Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to www.trailofdeath.org

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus

4/17/2006

I find myself thinking (even dreaming) about this walk--probably as an escape from the mounds of grading before me this weekend. While I am excited about the story to be experienced and told, right now I'm most anticipating "just walking." College professors like me only "work" eight months but in reality I simply cram 11 months of labor into those eight months. Right now I am looking forward to "nothing." That is, I am wanting to just walk for 12 hours a day thinking about nothing whatsoever except the next step I need to take, or blisters on my feet, or thiking about the fact that I'm thirsty, or noting the heat of the sun or the coming rain--simple things that humans have thought about for thousands of years.

Sometimes people ask why I do trekking. Thay assume "You must really get a lot of ideas while walking, right?" Actually, no. Mostly I think about nothing at all. I "fast" thinking, and talking, and (usually) even writing--on wilderness trips I don't even take a pen and paper. I look forward most to rebooting my mind...doing a "disk defrag" of my mind—clearing out half-thought thoughts, deleting wasteful thinking, opening up fresh disk space of the mind. That is what I yearn for right now in the midst of the final flurry of grading and exams.

This walk will be different. I am writing on it (thus this blog) but I’ll be tracing the steps of other walkers—almost a thousand Indians forced to leave Indiana so we could plant our own corn and soybeans. It is a sad tale yet a story of great hope and love at the same time. So, while I’ll be emptying out my mind of the usual things, I’ll be filling it with different stuff. I want to feel the pain of the two million footsteps those Indians took to get to their new land in Kansas. And I want to feel their remorse and despair…but also their hope and happiness too.

And I especially want to feel what the white folk who conducted this removal felt. They are not all bad men—indeed one of them is a hero of sorts—a guy stuck with doing a bad thing the best way possible. And I especially want to feel what the young priest who went along felt. This trip for me is not so much a trip of the mind, but one of the heart.

The sooner I start the better. Which means I need to go pack…at least I should go pack.

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