Why walk slowly across the country, taking an entire year, 365 days, to do so? Good question. I hope the answer is satisfactory. I am not trying to be evasive. I have a thousand reasons. Certainly I relish the adventure. I’ll admit to needing the challenge. I definitely want to slow things down, to a walking pace, and experience the world moment by moment. There will be tough days but overall I am sure that it will be a transformative experience. It’s a great indulgence, yes. But perhaps most importantly it is something I feel compelled to do because of the joy I feel where I am now, in this hometown of mine and this long, slow walk will give me the opportunity to express that joy while I raise a lot of money to help the homeless.
Love frees us to do what what we need to do. And when we feel we have a place to come home to, we have the confidence to leave home behind and explore the world (or at least what lies in the woods in the backyard.). No matter where you live in this country America is your backyard: don’t you feel that?
You should understand that I never expected to ever say the word “hometown” out loud without a detectable tone of cynicism, or to ever use the word possessively. I grew up a ‘service brat,’ living in a different home every two years or so, and loving it. I carried my home with me, on back, in my head and heart. And though at times I felt isolated – apart from those I met who had lived in the same town for years, decades, generations – I always felt at home wherever I was, whether I was accepted or not.
So the notion of ‘hometown’ for me, was always a quaint and almost irrelevant concept.
But then I became a husband, then a father, and then a homeowner living in what our local Chamber of Commerce calls, “America’s Hometown.” When I first moved here, now over 30 years ago, I laughed derisively at that notion. I lived in Plymouth but I didn’t feel I was a “Plymouthean” much less a Pilgrim. It’s a very large town and when I went downtown, saw the “Rock” or visited Plimoth Plantation I felt very much like a tourist.
The real change began when I became responsible for telling my fellow Plymoutheans what was going on in their community. First as a columnist, then a full time reporter for the almost 200-year old newspaper, the Old Colony Memorial, I began to get to know the people of Plymouth. Then on January 1, 2013, I got up around 4:30 in the morning and went out to take a photograph of the sunrise on the first day of the year. It was a beautiful morning: snow covered the ground, the temperature was well below freezing, but the sky was only partially occluded by clouds and you could already see that it would be a beautiful sunrise. I made my way to the coast – to a spot called Ellisville Harbor – and after parking trudged through the snow, down to the water’s edge, and took a few photographs.
364 days later 500 people joined me at Plimoth Plantation for the 365th sunrise picture of Plymouth that year. In that year I discovered an amazingly beautiful community and the people who lived here and realized that I felt a part of this community, felt indeed to be a part of the land – the ponds, ocean, marshes, Pine Barrens and the people.
To my amazement I felt that Plymouth was my home town.
And that’s why I am going to leave it for a year? I know it sounds crazy but yes: the discovery of my hometown has made me want, and given me the confidence, to explore the very notion of home, and hometown, and what it means to me, and where it comes from, and what others across the country feel about the idea, and about their own homes and hometowns. And as I walk across the country I hope – and believe – that people will affirm the value of home by donating to help the homeless.
There is so much more to this, but put simply: I am going away, and then WalkingHome.