So, I decided to walk, meet people, listen to their concerns, play my guitar and sing for whomever would listen. Beginning in Thousand Oaks, CA, in the Western San Fernando Valley, I committed to walking northward, basically along the route of Highway 101, for 90 days. I set a goal of 1,000 miles in that time period. However, from the get go, the distance I travel paled in importance to the human encounters I hoped to have along the way. And, although my stated mission is to inspire civil, constructive dialogue, to be honest, what I really wanted to know — what I needed to know — is that this deeply divided nation is still populated by good, kind, generous people.
As of this writing, the first day of summer, having passed the halfway point of my quest, and closing in on 500 miles, it warms my heart to report that the answer is a resounding “Yes!” In fact, the majority of people I meet are nice, a whole lot of them are kind, and some are surprisingly generous. I’ve come to realize that, when two people look one another in the eyes, they can’t help but recognize their common humanity. One-on-one, face-to-face, we forget about the factors that tend to divide us — race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, social status, etc. And, although those factors certainly deserve acknowledgment and respect, as they combine to give each of us our unique individual identities, we all share a common origin: every one of us was born of a mother, vulnerable, and dependent upon one another for our survival.
(Note: Millie stuck with me for the first 300 miles. But she was getting very thin and tired, and the complications of having a pet along inclined me to retire her from the remainder of my trek. She is happy to have returned home to her “grandparents” in Oregon.)
Pretty much every day, I question the soundness of my judgment in choosing to take on this quest. After all, no one is forcing me to do this. And, I can give up, throw in the towel at any time. When I’m unsure of where I’ll be sleeping, when my feet are aching, legs weary, belly rumbling, and a motorist decides to scare me with a sustained horn blast, I think about the many fascinating folks who have taken the time to engage in spontaneous, candid conversation. And I’m most profoundly moved and inspired by those who have voluntarily, purely out of good conscience, paused the busyness of their lives to offer sincere concern and assistance.
From the get go, this journey has been one learning experience after another. When I began, I had no idea how to pack a backpack. Recently, when I was startled awake in the still of the night by a pair of enormous, marauding raccoons rifling through my supply bags, I figured out that remote camp grounds provide tall poles with hooks on them specifically to avoid such thievery. I’ve made camp under a 300-year-old oak on the edge of a strawberry field, at the top of a rural mountain top where nocturnal mountain lions and bobcats prowl, between a two-lane highway and some railroad tracks. I’ve slept with one eye open, wary of wild boars and rattlesnakes. I’ve also stayed in motels, Airbnb’s, pitched my bivouac at county and state campgrounds, laid my head in guest rooms, on couches, and living room floors, and in the backyards of generous people — some of whom were friends, friends of friends, or relatives of friends, some brand new friends I’d only just met.
It is always a relief to begin a day’s trek knowing where I’ll be laying my head as night falls. Campgrounds with warm running water have been few and far between and are all-too-often booked up. Wild camping, due to its inherent danger, not to mention discomfort, is usually a last resort. On many nights, a motel is the only option that makes any sense. The cheapest motels these days are $80 per night — with taxes, that amounts to $95. On weekends, even the most modest places can easily run $150. So, I’ve spent much more on motels than I anticipated, which has my American Express account approaching its limit. My dwindling resource problem has yet to reach crisis stage. However, when I put two and two together (or, more accurately, subtract two from two) I can foresee financial challenges ahead — particularly during the final 30 days of my journey.
While I don’t like feeling like a beggar, I must reach out and appeal to your generosity. If you have the means and feel so compelled, I hope you’ll consider providing this Peace Pilgrim with a safe place to sleep for a night. Any and all contributions will be gratefully accepted. And, as an added bonus and/or incentive, in exchange for your generosity, at your request, I will be happy to send you a copy of my new CD, “Answering the Call.” Simply provide a mailing address with your donation, and we’ll get that disc out to you asap. (The 10 songs on the CD are selected to represent the spirit of my pilgrimage. I’m very proud of this collection, my first release in more than 6 years.)
Thank you sincerely for following my Peace Pilgrimage on Facebook. Please know how very grateful I am for your friendship and your support.
- Dana Heald
- graham bishop
- Daniel DeMento
- Dave Isaacs
- Amanda McBroom
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