want to go there!

“I certainly believe you, and I’m really happy for you for having that experience with Heaven. Maybe it’s closer to us than we realize most of the time. Thanks so much for sharing that with us.”

 

Linda manages the IGA in Ft. Jennings. She was very curious about our walk. We chose several items there: peanut butter, noodle sides, tuna, coconut, animal cookies.

“Do you take debit cards? “

“Oh no, sorry. Only cash.”

“OK. Well, I have $6.00 in cash. Well, really seven counting my coins. But, we’ll choose a few items.”

We chose the animal cookies and the peanut butter for a total of $5.95

And she didn’t mind reshelving the groceries we left behind.

Regina and MillieMillie  had answered a call from Sam from the Buckeye Trail Clubl for a place to camp in Ottoville.  Mille and I played message tag and we found out we could indeed camp in her yard. She would pick us up in Ottoville. We walked into town and past Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 6:15 p.m. I called Millie, who said she’d be right over to the church.

“Did you see the church?”

“Just the outside. It’s dark inside.”

“I know how to turn on the lights.”

“Then, Yes, we’d love to see it.”

Millie went in first, bidding us to wait in the back while she walked up the dark aisle through the sanctuary to the sacristy. Click. Click.  Banks of lights gradually lit up the heavenly reaches of the church.

“Oh God, it’s beautiful,” I cried. “It’s easy to feel close to God in here.”

The Mary’s blue highlights of the corners of the archways magnified the reverence to Mary, the Mother of God, to whom this church is dedicated. The rose-colored marble panels and pillars of the sanctuary evoked a heartfelt warmth and Earthly connection through Mary’s intercession.  Even though Millie shared her own disappointment in the sacrifice of the old majestic altarpiece for this simpler one, I enjoyed the symbolic artistry of this wondrous architectural prayer.

With the help of my ever-present headlamp, Millie restored the building to its darkness and we left the church. That was the first spot on our tour of Ottoville. We were impressed with the comprehensive facilities in this little town, from city services, new park, and Subway sandwich shop, to DoItYourself store and new bakery, chiropractor and dentist, all within a few blocks. Millie was again not happy with the demise of several historic buildings along the Miami-Erie Canal channel – liveries, hotels, and school. We didn’t notice them missing though.

Our stay with Millie was pure delight! She never even mentioned camping out, offering us dinner of her unique soup. “Nobody likes this soup, but you’re welcome to it” We loved it.

“Do you want bread with that?  I usually eat popcorn. You’re welcome to that, but you’ll have to shell it yourselves.”

That was fun!. “

And here are hickory nuts”  She cracked them open with a hammer on her vise.

She showeus the potted begonias, strawberries, and other perennials stashed on shelves for winter. 

Around the stairs were four Tupperware bins – “Worms. They help improve my garden soil.”

Our lively conversations filled the night ‘til 10 p.m. Maps, memories of Ottoville, family stories, dog petting, and multiple servings of bean soup and fresh popcorn turned us strangers into friends. The popcorn was the best I’d ever had. It tasted like corn!

 

 

Irene and ReginaIrene I was embarrassed that my hiking partner had put his trekking poles on the coffee counter at the convenience store in Ottoville. As I reached to pick them up, I caught the eye of a woman who smiled and said, “You’re taking a long walk?”

“Yes. We’re walking the Buckeye Trail.” She had so many questions which led to her sharing her own story about recently moving back to Ottoville to build a house and resettle. Her heart was still connected to St. Louis as well because that’s where her step-daughter lives. Her eyes lit up when she said,  “She’s really my daughter, because I raised her. Her mother left when she was young.”  Her phone rang. In a minute, she came back laughing, “You won’t believe who that was! My sister, Millie! You stayed at her house last night.”

Now, Ottoville is a small town, but the magic of meeting Millie’s sister was pretty wonderful. We walked out of that little canal town with two friends. Walking spins that thread of friendship, and I feel oneness with humanity.

Farmer’s Wife I didn’t get her name, but I listened with compassion as she shared her story of disappointment with her job at Family Services in Paulding. Soon she’ll retire, though, she explained, and work only on her husband’s farm. And that’s hard work! The day I met her, she was walking on the woods path on the edge of the corn field waiting for her husband, the farmer, to call her.  “I’m the Go-fer.”

What goes through my mind when I hear her story is confirmation that a common belief in our culture is that life and work have to be hard and disappointing.

“Is that true?” I wonder.

What would happen if lots of people shift to heeding the call of what they love to do more than what they ‘should’ do? What if more people did what was joyful and fulfilling more than what is disappointing and unfulfilling?

 

Dan

This story was written by Hiker John:

We were happy to finally make it back to the wooded Tow Path along the Canal after a long country road walk.  The soft ground felt good underneath our feet.  The familiar and friendly blue blazes of the Buckeye trail had led us to this place.  We noticed that adjacent to the path, a Combine was harvesting a field of corn.  Regina met a woman walking down the path who was helping with the harvest.  While Regina and the woman were talking I simply had to pee.  Excusing myself for a while, I then returned to hear another voice.

It was a very loud voice, demanding to be heard.  It was that of the woman’s husband, the farmer, expressing anger that the trail was crossing “his” land.  His angry words were hard to listen to at first and Regina almost retreated back to the country road to escape his barrage of acquisitions and complaints.  I really wanted to continue hiking forward along the Buckeye Trail so I needed to carefully listen to what he was saying behind his upset to come to an understanding.   I let the farmer play the “blame” game.

He was upset that someone had re-painted the blue blazes along the Tow Path after he had removed them. He was concerned about liability in case someone got hurt (there are a lot of large gopher holes).  He was afraid of losing his farm (which he had worked many years to create) if someone sued him.   He was upset that the state of Ohio had established the Buckeye Trail across the Tow Path public right-of-way that he believe was his private property.  He was upset that a local school group had once parked a bus blocking access to his field sand that a bunch of kids were walking around on the tow path.  He was upset about 4 wheelers using the Tow Path.  Most of all he was upset that people were not asking him if they could cross this section of trail and that trail users in the past had responded angrily and disrespectfully back to him.

After listening and acknowledging his upset, I asked if Regina and I could please continue our hike across “his” property.  I also got his contact information and later gave it the Buckeye Trail association so they could create future dialog and an agreement of trail right of way could be made.  What had started off as a hostile encounter turned into one of more mutual respect and greater understanding of differing points of view.  Even though all the trail issues along the Buckeye may not be resolved yet, with cooperation and patience I believe everybody’s voice can be heard.  The Forgiveness Rose protected us, but all the yelling made Regina and I a little more wary of the corn fields lying just beyond our little Tow Path trail.

Larry, Regina, and CarolLarry and Carol As evening approached, we reached Ft. Brown. Where would we camp? Our list of campsites in the Delphos Secttion of the Trail, provided by Sam Boniface of the Buckeye Trail Club included the name of Larry who let hikers camp on his property on the bank of the Auglaize River. I called the number.

“Yes”, Carol replied. “You can camp here.  Just look across the bridge and you’ll see our house with the driveway leading down to the river.”

I got confused and called back. The call dropped. We could see two people inside the kitchen and bravely knocked on the door.

“Oh! You’re the hikers. Come on in! Do you want dinner?  We’ve got pot roast. We were going to go out to eat, but decided to just stay home this evening. How about something to drink? Root beer? Creme soda? Oh, and here’s a bag of candy from Halloween.”

Carol wouldn’t let us say no. We ate heartily.

Meanwhile, Larry had been outside building us a fire. He had said he would bring down some firewood, but he even built the fire! Carol urged us to take down chairs.

We had set up our tarp and were enjoying the fire when Carol came out and said, “I just couldn’t let you sit out here by a fire without hot dogs! We couldn’t refuse.

In the morning, we walked up the hill to Larry’s tool and dye shop where he had invited us for morning coffee and use of the bathroom. Then, we got a full tour of his shop, learning all about the production of plastic arrow knocks and the multi-colored feathers on arrow shafts. It was getting late in the morning. We wouldn’t be getting an early start!

“What else can we give you? A calendar (from the shop)?”

“No thanks. Too heavy.”

“OK. Well, you can at least use a pen inscribed with our name!”  That worked.

After photos with Carol and Larry, we were ready to walk on, two more friends on our list.

But not until our pockets were filled with Larry’s homegrown English Walnuts!

We couldn’t say No.

 

 

Journey through the Heartland

Reframe The Story: A New Chapter

My Dad the Healing Angel

Today is the start of my new way of being with my dad.

Here’s the old story:

I’m 24. I’m the program director at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center. I love my job! Every day I walk the trails. I’m connecting children and teachers with nature, helping them experience Nature as a nourishing and vibrant sensory exploration. I’m recruiting a record number of schools, welcoming teachers and chaperones, and training my own staff of teacher-naturalists. I love my job!

My dad, however, wants me to be an engineer. He asks, “When will you get a real job?”

At that moment he had cast a spell of doubt on my life. A veil dropped over my soul and I wandered, unsinging, searching for that other self that would please my dad, trying to discover my “real job” and not finding it. I had believed his view that enticing others to come outside and experience wonder and fulfillment in Nature was not a real job.

Until today.

Until today.

Today, a New Story begins. And my dad literally blazed the trail on which this story unfolds.

My dad helped blaze the Buckeye Trail in Dayton, OH decades ago. Today, the city of Dayton is being officially dedicated as a “Trail Town” on the Buckeye Trail. And it just so happens that I will be welcomed in the ceremony as one of the hikers who are currently walking this trail because it just so happens that I chose this trail for my next long walk.  While I walk the Buckeye Trail’s 1200 mile circuit around the State of Ohio, I will be coaching women to walk into their own dreams. I will be creating Fulfillment through Forgiveness ceremonies in towns along the trail. I’ll be guiding women on short ForgivenessWalks on certain sections of the trail. That’s my “real” job.

The spell is broken. My dad cleared the path and welcomes me back today into his Trail Town, my hometown, which I left decades ago to seek my “real” job.

Let the New Story and this new journey begin. I think I’ll call this walk my Journey through my Heartland as I explore the art of living with a singing heart while walking through my homeland.

 

 

 

Blessing

As our journey begins, here’s a blessing I’m singing, thanks to my friend, Sara and generations before her!

“May troubles be less and blessings be more
May nothing but happiness come to your door
And may you have luck wherever you go
And blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.

May winds be at your back and sun be overhead
May friends be at your side wherever you are led”.

Walk with blessings

Winds at your back, Sun overhead

Cloistered Nomad

I sold my house yesterday.

My nomadic lifestyle has now begun in earnest.

I have the urge to enclose myself, to delve deep inside to discover my new self.
One safe and at home wherever I am in the World.

For tonight, though, I am grateful for the luscious bed at my friend’s B&B near the Appalachian Trail. I lean into the familiar lifestyle of a carefully furnished and decorated home. (Not like my own home ever was!)

Tomorrow, or maybe the next day
My roaming can begin.

Tonight
Homelife grounds me, assuring me that someone is home.

Dutch Haus, Montebello, VA