Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Monday, 30 July 2007
Front, Friday, June 29, 2007, p. A1
Monk struck with reoccurring case of wanderlust
KIRKLAND LAKE - Bhaktimarga Swami is putting his heart and soles into an inspirational trek across Canada, walking for spiritual and personal growth, to inspire and be inspired. A journey that recently took him down the Mile of Gold.
More than 30 years ago, Swami - formerly John Peter Vis - adopted an Eastern order of monastic life and became a member of the Hare Krishna. The name he has taken on, Bhaktimarga, means "Path of Devotion" in Sanskrit. Swami, "Owner of Oneself," is a title added to one's name to emphasize learning and mastery of a specific field of knowledge. In the cross-country voyager's case, it is the field of bhakti-yoga and mantra meditation.
And the assumed moniker describes the cross-country voyager in a nutshell.
Though a hike across the world's largest country would be, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking, Swami is on the second leg of his third crossing. Completing his first 7,800 km pilgrimage in 1996, walking from British Columbia to Newfoundland, he completed the circle in 2003, walking from Cape Spear, Nfld. back to Vancouver Island.
With close to 20,000 km under his feet venturing into the remainder of his third tour across Canada, the Walking Monk took some time to explore Kirkland Lake before continuing down the road. Seeking out alternative routes when possible to avoid main highways has offered him a chance to explore the smaller, less-known towns.
"This time around I've gone on some of the roads less traveled, like Hwy 11," Swami said. "All the marathoners go on Hwy 17 but I decided I wanted to do something different and go through all these worthy towns."
Though he walked his first two treks straight through, prior commitments forced Swami to break this cross-country hike in half. Picking up where he left off at the Ontario/Manitoba border on May 10, he plans to reach his destination - once again Cape Spear, Nfld - by September.
"It's a sensational, perfect ending place," he said. "It's the eastern most part of North America. There is nothing else beyond that."
Spending the night camped in Sesikinika on Monday, Swami was off to an early start the following morning, continuing south to North Bay, then onto Highway 17 toward Ottawa.
"I guess a dream is to hit every town and village in Canada," he said.
With distances of 45-50 kilometers to cover each day, the monk starts walking by 3:30 a.m., mainly to beat the heat and enjoy some quiet time on the road by himself. With a short nap later in the day, he climbs back into bed around 10:30 p.m. Approximately nine hours of each day is spent traversing the sometimes rugged Canadian landscape.
And when treading a rugged landscape for long stretches, foot-care is of the utmost importance and making proper footwear a necessity, according to the monk. Trying to avoid sounding like a commercial, Swami swore that the newest craze in footwear - Crocs - were the absolute best.
"You cannot breathe in running shoes," he said.
"Crocs are light and airy and the water just slides off.
"The Creator made our feet so they would touch the earth and a shoe that will allow for embracing different terrain is advantageous."
The monk goes through one pair of Crocs every month and will have walked six pairs into the ground by the time he reaches Newfoundland in September.
Despite taking care of his tender tootsies, he admitted the trek has had its challenges and has taken a toll on his body. With muscle pain and inflammation around his knees - something he hasn't encountered previously - Swami has been slowed down tremendously, cutting back by 5-10 km a day.
The Northern Ontario roads in particular have added an extra obstacle to contest with. Built to allow run-off, the shoulders are sloped toward the ditches, and create an uneven plain to walk on.
"After a while it does a number on your body if you do that every day," he said.
However, he admitted the strain on his body hasn't been the most difficult part of the trek.
"You expect a bit of pain doing this but you learn detachment from the body," he said. "The most difficult aspect of the walk is going through a long stretch where there's no human interaction."
As he wrote in his online Report from the Road, "The art of walking is of secondary importance. It is the people you meet and observe that makes it all worthwhile."
He explained there are two different kinds of monks; those who are hermits and live in solitude, and those, like himself, who just want to hit the road, go out, get inspired and meet people.
"That's the tradition in India - where the Hare Krishna originates - to roam with no fixed address," he said. "I'm a little more motivated with a little more direction. I know where I'm going and study maps every day."
The Walking Monk has been met on his journey by police officers, pedestrians and more frequently motorists, who stop to talk or snap a photo.
"I guess people are intrigued with the notion of a monk coming their way," he said, adding he has also been met by bears, moose and other wildlife. "I've never seen as much wildlife coming at me as I have this time around."
Though he does the majority of the walking solo, he is occasionally joined by his vehicular support person and videographer, Doug Kretchmer, along with his parrot Billie, and Yovany Cabanas, a Hare Krishna hailing from Cuba who joined Swami in Kenora.
When walking 7,800 km, spending time deep in thought is inevitable, and it is that aspect the monk finds so refreshing.
"You've got a lot of time to think about the past and the future, about yourself and about the world and what you might be able to do about it," he said. "Sometimes you have to make self-improvements before you can make the world a little better and I'm motivated to encourage people to do that."
Swami has met other marathoners along his route, whether they be bikers, runners or motorcyclists, and admitted they all have the same thing to say.
"It's a healing process," he said. "You're on your heels and you're being healed.
"Walking is like exhaling," he added. "It's a release."
While he walks, he also practices meditation. He carries with him a little salmon-coloured sack, which holds his japa beads - a string of 108 mantra meditation beads that he uses while chanting the Hare Krishna every day for several hours.
"It's very engaging," he said. "It's a spiritual workout."
Though Swami, dressed in a traditional monk robe - salmon in colour - stands out against Mother Nature's backdrop, a purpose of his walk was to be, in essence, a part of it, experiencing the sights, the sounds and the smells.
Originally from southern Ontario, the monk had an innate passion for Canada and had always wanted to see it close up, rather than from the view of a speeding car window.
"I have a passion for nature's aesthetics that are so abundant in our country," he wrote on his website.
However, the reasons for his venture are multifaceted. Experiencing back problems in the early 80s, Swami sought the care of a Chiropractor, what essentially became the origin of his "walking madness" as he described it.
"I didn't want to have to see a Chiropractor for the rest of my life, so I decided to do something about it," he explained.
To aid his pains, he started walking in the ravines in Toronto and got back into the habit of walking.
That said, his motivation lays deeper yet. He is not walking for a specific cause or organization, and his goal is not to collect money. He is walking mainly to inspire and be inspired, and meet people along the way.
"This is a venture of friendraising, not fundraising," he said.
"I would just like to get people to slow down and take time to acknowledge each other. The number one thing is all of us together; number two is you. If it's just you first, you're left out."
Each pilgrimage across Canada has been filled with bountiful experiences, beautiful sights and memorable people, and for Swami, the 7,800 km of engaging spiritual growth has proved to be nothing but sensational.
"Each time going at it, it gets better," he said. "Maybe I get more confident about the road and the people, and maybe they feel the same way. It's a reciprocation and it's been really pleasant."
To follow the Walking Monk's journey across Canada, visit his website at www.thewalkingmonk.org.
Bhaktimarga Swami, the Walking Monk, stopped for a rest in front of the Miner's Memorial while passing through Kirkland Lake on his third trek across Canada. He began his journey in British Columbia and plans to finish in September in Newfoundland.
Category: Front Page
Uniform subject(s): Religion, philosophy and ethics
Length: Long, 1161 words
_ 2007 Kirkland Lake Northern News (ON). All rights reserved
Daytime news editor
The Daily Press
Monk taking trek all in fine stride
Scott Paradis / The Daily Press
Local News - Friday, June 22, 2007 @ 10:00
Bhaktimarga Swami's faded salmon-pink robes clash with the light-green
shrubs and dark evergreen trees to his side. His brown Crocs are almost
camouflaged in the dirt along the highway's shoulder.
Swami, a 54-year-old Hare Krishna monk from Toronto, started walking from
Victoria, B.C., and on Thursday he found himself on Highway 101 between
Timmins and South Porcupine, still heading west.
When Swami finishes his walk in Newfoundland, it will become the third
cross-Canada trek that he has completed on foot. Altogether, his legs have
racked up more than 13,000 km.
"Every day it is a great adventure," Swami said as he took a break down a
trail away from the highway.
"You see a lot of wildlife and learn a lot about the different (features) of
Swami isn't walking across Canada for any particular cause. He isn't
collecting money for a non-profit organization, nor is he promoting
awareness for a specific political issue.
Instead, in a way that wasn't intended to echo the hollywood splash of
Forest Gump's famous run, the monk is simply walking for walking's sake.
"Your body is half made of leg, so you have to ask yourself, do we utilize
them enough?" he asked.
The short answer is no, he added.
Swarmi hopes that by walking across Canada more people will think about
But a walk across Canada has its share of challenges.
In Northern Ontario he has faced two completely different sets of
The first was in May, when unseasonably cold weather brought snow. Later,
"It's an exercise in toughness," he said about every challenge he faces.
"It's a good thing to go through."
The monk walks about 45 to 50 kilometres a day. His days start around 3 a.m.
so he can beat the heat.
Sometimes he will do additional walking into the evening hours when
temperatures begin to cool.
Swami has visited Timmins before, but never during his cross-country walks.
Every time Swami does walk, he finds a new route.
Instead of walking straight across the country he said he "zig-zags" in an
effort to see more towns and cities.
Making a journey across Canada on foot may not be something you would attempt but recently, Bhaktimarga Swami a Hare Krishna Monk passed through Cochrane on a journey across Canada heading for the East coast. During an interview he gave his reasons for this, his third walk across our country. I have been inspired by the people and the northern route is less travelled and I must say a much friendlier route. This is a pilgrimage walk which allows me to connect with the spiritual side of life. The people inspire me and I hope that I inspire them, he said.
Bhaktimarga Swam was born in Chatham and adopted an Eastern order of monastic life in 1973. He was a fine arts Swami attending Cambrian and has put that to good use working with youth groups and drama yoga.
Now, at the age of 54 making his third walk he said, I have a passion for natures aesthetics and also for the great workout it gives me.
Swami came fully garbed in a peach coloured robe. I guess some people find my clothes interesting. Robes are the traditional garb of a monk. I became a monk in the Hare Krishna movement back in 73. I admit that being a monk is not everyones calling, but it is mine.
Along with him on his travels is Doug, the one who makes all of the arrangements for a stay in motel or camping. Jyovany also travels with him and is an excellent cook.
Remember, monks are vegetarians.
Anxious to see a bear on his travels, Northern Ontario answered his wishes when just on the other side of Hearst, a bear wandered out onto the road behind him. Im not sure what he would have done if a truck had not come along and scared him off.
As for the people along the way many have provided shelter, a meal and asked many questions. One of the most asked questions are the beads he carries in a small sack. They are Japa beads. They are made from wood from sacred Tulasi wood. There are 108 beads and are used in repetitive questions like please allow me to engage in some service.
Now with the summer heat his journey only allows him to travel 40 to 45 km a day commencing at 3:00 a.m.
At the end of the day, walking the road while meditating and communicating with other travelers is an attempt at seeking inspiration, and he feels that if people did more walking, less squawking, the world have less rat race-ism.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
It was a misty morning. At 4AM the highway was calm and I had begun chanting. My guru, Srila Prabhupada, was on my mind. At 4:30, going eastbound was a huge semi-trailer that stopped. With the fog and darkness, the driver couldn't truly know what I was doing. "Is everything okay?" he asked. I explained that I was and told of the walking marathon.
At 6AM, I chanted silent mantras called 'gayatri.' Crossing the road in front of me was a young fox. He circled me while keeping a safe distance, then went back to the direction in which he came.
At 7:10AM a massive moose crossed the road again in front of me northbound and then merged with the mist.
I guess the fox and moose were out there searching for food while I was out there hunting for God.
It was a short day on my legs as Doug, Yovany, Billie, and I left via the SUV to Montreal to attend the Festival of Chariots for the weekend. From there, Yovany and I join the Krishna Youth Bus Tour for three weeks. I will convene on daily reports when we hit the road again on Aug. 1, 2007.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
It was quite typical of what the world thinks of Canada. A kindly man with a slightly protruding belly, walks his dog. Set against a backdrop vista of blue sky, steep green hills and glistening river water, he politely says to a neighbour, "Nice day, eh?" Some of you may laugh at such a stereotype but that's exactly what happened. At least for Yovany and I on this early stretch of today's trek, this guy in Mattawa did just that.
Personally, this courtesy, simple as it is, registers as something saintly. To me it is so many levels beyond religious condescension that we sometimes encounter. Have you ever met someone with the 'holier than thou' attitude? It is another form of ignorance.
Now to go back to the topic of kindness. The generosity of the people just keeps on flowing. A woman gave a blue stalactamite as a gift, A man stopped to offer a bunch of rich and ripe strawberries, and Doug even received a discount on the campsite on the plea of 'monk rates.' Of course our hosts for the last five days in North Bay, the Ratra family, fed us and accomodated us so well until we left to continue our eastbound trek.
A portion of our afternoon was taken up venturing to the Brent meteotite crater. Apparently this 2 mile diameter depression on the north side of Algonquin Park is one of a few of such size found on earth. This one was the biggest one on the planet until about six years ago when a bigger one was discovered in Siberia. This occurred some 250 million years ago. Interesting!
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Most rivers have tension points. So does life. At Eau claire Gorge the river is very relaxed and easy-flowing. As elevation declines, water starts rushing and as the river banks narrow to become a gorge, it intensifies even more to create an explosion of water before it relaxes again. Signs for canoers indicate that the gorge is not passable. No doubt the spot is beautiful. Life or even a day in life is similar. Sometimes portaging is smart at tension points.
Yovany's day was relaxed. I asked him to stay with out hosts, the Ratra family, for the day. Their two sons, Varuna, 13, and Pranav, 8, are very bright boys and they respond very well to him as if he's a big brother. I see the two boys as future leaders and now is a good time for favourable spirited injection.
Kristen Shepherd is a lovely soul who appreciates metaphysical subject matter. After yesterday's interview on her'Wonder Files' program, she invited Doug and Billie to come in the next day for an interview. Zander from Moose FM ran down to the North Bay's waterfront to talk with Doug and I for an upcoming radio broadcast. Zander is also good-natured. And further down the highway in Mattawa, Gerry from the Mattawa Recorder newspaper, came to ask some questions about the walk. He was fine. Great people!
Shad-flies, very short-lived opaque winged flies clinged to windows and blocked the northern views in the North BVay area. May illusion (maya), which currently blinds and absorbs each and every one of us, be a short visitor.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Swimming and walking go hand in hand. The water is refreshing, relaxes muscles, soothes the mind, cleanses the body and adjusts the body air currents. I took full advantage of Lake Nipissing's wet waves and relished it.
One thing startles me. School is over. The weather is great. The beach is fine. So, where are the kids? The sea-gulls enjoy the sand. I'm sure they are willing to share the space.
When I was young (I'm starting to sound like an old man) we went for free recreation at the lake, soaked in the sun, listened to transistor radios and played in the water like fish. That was the 50's and the 60's. It seems that our culture has changed. Having spent considerable time in an ashram, I miss many of the changing tides. Some people will say, "You're not missing anything."
As the Gita describes three modes of existence- goodness, passion and ignorance- it is somewhat obvious that goodness is obscured. Most definitely the prevalent 'dark indoor culture' is self-evident of lack of light and enlightenment.
The passion of the post-war generation has slipped down a few notches.
It's not all grim, though. I feel hope in people. Kristen Sheppard has a weekly radio show on Bluesky Radio and she invited me down for an interview. The dialogue between us flowed smoothly as we explored the topic of pilgrimage.
Paul Chivers of the North Bay Nugget met me on the highway and took some photos but it was our conversation after the photography session that bore real substance. Country western radio station CKAT DJ Richard interviewed me about the walk also.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Yesterday we had spent a day in Ottawa, Canada's capital city, to partake in the nation's birthday celebrations near Parliament Hill. Our small Canwalk party made the drive there. At a modest stage set-up, I engaged not my feet but my arms for a good four hours playing a dolok (wooden Indian drum). My voice was also in full swing as I lead kirtan (chanting) for most of that time.
While chanting a fellow came up to me trying to get my attention. It was one of many motorists that I met on the highway weeks before. Small world!
So now, today, I've taken to my legs again on the road with some walking down the Kinsmen Trail in North Bay. The trail is shared by walkers, cyclists and joggers.
Maheen, a cab driver from Toronto, had been wishing to join me for weeks but couldn't find the opportunity. While driving his cab in Toronto a person flagged him down and asked him to drive him to Ottawa (with a whopping bill of $460). His prayers had been answered. This was his chance to connect with the Swami. After connecting in Ottawa, we all drove back to North Bay, where we resumed the walk. Billie the parrot also took turns on our shoulders as we were walking. She certainly draws attention to us. So it's the robes of Yovany, myself, Maheen's dark Sri Lankan skin, and Doug with his green bird that caught people's eyes--and hearts.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Grey Owl, the renowned conservationist of a century ago, was a tall Englishman who fell in love with native life. He first came off the train in Temagami and mixed with the Ojibway and married Angele of the Algonquins and basically became accepted as one of them. That's how he got the native name.
For two hours or so, our Canwalk party spent some time mingling with the local folks, mostly native, at an event which included traditional drumming. The venue was outside the Temagami train station and it appeared that although small, the whole town had converged there. When I came upon the gathering there, the word had gone out about the walking monk. A lot of love was demonstrated by the people upon greeting me. People were curious and open with Doug and Yovany as well. Overall there was good interaction
On the highway, gifts of water and happy honks came my way. Even an officer gave a Granny Smith Apple. The mood today was as sweet as could be.
In the evening, our hosts in North Bay, the Sharmas, called friends to a Sat-sang. Chanting and a verse from the Gita, Chapter 16, which addressed what to do with envy, occupied our time. The Toronto crew bid farewell and I went to sleep counting blessings.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The scent of manure hit my nostrils and instantaneously carried my mind to my childhood, living on the farm. Duty bound but not always in the mood of surrender, I went out into the dew seeking out our family cow in the fog-bound pasture. Once spotted, she knew I was there ready to milk her and with more enthusiasm than I could muster, she raised her hefty body and took to the worn cow path with me in pursuit behind her. This happened every day at 5:30AM.
It was 5:30AM today, just north of Liskeard when I started this reminiscence. The area is a clay belt and accomodates some farming, but is also interrupted by mining- gold and now silver. Cobalt is the silver capital of Canada but like most mining towns, it's glory is short-lived. One hundred years ago silver was discovered. The area grew to a town of 20,000 but is now reduced to 1,500. It has haunting a haunting aspect to it. Over one hundred mines were active with some rusty old house shafts as ghost signals. Yovany, Doug and George were intrigued and our pilgrim mode shifted to tourist mode for an hour or two.
The people there reminded us who we were. The individual reception was overwhelming. A van load of eager walkers from Toronto joined us- Dr. Vikas Pandith, Raj and their sons and friends came to get a taste of northern treasures- a look at the wild vegetation along the highway, a rushing pristine river, the Montreal River, a climb up rocky steps, a crack at constructing an inukshuk, and a brief glance at a moose. This is all a breath of fresh air for a bunch of suburban dwellers.
These boys were with me to spend some time with a guru-type figure- me. At least I am trying to be a guide to them.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
He handed me five 20 dollar bills right there on the highway and said, "I always had a fondness towards monks ever since I was a kid when I met one in Germany." Then he went on his way. This is Northern niceness.
Earlier on I had gone into the CJBB radio studio with Rick in Englehart. I came out feeling not adequate in my presentation. The advantage to this is that I can hope to improve. I was also interviewed by Elysha at CJTT in New Liskeard and that was an improvement, but still...
New Liskeard is gearing up for a massive Biker's Fest, a program that attracts bikers from all over the world. Elysha implied that there are bikers of all types, mild and less mild. One of the most friendly people we encountered were Scott and his ten year old daughter Brenna. He saw me emerging from the morning mist at 5AM along Hwy. 11. By providence he seemed to be bumping into our party crew several times. He also recommended a great campsite in New Liskeard.
Betty White, 91, is a sweet darling of a lady. She is our host at the camp on Lake Temagami. She moved to Canada in 1946 from Wales and has not dropped the accent of charm over all these years. It's the variety that spares our world of monotony. All thanks to the creator.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
He was a big, burly biker who stopped right in front of Yovany and myself. While the engine of the motorcycle was running high, he gave me a clear warning right there on the highway. "You gotta watch out for that bear comin' up. She was right next to my machine and she just didn't back off. She's dangerous!" And off he went, northbound on Hwy. 11.
With caution we proceeded ahead and lo and behold, there she was, immersed in scouring the succulent wild strawberries. She saw us, paid little attention, then became more aware of us as she lifted herself onto her hind legs showing her prowess, fell onto her four legs and gave off a good threatening snarl. If it wasn't for the road construction crew nearby, I might have been shaking in my robes by now. We let her be and carried on to meet the road crew who informed us that the cubs were on the other side of the road. So the lesson is: don't stand between two affectionate poles.
A greater surprise for us was to see George Scaboda, 67, who had translated Prabhupada's 'Bhagavad Gita As It Is' into the Czech language in the 70's. He hitch-hiked for hundreds of kilometres asking people if they had seen the monk. A police-woman from Hearst led him to where he is now. George showed up just after our bear encounter at Crooked Creek.
Monday, June 25, 2007
ON Some eyebrows were raised as Yovany and I trekked the streets in the residential and retail sections of Kirkland Lake. Some came forward. Two skateboarders stopped. One of them remarked, "Now for sure you're not from town.?" Another man in his car waited for us. "I thought you guys were long gone." A 'born again' woman asked us about our costumes and if we were 'born again.' I have little patience for people who cannot carry out a respectful conversation of hearing and responding, so we left her abruptly.
A cab driver rolled down his window, "Hey, I saw you on TV." Some women standing outside their business were betting on whether we were Buddhist or Hare Krishna monks. There were lots of greetings. The last two days have been frankly physically painful. I have experienced muscle spasms around the knees.
Foot baths, swimming, massages and regular breaks are helping. Billie the parrot and Doug walked with me for a little stretch today. Billie actually got on my shoulder and was my passenger for a while. She was fairly well behaved except for the fact that she pooped on me and nibbled my ear a few times. Laurel, from the Northern Daily News, met us at the miner's memorial sculpture on the edge of Kirkland Lake for an interview and photos. She just finished an article about a tea party and she perked up at the prospect of meeting monks.
By the end of the day we were fatigued and Doug was exhausted after working at the computer for a few hours as well as attending his other duties. We returned back to the Homestead Campground and visited with and fed the three Fallow deers (from Europe) who were pets of the Dutch couple who own the campsite. As I write this I am being devoured by mosquitoes. Such is life in the bush.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Back I am on Saturday night, greeted at the Timmins airport by a cheerful Yovany and Doug and last but not least, Billie. From the airport to Nighthawk Resort campground in Doug's vehicle, we were reporting to each other about what happened over the short period that I was gone. I conveyed that it was a good trip to Toronto and that the cremation ceremony for a Mr. Soom Pandith (aka Sastra Das) was well co-ordinated with lively chanting. The boys explained that a very natural orientation occured between them and the residents of Nighthawk Resort. The villagers, if you will, were informed about our walking mission and had recieved a taste of a new brand of spirituality. So communication was active. This morning, Dave from MCTV, came to meet us out on the road. Apparently he was going to do a fearure story on us. I spent more time "off camera" with him, communicating over social issues and personal interests, than "on camera." In any event, the 6:00 news did have us slotted in just after the sports feature. Perhaps it was intentional. Walking is a sport after all. Also on today's media venture was a phone in interview with Matthew from EZ Rock 99.3FM Doug had contacted a professor from Northern College. Mr. Raj Mohanty invited families of mostly east Indian origin to his home for a traditional sat-sang, a spiritual gathering. Being isolated from our type of spiritual exposure, the children found us odd and different although the parents themselves felt right at home chanting and hearing from the 'Gita.' Everyone dropped their reservations at dinner time, the last item on the agenda. A final note: Human life is very fragile. Matheson, the town where I completed today's walk , encountered the worst fire in national history. July, 1916 marked the date of destruction of 500,000 sq. acres and claiming 223 lives. Yes, life is fragile
Friday, June 22, 2007
It does not seem hot, although summer is supposed to be upon us. It is the summer solstice. The chill keeps the bugs down. This is merely a reminder of the dual world that we live in-- hot, cold; affection, repulsion; joy, sadness. It rarely, if ever, becomes comfortable for us. Nature only teases and presents an allurement.
As I walk, to my left a coffee cup is tossed and blown by the wind. Seemingly, the cup is supposed to have contents or substance, but it is hollow.
At 6:30 AM, hundreds of cars turn off the highway to reach their place of employment at the XStrada Copper Mine. I ask myself, "If I did not take up the life of renunciation, would I be routinely making a daily trip to the mine to work a day or night shift?" Somehow, by providence, I've taken a different path.
My day is cut short as I must depart for Toronto to attend a funeral.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
In 1909, the gold rush was on in the area of Timmins. Since then, mining has been consistent. Timmins is the home town of country star Shania Twain. It is also the home of my good friend and monk buddy, Bhakti Raghava Swami, a.k.a. Real Gagnon, who spends much of his time with the mission in Indonesia.
Scott, from the Daily Press, found me at the side of Highway 101 at break time. I explained that there are many approaches to spirituality and that I'm representing one of them. At the campsite at Nighthawk Lake last night, we chatted with the owners, Bea and Bob, who have been there since 1979. They are both very active members in the United Church. They were very accepting of our exotic approach to spiritual life. No fundamentalism there! We were just listening to each other. That's a healthy sign.
A short visit to the residence of Peresh Patel and family who had arrived from Gujarat, India to settle in Canada.It was refreshments and talk about the goal of life that ended our day.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
"You are the only one this far north that has ever come here," remarked an elderly person in Cochrane. She was referring to a monk coming to her town. She was one of many people that I spoke with about raising consciousness. One very well built young man was assembling a bicycle in his garage when I walked by his home. We talked. He daily does meditation in his backyard but now he has the mantra for meditation, which relieves maximum stress and brings optimum joy. A tourist couple from Norway came to know of greater consciousness. Just a vast array of people from different backgrounds took an interest in what we were doing.
All members of our party, Yovany, Doug, and let's not forget Billie the parrot, were networking with people in their own way at the library, the laundromat, the park and the highway. As a result of one of these interactions the Cochrane Library now has a Bhagavad Gita As it Is, which the locals can now check out.
Nora, of the Cochrane Times, found our philosophy and tradition to be very similar to native culture. I couldn't disagree with her on that.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
As is the case of the north, many paper mills have closed down like the one at Sooth Rock Falls. Mining has also been on the decline in some areas. This means that people are forced to move to other places to earn their livelihood. People mobility does happen, but rarely on foot. There is an obsession for the automobile.
A woman who just recieved her degree in Fine Arts was on her way back home after completing her course. She had read about the cross country pilgrimage walk and when she spotted me, she pulled over and offered to show me her Croc footwear similoar to mine. She was entolling the glories of a walkers dream to be in light, airy footgear. But more than that she took interest in the 'feat' itself, the walk.
In Kapuskasing, the interview at The 'Moose' CKAP 101.9 FM went well.
Oh, the wind today is a blessing. It keeps the flying criiters away.Even if there was no wind, I accept the matter of biting objects as an austerity program which is always conducive to the life of a monk. Swatting the mosquitoes in our tent before resting becomes a regular activity. They are rather dull creatures. One of these agressors is smashed between our hands and yet the one surviving next to the deceased one is not aware that he is about to be executed as well.
OOps! One just flew into my mouth and I swallowed it accidently. I hope that doesn't mean that I have broken my vegetarian vows.50 kms
Kapuskasing is the name of a small city (pop. 9500) in Northern Ontario. The name means 'the bend in the river,' in the Ojibway language. People call it the Kap for short. James Cameron, film director of The Titanic and writer of The Terminator, was born here.
I met a retired Siberian woman who settled here in 1951. She told me of how her life is blessed and how she reminds her grandchildren of the need to vbe grateful for what you've got.
I also met Bob, who was curious about my "salmon-coloured robes." Bob is a little bitter with life but moving on. He is proceeding with a divorce from his wife who he claims has had numerous affairs. He was apprehensive about spirituality but was willing to consider it at life's end. In the meantime, he was intent on a continued life of morality.
Victoria, however, was very interested. She saw me walking the other day and again today. She decided to find out what a monk is made of. She is happy with her new found Jesus. She's never heard the word Hare Krishna before.
"Jesus is the son. Krishna is the father. We are looking at one spiritual family," I explained. Speaking of family, Victoria comes from a family of 21 siblings.
Kevin, from the Northern Times newspaper interviewed me, and Maxime, from french radio station CKGN FM, heard from me about the power of mantras.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Today was a day of sights that excite. Along Highway 11 emerging from the bush on the other side of the parallel highway tracks came a hungry wolf. On those same tracks walked a mother moose and her calf. A young bear showed himself and finally two loud cranes manifested along those same tracks all at different intervals. There was nothing trivial about these sightings even though something sensational meets the highway practically every day. These species are wondrous and to reflect from the Gita I think they are "a spark of my splendour."
There had been little human interaction for me today. However, a police officer stopped to ask if I had an escort. I didn't want to sound sarcastic by saying "I have thousands buzzing around," referring to the black flies. The officer was kind and handed me some dollars as a donation.
A dip in the Missinabi River allowed me to touch history. It was here that fur traders canoed to and fro carrying stock meant for the European market.
There was a constant hum of billions of mosquitoes outside our tents as we doze off until the early morning.
"I will cook for you," said the owner of the Northern Seasons motel. Asif is a Muslim man who has a generous nature about him and his offer to cook for us was gladly accepted. If someone demonstrates genuine devotion how can we refuse. Doug and Yovany simply explained our requirements to him. No meat, fish, eggs, onions, garlic.....Asif, being from the Punjab, knew enough that he was confident to do the right thing. The end product was a delicious meal.
All of us felt satisfied being in this shared experience. Also sharing distinct approaches to spirituality was a couple whom I met on the highway. They had been reading the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead.' They were honored to recieve a Bhagavad Gita As It Is from us. They told of a ghost that had inhabited their home but that new renovation had subdued the strange going ons. We had faithn the the presence of the sacred Bhagavad Gita in their home would also adjust things favourably.
A group of young french Canadians assumed that monks came from Tibet. They were intrigued by the walk and by what a monk is. I'm out on the road to clarify many points for people; one is to make it more clear that my tradition dates back to at least 5,000 years and that the monk lifestyle has roots in India. These young folks have never heard of Hare Krishna before. Again, that is one of the reasons for my being out in the public--to introduce a higher consciousness.
Some folks seemed to remember us. Three couples in their fifties mimicked Hare Krishna when they spotted Doug, Yovany and I during an evening stroll. Whether it was meant to joke with us or no, we did communicate. All three couples boasted about being high school sweethearts and all three proudly pronounced to us their thirty year plus anniversaries.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I see lots of flying objects each day. Black flies and horse flies attack humans (me in particular). Dragon flies are plentiful and have on their menu mosquitos and black flies. There is also the occasional eagle.
An ancient text, the Bhagavatam states 'jivo jivasya jivanam.' One living entity is food for another living entity. In this sense nature is harsh. Two days ago, Mike and Toni told of how they saw a hungry eagle swoop down upon a pair of loons. One became captive and a gruesome drama ensued. The loon had no chance and the surviving loon, the mate, lamented excassively for two years at Klotz Lake. It is a well known fact that most birds are partners for life. Wouldn't it be nice if humans would follow this pattern a little more?
I met Mario who moved to Hearst to find his father after his parents seperated over twenty years ago. Prior to that he never knew his Dad. I expressed that social discord is so common and suggested we always take spiritual shelter.
I also met a man from France who recently settled in Canada. He found it unique to find a man in robes carrying an umbrella (for the sun) on the highway. We talked. There were other inquisitive motorists.
Doug and I took a dip in the Kabinagami River after I completed 35 kms where, to our surprise, we didn't see one black fly. The water was very refreshing and there was a nice breeze in the air which really cooled us off after such a hot day.
At dusk, Yovany and I accidently came upon a Cancer Walk Event in Hearst. We thought, "Why not participate, show our support and make friends in the town. We found good down-to-earth people. Not pretentious.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Doug dropped me off at the spot where I had left off the day before. It was dawn and a pack of wolves very close by released their early howls. They were in chorus just as we were in our drive to our spot. Our bhajan, or devotional song, was specific and disciplined. The wolves song was spontaneous, greeting the new day.
It was good to know that more creatures lurk in this bush than I've ever seen. There is a wealth of wildlife in this northern boreal forest.
The Nagagami River became our water playing field. Water seems to bond us and make the atmosphere light.
In Hearst, the heat is on. We happened to hit a record high temperature for Ontario.
Representatives from the local newspaper 'Le Nord,' came by for an interview and photos. Radio station CINN invited us down to the station for a live on air interview. Billie the parrot made her radio debut with a boisterous "Hello!"
Hearst is a proud healthy town of 6000 people. Everyone looks after their property very well. There is nothing posh, but quaintness and neatness seems to be the mode here.
People downtown showed a natural aptitude to talk and hear about spirituality.
I got an insomnia attack. I just couldn't sleep so I got up from bed. Yovany had cooked a particularly salty vegetable prep the night before so I got up to go outside to get some water.
"Would yah lahk uh bear?" Said the nearby fisherman in his Ohio accent. I thought he said bear. "No thanks," I said, imagining that he's got a bear skin for me. "I see bears everyday." "I mean a beer, the liquid one, not the furry one." He and his boys came up to the Canadian north to see if pickerel, pike or walleye would bite their bait this summer. This is fishing and hunting territory out here. They were just having a few beers and enjoying the cool evening breeze. "You have to pardon my ignorance sir, but I don't know too much about your tradition." I took this as a cue. "As a monk in the Hare Krishna tradition I don't drink. We don't even eat fish, we'd prefer that they stay in the lake. But to each his own..." I then touched on the concept of karma without getting personal. The guys responded well.
Since sleep was not occurring, I decided to pursue the road some more. It was dark at 12:30 AM. There had been cougar sightings in the area. Somehow I felt a kind of confidence and was reminded of the yogi who sat in meditation for so long that his hair, fingernails and toenails were overgrown. In the refered to illustration in the Bhagavad Gita, a wild tiger peers at the yogi from a distance with beedy eyes. The yogi remained aloof.
I came across the same construction crew that I saw the previous day. Each one I spoke to (which was a good two dozen or so) was most encouraging. Although they wore hardhats most of them carried the spirit of cheerleaders. One guy came with a camera and insisted on an autograph.
Our hosts at the campsite are Mike and Toni. Mike's mother and father started the camp in 1957. Mike is a moose hunter. he believes in a higher power. He had a bad experience with Krishna devotees at a Miami airport fifteen years ago. He thought that they were being too aggressive when they tried to distibute books to him. He had preconcieved notions about us, but after lots of dialogue with us, he had come around to enjoy the company of our Canwalk party including Billie the parrot. I think we made a good impression on Mike as he and a few of his friends at the camp had shaved their heads after meeting us. Mike also uttered the words Hare Krishna at least five times during a conversation between himself, Doug and Yovany as they negotiated a canoe rental. Doug and Yovany went for a canoe ride in Klotz Lake before we all enjoyed a nice meal.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I reflected on the request for a blessing by the native family the evening before. They had just returned from a funeral and so naturally their spirits were down. When in difficulty our inclination is to seek help. When the difficulty is removed we are inclined to drop our humility and drown ourselves in our own egoism. The reason for my continued chanting is to keep from drowning. Hearing the mantra certainlyassists in keeping attention off my perceptions of myself. "I am not this body, but spirit," I remind myself.
I met road construction workers who were very inquisitive. Inquisitive also were bears, not in me but in food that the side of the highway might have to offer. Bears, particularly young ones, are out and about. There are more of them than humans in the area.
There is a pee bottle phenomenom on the highway. An officer told me that truckers who hesitate to stop their vehicle deal with the light call of nature by passing urine in a bottle. They cap the bottle then toss it out on the side of the road. I had wondered what the yellow fluid was embottled along the highway. Not all truckers are guilty of this of course, but my message would be, "Hey guys, you can pee wherever you want in your truck but leave the road clean of your yellow litter." I'm not even suggesting that urine is bad. I recall a former Indian prime minister who drank his own urine for health reasons every day. A doctor recently told me that cow's urine has been proven to cure cancer. I am not a urine guru but here is just some food (or drink) for thought.
Monday, June 11, 2007
The strategy is to begin at 3AM and cover a good distance before the day appears like an oven. From 3-5, no bugs. From 5-7, mosquitos occupy the space. From 7-9, black flies took serious bites.
Yovany joined me for the third shift. Long Lake is a native reserve community of Ojicree, population 400. Elder Gilbert relayed to me how Europeans tried to change their lifestyle but it did not help them socially. At a park-site, some more native youth came to our makeshift kitchen to learn more about us. They attempted chanting and enjoyed it. A host of more curious folks came to hear from Doug, Yovany and I. Amongst them, two local women consulted with us as to how they could quit smoking. "Give the mantra a chance. Use your right hand, which is normally used to hold the cigarette, for embracing mantra beads and use the mouth for uttering the mantra itself instead of blowing out smoke." They promised to give an honest effort.
We met Mary, a godmother of Shammy Sohal, a, youth leader in our Toronto chapter. Mary filled us in about the history of the area and the gold mines which prospered from the 30s to the 60s.
We came across a bear on the side of the highway. There have been many bear sightings in the area lately. This is their home.
A native family asked for a blessing on the side of the road, which I was happy to do for them. Trevor, who was very passionate about his logging work, stopped to talk, as did other forest industry workers.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
It's nice being on the road again. People haven't forgetten us. In fact one man said, "I seen yah as I go up and down and then you just disappeared."
Not all folks are friendly. Some are indifferent. Some fishermen at one of those glorious northern lakes by the highway are concentrated on their work. No distraction, not even a moving monk would cause a divergence. I appreciated the sense of focus.
I contemplated the benevolent birch tree. At one resting moment,I observed the straight upward direction of one white-barked birch. It's non-bending stature offered it's curls of bark. Ready to be peeled off, these excellent natural parchments are just what Yovany was thinking about using as an artists canvas. He actually brought some paint and brushes with him. Let's see if he makes a go of it.
We camped at Macleod Provincial Park. which had everything a camper could dream of, so far as the pristine lake water and vista is concerned. The loons confirmed this comfortable spot by their awesome calls.
There came a point where the three of us had to define our job descriptions once again and to take responsibility for one's task. Doug is the media man, accomodation arranger, videographer and chaffuer. Yovany is the kitchen-in-charge person, massage therapist, and my occasional walking companion. I am the walker, chanting leader, media spokesperson, etc. We are all philosophers.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Usually my umbrella comes in handy to address the downpour of rain or the blazing power of the sun. I never thought it would be a shelter from snow. To my surprise and to many of the motorists hauling boats, canoes and kayaks, snow flurries filled the air. Of the nine and a half hours on foot, a good third of the time was spent in snow. Freezing rain also made it’s way to the roof of the umbrella forming sheets of ice which slid off in pieces at random moments and crashed on the gravel below me. I admit not being prepared for this unexpected chill. Somehow my feet remained relatively dry while moisture managed to minimally funnel into the holes of my crocs.
It’s amazing how a thin chaddar wrapped around my kirta and backpack could retain the body heat needed to stay warm. There was no shelter for me along this 45 km stretch from English River to Upsala. There was not one building, not even an abandoned barn to take refuge under. Only the chanting and the good constant pace kept me from a serious freeze. Surely I could have flagged down a motorist but I was curious to see for how long I could push it until my driver Dr. Prashant (filling in for a resting Darshan Doug),
would pick me up. To some degree it was mind over matter. It ended up that I had a wonderful day with the sound vibration of mantra and brief dialogues with an officer and a trucker.
I’m reminded of the verse from the Bhagavad Gita that happiness and distress come like winter and summer seasons and that we are meant to tolerate them despite the duality.
Friday, May 18,2007
What does a queen, black flies and the north all have in common?
Answer: It’s Victoria Day weekend in Canada and the pesky flies turn out in this boreal region. The sun and the warmth draws them. Clouds and rain intimidate them. I must keep my mouth closed otherwise swallowing would be painful.
What is painful is seeing the motorists in jet-speed madness. Surely it’s a long weekend. The passions of the traffic speak for themselves. People are cage-bound and closed off from the natural world around them. We spend far too much time in these automobiles. I don’t believe we were meant for the overtime sitting in these shiny coffins.
Darshan Doug had to visit the medical clinic in Ignace for his leg. It cut our walking short but care and attention to those in supportive roles is a priority.
Thursday, , May 17, 2007
I started off anticipating to see moose. With my crocs I covered various surfaces in search for change for the feet and in search in quiet ways for the majestic mammal.
After a loon cried I looked to my left and standing on the railroad tracks was a jet-black bear. He was frozen and ,oh so inquisitive about me. After some brief moments he offered different poses and even a side view before distancing himself deciding that I was not his kind.
Yovany was the first to spot two moose in the bush. We both observed another frozen response before retreating.
Gordon Roberts is a cyclist from Saskatoon going to Halifax, then flying to Vancouver and back home from there on his two wheels. He’s living up to a dream that many young folks have about cross the land culture.
There are a good share of honks and waves from motorists. A good sign. Spirituality is met with favour. Why shouldn’t it be? It is the natural tendency of the soul.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Huge trucks dominate the highway. One driver stopped his machine to talk. Chris is from Winnipeg. He asked if I was Buddhist. “No I’m part of the parent tradition. I’m a Hare Krishna.”
He reminded me that I’m rare on the highway. “Yes, pedestrians are rare and a person in robes- rarer still.”
“You are not wearing thick clothes. Is this mind over matter?” he continued half jokingly. “When you walk at a good clip you just warm up. As far as mental control goes, I am working on that principal through chanting.”
I mentioned that his name Chris was a good name and that it brings on good fortune. I thanked him for stopping and giving me a boost.
I also met a man who stopped early in the morning. He remarked the same as Chris about it being odd to see a monk. I encouraged him when he said he was a preacher and that he was hoping to open his own church in the local town (Ignace).
Today Yovany got his thrill when walking. The soft forest moss caused his feet to sink down an easy two inches. He also saw his first snow. He became like a kid and tossed a snowball in the air only to see it fall apart in the air.
On a pinching right knee, I managed a whopping 40 kms.
Darshan Doug is suffering from inflammation at the ankles but without walking. It is a recent injury that he has carried from before the trip. He’s making a big sacrifice.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
She was a bubbly one. Cheerful! The type that stands out in the crowd. Her name is Samantha but her adopted native name, which I can’t recall, means “the lady who laughs loud.” With me she was not humourous but enthusiastic to see a monk. She was today’s booster.
It had been glum. My right knee had been acting up to the point where the first 10 kms (and in the rain) brought intense pain. So there she was after my second shot at the road merrily driving eastbound on Hwy. 17. Because she’s a nurse, I took her as “God-sent.”
She looked and suggested a tensor bandage (which Darshan Doug so happened to have in the vehicle).
Another chap from Atikokan raised my spirits.
The afternoon was a walker’s dream- partly cloudy, slightly cool but the morning was wet. It’s all good whatever the weather. I’m being given what I’m meant to be given.
Monday, May 14, 2007
CKDR radio conducted an interview and Liz Gould from The Dryden Observer came with questions. “Obesity is increasing alarmingly. This is my observation. We fear the natural atmosphere given to us- the air and wind, the sunlight and rain. They have become intimidations when we should be embracing them.”
Darshan Doug, Yovany and I had lots of interactions with people today. Walking toward Wal-Mart I met a native woman and her daughters of the Ojicree background. At the library while doing internet work, the librarian took time with us. She also offered us bottled water.
At the printing place in Dryden all the staff came out to greet us. People have an attraction to the project and to us.
At night as I prepared for the evening shower, I spotted a wood tick on my chest. He certainly clung on. It was good to detect him in time. As a defence I had to dispose of him and put him down the toilet.
(about wood ticks)
Sunday, May 13, 2007
3:30 AM and we are up. Everyone is working in concert except for Billie (the parrot). She is in her own world.
Avery respectable family stopped, thrilled to see me a second time.
An elderly couple and two grandmas from Kenora wanted a photo taken with the boys. The youngest one wore a T-shirt with “ADULTS are just kids who owe a lot of money” written on it. On owing, I took a moment to expound on the phrase of an ancient pandit Chanakhya. “There are three things that one should always put out- fire, disease and debt.”
Darshan Doug and Yovany expressed the joy they are experiencing from the trip. It’s unlike any vacation. It’s the simple life yet hard driven (on the knees these days) to encourage walking and chanting.
Looking on the wayside, I am utterly disturbed by the casual toss of garbage- mostly water bottles (partly drunk) and empty coffee cups.
Additional notes: Debt- Everyone owes someone something. It’s a fact of life. But some obligations especially financial can cause undue grief and lead to extreme depression and stress. Such debts are like a guillotine ready to lower the blade. They can break us. Always try to avoid unnecessary debt.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
At 3AM I zipped open the tent door. There was an automatic chill. My miner’s headlight revealed that the grass around had been hit by light but sparkly frost. So the walk this early morning was brisk; the chill tempered by a wool chaddar (shawl).
The moon has not missed his regime. He had become more slim since yesterday. Millions of sweet whistles resounded again. They are like duplicate Krishnas playing the flute.
Yovany is new to the game. He’s new to Canada. It’s a cool day even in May like the old Motown song: “I got sunshine on a cloudy day; well it’s cold outside even in the month of May.”
Yovany took to the road with me. We chanted japa (mantra meditation) together and then songs honoring the guru and the Creator. He was impressed with the landscape-the endless number of lakes, trees and rocks. I concurred. It is truly a northern paradise here.
I pointed out a beaver dam and a lodge, which the mammals call home. We reflected on the special shakti or empowerment that is given to all creators. These plump furry mammals can do a major job at adjusting landscape. They are amazing at their craft.
Yovany had his test at cooking. On the menu was a fine mix of veggies in dahl and rice. Known in parts of India as Kichari, it was nothing short of delicious.
Doug, more affectionately known as Darshan Doug, is our videographer. Formerly he was called Video Doug because of his obsession with videotaping.. I had suggested some time ago to sanskritize his name, so the name Darshan Doug stuck. He is also our chauffeur. It is his vehicle we are borrowing for the walk support; a modest ’93 Ford Explorer SUV. Doug will also be contacting the media along the way.
We will plan laundry days, where to stay, who to contact from past acquaintance and meeting new receptive people to learn about our walking mission. We are a good team.
I met Harry Swanson. He stopped; he got the chance to utter the sacred sound, “Hare Krishna.” His own name is already halfway there.
I met a woman and a boy scout. Together with ten others, they planted 2400 Spruce trees that day to raise funds for the local scout division. As is often the case, she wanted clarification. Am I a Buddhist or a Hare Krishna?
We had a picnic at a secluded fishing hole which we found when we ventured down a side road off the highway. After the meal I couldn’t resist the year’s first outside northern lake so I went for a polar dip.
Yes, and there’s still the odd snow patch clutching on to the spring season.
Our day’s end came to the perfect closure with kirtan. We stationed ourselves at a vista spot on Vermillion Bay where I beat the dolak drum and led kirtan (chanting) while Darshan Doug and Yovany responded with kartals (hand cymbals) and song.
A hard push near the end brought me to 40 kms
Friday, May 11, 2007
3:20 AM and I’m showered and ready to walk. The waning moon manages to pour sufficient light as I tread Hwy. 17 east. As the sun sets off his rays, larks sent sweet whistling sounds in all directions. Perfumed forests dispatched their fragrances from the pine and the fir. A loon had found his happy station perfectly centered in a lake.
Retired soldier Bill Hill stopped to talk. Now residing in Dryden and working at a printing shop, he recently returned from his assigned tour of duty in Afghanistan. He told me he had adjusted to heat and change of diet. He appreciated the less passionate life’s angle to long distance walking. He left his car running, forever it seemed, just to talk. We both took a break talking.
In Kenora, Darshan Doug from Winnipeg joined us. With him were Bhisma Doug and Ruplal from Winnipeg, and Yovany from Cuba. We scouted the main thoroughfare of Kenora together. Darshan Doug also brought along his parrot, Billie. I think she will enjoy the trip.
We met Michelle, who thought we were the Buddhist monks who were supposed to be in town to present mandelas. We had a nice talk with her.
Lots of motorists noticed us, perhaps due to TV coverage.
Revati, Bhisma Doug and Ruplal left after we had a kirtan, wraps and association.
The cry of loons lulled our minds to sleep.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I started part two of CanWalk #3 noticing the pool of blood. A young fox dared the road just feet away from the Ontario border. It was a recent hit. The blood was fresh. This is what the highway is-a place of living and moving travel but it is also a place of standstill, of frozenness and death. I am so impactfully reminded of this on this first day. The previous day was a record 30 C, but today is greeted with a north wind although sunny. Keewatin is a Cree word for north wind, according to a monument I read in Winnipeg two days prior. I do meet with warmth though.
Officer Grier is curious. “What are you doing?”
“It’s a cross country walk—a third one. A pilgrimage. I am a monk, a Hare Krishna.”
“I’ve never heard.”
“The Broadway production Hair?”
“I’ve heard of that.”
“There you hear people chanting. The mantra was brought to America in the sixties but it’s actually an old tradition.”
“I just wanted to make sure you’re safe. These truckers, you’ve got to watch them.”
“Please, can you let all the officers in your area know what I am doing?” I asked.
“I sure will,” Said the officer.
I met Kyle from Shaw TV. He took lots of footage. He climbed a steep rock and shot from above. Then he asked lots of questions. He also asked about my footwear. ‘Holy Soles’ is what they call them. They are actually Crocs, my favorite. Shelley Bujold from the Kenora Daily Miner came out. Questions and photos.
A couple of local guys stopped. They offered a ride, water, food.
“No thanks, you’ve given me your time, your warmth.”
“Have you seen any wildlife today?”
“Humans.” I answered.
They told of the wolf packs close to town. One deer was recently attacked by eleven wild dogs right near town and it raised a concern.
I also met Steve from Ottawa. He is west-coast bound. He had worked in construction for years, then went homeless for six months sleeping in 40 below weather. “It’s time for a change,” he said, as he continued hitching a ride.
Revati Prananatha das, from Edmonton, Alberta, was my support driver for the day. He was most helpful. I owe him so much.
I lay to rest in my little tent, fatigued but so content.