Sunday, January 8, 2012


Today I drove to my walk. Approximately 9 miles in the car from my house over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods. I walked with a group of donors to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. There looked to be about 30 of us - I conversed with one or two as well as our guide, Lou, who gave an in depth introduction to the Coho Salmon who live in Redwood Creek which flows through Muir Woods National Park. As a loner this was a big group for me - but my sense is it might have been comprised of many loner types as most were quiet and unto themselves.

What I learned about the coho salmon seemed in depth to me - however, Lou would hardly call my knowledge deep or extensive. She is working toward her Masters Degree in biology and was 'practically overwhelmed' by the amount and complexity of information about the coho. Sadly one fact is that the fish is now on the endangered list - along with many other species in the Bay Area. As always I admire the work of dedicated Forest Service, Department of Interior and other people in the conservation field. But I shudder at the sadness their job entails on a daily basis. Same with those who work to save animals.

Along the way we also learned a bit about redwood trees - which can stand for thousands of years but whose life cycles continue on after that because each felled tree is the nutrient rich mother of new trees that sprout out of its decaying trunk.

There is always a hush that surround redwoods. Or that has been my experience. Stands of redwoods are like cathedrals alive with spirit. Awe becomes the automatic response. At least for people like me. And while there are a lot of my type - assembled 30 strong today - there are multitudes more - particularly children - who are raised with electronics, airplanes, road and household machinery and other contributors to a constant din so they may never have experienced (and might even fear) the majesty of silence. Hoping to correct or rebalance this, the Park Service is participating in the Sound Project (?) where they have designated certain areas in their parks to be Quiet Zones.

There is one under a redwood canopy in the midst of Muir Woods. It begins with a very discrete sign that is presently hand-lettered but will soon be an official sign basically inviting passersby to join the Muir Woods custodians in silence as they walk through the Quiet Zone. The thought of those behind the Quiet Zone project is that, if you give silence space, expose people to it, it will expand of its own accord. This is a lovely idea - beyond lovely as one of my 'religions' is silence - but the polite little sign compared with the 4-5,000 daily summer visitors, many on bus tours, does not advance hope. Even today - a cold Sunday in January - there were many visitors as the day progressed, and they were often in groups talking among themselves. I didn't see a single cell phone though - which is either miraculous or because service is unavailable in the canyon. I suspect the latter unfortunately.

So maybe in a later post I'll write more about silence, how to control cell phones and other matters. Maybe I'll write again about Muir Woods. I do not know what will come out and onto these blog pages, but I have decided that I will write a post Daily - and publish it - for one year. I'm modeling myself on my best friend's son-in-law who just did that - wrote daily for a year. His last day was yesterday, and he ended his year with a moving entry about the unforeseen transformative benefits of his labor. As he struggled at what he considered a task, what actually happened was that he grew, he found a self and a voice he didn't even know existed, whole worlds of consciousness as well as real world opportunities opened to him, he came into his own. These were gifts - grace if you will - and he has the humility to honor that.

The name of my blog is Can I Walk There because I am a lifelong walker. Most likely walking saved me. Walking and my animal companions over the years. I was an unwanted child - long story - abandoned in the splendor of an upper class lifestyle where there is much room in and out of large houses for children to be literally not seen and not heard by the disinterested. There
were servants for the seeing and hearing. I was the oldest with my siblings yet to be born and other children were far away - maybe on their own isolated estates.

The first time I remember knowing love was when my dog - then a puppy - Zipper came into my life. That was nearly 6 decades ago, and I remember the first time he licked my face like it was yesterday. He actually wanted to be with me, was happy to be with me - I had never, not once experienced this. I was valued, loved, and had a deep lifetime (His) friend. I lived for Zipper.

Our walks began immediately when he would walk down the dirt road with me to my school in Riverside. I don't know what he did all day or how he knew the time, but he always, absolutely always was waiting at the end of that road to walk home with me at the end of school.

My heart soared anew every day when I saw him there. I didn't have a single friend at school. Really I didn't know what a human friend was. Maybe others thought I was their friend. Everybody was fine but I missed something along the line about socialization, so I didn't bond or do whatever kids do when they make friends. So I was participatory, active, but I was alone and lonely. My inner world was alive in the company of Zipper and in suspension when we were apart. So, when I saw him sitting and waiting for - Me! - at that juncture where the dirt road ended, the pavement began and the schoolyard grew green just past it, my whole being filled with joy. We marched down the road together dancing and hugging then began our daily explorations of the huge granite rocks in the yards of the neighbors down the road. To this day I am so grateful to those lovely people who let Zipper and I play in their yards and climb all over their rocks without ever shooing us away or complaining to my parents.

When we moved to Minnesota, Zipper again walked down to the end of the road where I caught the bus. But the schedule became more confusing. The weather was so incredibly cold and the bus ride so long that I began to ride into school with my father on his drive to work. So I hugged Zipper goodbye at the house.

But as our mornings together were eliminated, our afternoons together expanded into epic territory. I was the only child in the neighborhood who went to my private school. They all went to the public school nearby so were on a totally different schedule. And wavelength it seemed. I guess the parents in the neighborhood talked about our family and our private school ways and the kids too found the patterns that had been established for me to be off-putting. I don't know exactly, just that no one waved or spoke when I walked down the road, and, when I got home my mother either wasn't there, wasn't there emotionally or was mean to me. So once again Zipper was my only friend - and perhaps I his as he may have gotten as little attention as I when I was at school all day. All I know is that we were absolutely overjoyed to see each other each afternoon, and it was now our walks began in earnest.

The woods were right there past the house, and we entered them from different points daily. There were many paths, each leading on a different route. One up and over directly to a creek. Another much longer to the same creek where it ran next to train tracks. Whichever path we took, we ended up at a horse barn with a huge pasture. Walking toward home from it we climbed a rolling hill in an open field that came out at a kennel where Scotties were raised. Sometimes we would pet the horse and look in at the Scotties in their pens - but not that often because it was difficult to be quiet enough to not set them to barking. Once one started, the others - all of them - started up, and it really isn't particularly fun standing around watching dogs bark at the top of their lungs. After the kennels it was up a small hill, and down through a small path to the back door of our house. All together each of Zipper's and my walks was 2 to 3 hours. I'd be genuinely tired in that good way that comes from exercise, and Zipper would be exhilarated. This was clearly his idea of living!

Mine too. I think all that walking was good for my soul, that Zipper was my soulmate. I think too it saved me and gave me great strength and identity. On those walks I came into my own. Maybe I came to sort of own being a loner. Besides being aware of my great joy in having Zipper for a soulmate, I also was caught up in a 'moral adventure' on each walk. Zipper and I would walk away from our house and immediately begin an adventure of eluding the enemy. (Psychologically now I realize I was probably dealing with my scary knowledge that the scary enemy actually lived at our house - my mother). The enemy would be different, hiding in different places, Zipper and I would have to confer at intervals about where he might be, how many there were, where to hide, when to come out into the open. There were on-going problems to be solved but always, always there was some magical point when we realized that We Had Done It! Once again we had outsmarted the enemy and survived. At that point we could start heading home.

This winning, this outwitting and physically surviving was huge. Every day an amazement. Zipper and I did it!! And it gave me a great sense of survivability and inner strength. Yes I was one little (unwanted, ignored, picked on) little girl but I did not need other people to survive or find things that interested me to do. And I had love. I had steadfast mutual deep bonded love with Zipper - and more and more I just simply chose it over the thinness, aggravation, unpredictability and active cruelty of my mother or absence of my mother. I also had the vast, enduring presence of the nature that surrounded our house - the woods, fields, creek, hills, horses, dogs - these I loved and depended on as well. These too were my friends - my aesthetic and ballast.

But nothing was like Zipper. And in some ways nothing ever will be for me. He was the love of my life - perhaps the reason for my survival. And one day I came home from school and he wasn't waiting at his usual spot just past the lilac trees at the end of our driveway. This had literally never happened. I almost stopped breathing. I went into some kind of shock that allowed me to continue even though I knew right then that something drastic had happened.

I went to the house, no Zipper. I asked my mother, and, for the first time I actually saw her become concerned about something that was bothering me*. She started joining me in calling for Zipper. She may even have called my father from work because soon he too was in the woods calling "Zipper!" "Zipper!" Probably my brother Morgy was calling, and maybe a neighbor helped, but I doubt it.

He never returned. Zipper never returned. I was 8. He was - and is - my best friend. I would have died for him, and a part of me did. It is lifelong sorrow. I never knew what happened, I do not know if he suffered or how long he suffered, I don't know if he felt abandoned or betrayed. The sorrow is endless, bottomless.

But I still walk - daily. To this day Zipper is with me and in my heart I talk to him and tell him I love him and hope he is happy and that he understands I just didn't know, just couldn't help.

So Can I Walk There is lovingly dedicated to my friend, soulmate and savior, Zipper. Together we begin another journey.

*Many years later I realize this was probably a ruse on her part. I'm quite clear that she killed Zipper either unintentionally by running him over or intentionally taking him to be put down.

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