The Stranger

Here, in Plymouth, I am not a stranger.

On the road, its unavoidable, I will be ‘the stranger.’

Every home I walk by, every county I pass through, on every hillside where I put up my tent the word will go out, ‘there’s a stranger in town.” That will be the challenge, to find the right words, the right smile, the right tone of voice to put people immediately at ease.

What questions do I ask to get right to heart of the matter, the heart of community?
–Do you feel connected to your community? Do you consider this your ‘hometown?’ Do people in this community take care of each other? When you first saw me, what did you think?

I remember the reaction of a store clerk during my mini-walk last fall. I was in his convenience store less than a minute, getting a bottle of water from the back but, as I walked back towards the register I paused at a rack of newspapers.

Within seconds I felt the slap of his voice.

“Can I help you with something?”

What did he assume?

I remember seeing hand-made signs on the restrooms of Dunkin Donuts, “Out of Order,” but noticing that they were being used by the workers.

I remember being amazed that in the classic New England towns that I passed through there were so few public spaces.

I need to find a way to connect.

Imagine walking 3,500 miles and not talking to anyone along the way.

I certainly don’t see my way home lined with smiling people, reaching to slap me on the back, reaching out to welcome the stranger to their towns.

Still I am remarkably hopeful, optimistic, insane?

I plan to leave, following my route home in reverse, on Sunday morning, around 9 a.m., Nov. 4, driving northwest to Savoy, where my friend Salvy lives.

Maybe I’ll leave from the Plantation, the place where for me this all began? Maybe I’ll have a penant that you can sign?

I am going to meander a bit, taking at least ten days to reach the west coast so that I can get at least a rudimentary understanding of the challenges I will face walking back, the roads I want to avoid, the towns I want to walk through.

Please look at my route and do one of several things: advise me about a particularly lovely town, connect me to a friendly face, remark on a special pie, or festival, or scenic overlook you remember.

I don’t want to be a stranger, who does?