70/7000 September 11, 2001

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It was a week and a half after I returned from my 70/7000 trip and I will always remember how sunny that morning was. I walked into the office of my elementary school and saw my colleagues silently huddled around a TV.  The images of the burning World Trade Towers were surreal but our feelings of fear and shock were overwhelmingly real.

I had promised my second grade class we would go to the village park to eat our lunch. My principal told me to keep the day as normal as possible and to go ahead with the plan. I watched these kids, many who were sons and daughters of  The Army soldiers of nearby Fort Drum, laughing and enjoying a glorious fall day. I knew that they would learn the terrible news from their parents and their world, our world, would never be the same again.

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I had started reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to my class everyday since the first day of school.  It is a story of a boy named Brian who became lost in the Canadian wilderness. It was a book about struggle, resilience, and perseverance and lent itself to wonderful insights and great lessons to discuss and learn.

“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”

Brian had “hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of tough hope.”

“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”

You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.”

My students sat on the rug and as I read, the circle seemed to get tighter everyday as we all sat closer and closer to each other.  Brian had learned about courage and hope. It saved him and he survived. It saved us, too.

70 days, 7000 Miles, Day 5

June 27, 2001

I left M.H.’s house in the morning and got on a highway that follow the Ottawa River. I was on my own now and I was anxious. I was really doing this, alone  I found a beautiful campground and was given a great site on the water.

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I was agitated for two reasons today. First, I had just finished teaching 5 days ago.  I loved teaching my second graders but the end of the year was so hectic.  A field trip, grades, lesson plans to be turned in, room to clean, grade level meetings, district workshops, placement of students for next year, final evaluation, etc., etc., etc.  It usually takes me two weeks into a summer vacation before I stop being a teacher.

And there was another factor, I hate making mistakes.  It is my biggest fear and the cause of the most distress in my life.  It all comes from once being a very self conscientious,shy child.  I always tried to avoid any kind of attention especially anything negative.

Today judgement and doubts were shouting at me. “Should I stay here for one night or more?”  “Should I stay put because of Canada Day on the first?” “I’ve only gone 300 miles?” “How many miles to Michigan?” “I’m I doing enough?” ” I’m I being enough?”

I chipmunk came up to me after I got settled and I fed him some crackers.  He came closer and finally came up on the picnic table.  The little creature allowed me to feed him as he sat before me inches away.  He was so trusting, so into the moment we were sharing together.

I  decided to stay here 2 nights or maybe three. I need to make a vacation transition, passing from a goal oriented rat race to serendipity, one day at a time, one lovely present moment after another.

I will get to Michigan when I get there.