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Even as we agree that the pieces of sky through the trees are very blue, as we admire the persistence of the tiny streams, the marvel of the scrambling through them, a thought hums between us: If we had turned back before, we would be home now.We try to recall some sweeter hours when we weren’t thinking about the end, but our memory is blurred by footsteps and by the sticky wash of leaves against bodies. A small voice asks if maybe we should stop and rest for a few minutes. There is a momentary slackening of pace, and uncertainty ripples up and down our number.The question ripples up and down the chain of walkers, and one or two people raise the serious possibility of turning back right now.
But then a sharper voice responds that if we did stop to rest, even for a few minutes, we would still be thinking about walking, calculating the distance that remained, which is a kind of walking in itself, only a motionless internal one, like the spinning beach ball on a computer—so it wouldn’t be true rest. This is a persuasive argument and we all agree immediately to continue on, and our pace gathers again.
There is, at least, solidarity in the walking, a feeling of being a part of things.
A small crowd of them are sitting in the prickling grass.
They are no longer a forward-facing line but a stagnant scattering, doing nothing but taking in air.
Gone are the RVs towing boats, the buzz of jet skis on the lake, the crush of cars heading north to Glacier National Park.
Gone too are the hummingbirds and the bees, the snakes and the bears, the turtles and frogs and toads — even the woods take on a sort of hush.We keep our eyes on the back of the person in front of us, whose leg hairs are aquiver with burrs. We will reach the river sooner now that we have not stopped.From time to time, we imagine ourselves in a clearing, sitting on our humped packs in the shade—past selves who stopped to rest back there.Dance is particularly integral, often synchronised between groups, and “point” dancing, where the dance moves match the lyrical content of the song.hen autumn comes to the mountains of northwest Montana, it announces itself quietly, mostly in absences.We roam, rove, wander — words that especially suggest wooded paths and pensive hours. On good, we parade and promenade, mosey and meander.There are legendary walks: to the North and South Poles, on the moon.”—we all, together, remember how far we have come and how much distance would be wasted if we were to turn back. We should at least dignify how far we have come by going a bit further. The roar seems to come from somewhere low, under the trees, seething in the ground.We are reassured that our destination, the river, lies just ahead.Every now and then an old Ford truck, or a weathered Subaru, or a Chevy Suburban would pass and its driver would roll down the window and ask, “Car broke down? The well-meaning queries of the locals were my first inkling that walking might mean different things to different people — or even, different things to a single person, at various points in a life — as evidenced by the many verbs we use to describe the act of putting one foot in front of another.We ramble and amble, strut and stroll, hike, drift, march, stride, pace, tramp, stalk, swagger.