After listening to Morning Edition on KUAC on my shortwave radio, I dressed for the 3.8-mile trek to campus and headed out the door.

I don’t have a backpack, so I stuff everything in my Eddie Bauer duffel bag and make due. Change of clothes. Books. External drive. Yellow legal pads. My journal. Letters to mail. I tuck a Canon Elf point-and-shoot in one pocket of my goose down vest and my cell phone in the other. I slip my left arm through one bag handle and hoist and sling into onto my back in one quick, clumsy motion. Right arm through the other handle and I’m ready to go.

The orange glow of the low rising sun pierces the spaces between the white-bellied birches as I climb the first hill. The snow sparkles and I take turns treading in the bare black lanes where passing cars and trucks have cleared a path and the slippery packed snow on either side. It’s quiet, only intermittent noises. My snuffles as my nose runs. A raven squawks overhead. And the gentle crunch, crunch, crunch as I heel to toe, heel to toe, making steady progress.

As I turn on Yankovich Road, a tall male runner passes me.

“Do you do anything special to your running shoes?” I call after him.

“I put screws in them,” he says, turning his head and looking over his left shoulder for a brief moment to answer me, never breaking stride. He’s over the hill and gone and I keep walking.

A few minutes later, I hear two voices, their banter as light as their footsteps. A man and a woman with a dog on a leash pass me, on a seven-minute pace, I’d reckon.

“Are those normal running shoes,” I shout.

The woman turns her head slightly to the right and shouts back.

“Yes, Normal running shoes. We’re crazy,” she says. Then she turns her head again: “We put spikes in the winter.”

I envy the light, sure-footed, happy, healthy runners passing me. And it dawns on me: it’s not yet winter. Heck, it’s barely a month into fall. I’m definitely not in Oregon anymore.

I like walking. It gives my mind time to wander. I write. I compose lists of things to do. I study the landscape and marvel at the light.

A nondescript maroon four-door car stops. (I’m as bad at car identification as I am at identifying the assortment of tracks in the snow around my cabin.)

A woman opens the driver’s side door and leans out, calling back to me.

“Need a ride?”

“No, thank you.” And I start running toward the car. This is the first person who has stopped to offer me a ride in the six weeks I’ve been walking. I want to meet her.

I reach the car. She’s Native, I’d guess. But I don’t ask and I regret it later. I’d like to know what tribe she’s from and what her family’s story is. She has a fistful of popcorn in her right hand so I don’t shake her hand.

“I’m Cheryl. I’m new here.” “I’m Ruby. This is my grandson, Silus.” I notice a young, dark-haired boy in the back seat.

“And who’s this?” I ask, spotting a probable German Shepherd pup next to Silus.

“Jack Jack.”

“Thank you for the offer, Ruby.” “It’s Birdy.”

I make a flapping motion with my arms. “Birdy?”

“Birdy. My daughter lives out this way.”

“I live down the down the road, off Dalton.”

“If your feet get tired and you see this little red car…”

Birdy shuts the door and rolls away, leaving me with an open invitation and the open road.

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