Europe N to S: Can’t Steal Memories (8/9/16)


Today’s Miles: 0
Total Miles: 919.4

Storjord – August 9, 2016

The outlet is empty. It doesn’t matter how long stare, it will still be empty. I can close the door, walk away, walk back, walk away again, walk back, and still it will be empty.

The outlet it empty and my batteries are gone.

I stumble outside and stand in the rain while my world collapses around me. My phone, GPS, camera, water treatment, watch, and emergency beacon, they were all backed up by those batteries. The batteries powered my whole system, how I write, how I take videos and pictures, how I know where I am, how I survive. Now they are gone.

I feel like I am suffocating. Rain runs down my face. I go back to the outlet one more time to make sure. It is empty. It will always be empty.

I feel alone. More alone than ever. If this were the States, it would have been an easy fix. I know where to go there. I know where to look. I know how to mail myself things. I know all the stupid little things that are obvious to locals, but a mystery to visitors. I could replace the batteries in a week. In fact, I would have replaced them long ago because they weren’t working like I wanted, but getting the right equipment to the right town at the right time in a foreign country thousands and thousands of miles from home felt too difficult. I don’t even know the name of a single electronics store here. And even if I did, where am I going to ship them to without an address? I don’t have time to wait. I’m running out of summer. I can’t spend days figuring this out. I have to go or quit.

I feel betrayed by everyone. I think of the note I put with the batteries, the one explaining what the batteries are used for, how I need them to keep in touch on this long journey, and begging whoever read it not to steal them. I think of the thief reading it and taking them anyway. It had my blog address on it, so I fire off a post asking for the return. It is an impossible along shot. I know it won’t work. But I feel I must do something or go mad.

Bitterness fills my throat. I felt pulled so thin over the last 10 days and I finally thought I made it through only to be crushed by trusting strangers. I feel stupid and hate the world.  

I look through my pictures for something to post with the blog. I flick through them, a hundred mountains and sunsets slipping by then I stop. There is Oddbjørn smiling at me with his giant salmon. There’s Erna showing me the rocks one her porch that are shaped like shoes. There’s Miriam and her dog Pinu. There’s Fritz and Christof and the three fishermen who gave me fish back in Finnmark.

I stare at this sea of smiling, wonderful people, Turo with his brown feather, the Arctic Eagles’ goalie, Solfrid and the Finns who helped me get to Mehamn, Asfrid off to feed the seagulls, half the town of Kunes celebrating midsummer. Face after wonderful face. Tears fill my eyes as I think back through the last fifty days at all the beautiful humanity that has watched over me.

And one thief. 

A single drop in the ocean. Nothing against that sea of faces, that beautiful humanity all around me, the goodness that I still believe in, that I still love. 

I buy food for the next section and throw in a pen and paper notebook so I can keep writing until I get new batteries. Then I walk, not to the train station, not the bus stop, but to the road to hold my thumb in the air, high, with a huge smile on my face, waiting for whomever the world throws my way. 

Martin and Henriette are only going a short ways to a store, but I get in anyway, hoping to have better luck there. I stand outside the store for half an hour as the sun drops down and the cars thin to almost nothing, then I hear a horn behind me from the parking lot and turn to see Martin and Henriette waving me over.

“We’re going a bit further,” they say.

I get back in and Martin hands me a bottle of water and a chocolate bar. 

“I got you a present,” he says. “It’s Norwegian chocolate.”

I thank him and settle into the back seat as we turn onto the highway. Martin tells me they just felt like an evening drive. I look down at the water bottle in my hand and I don’t believe him. I don’t think they were actually driving that way. I think they just wanted to help me.

I crack open the water bottle and take a sip. Water is everywhere out here. It rains almost every day. I cross bogs and rivers so often my feet are almost never dry. But I still appreciate that water. Water is life. What celebrates the bond we all share more than offering each other a simple drink of water?

“I’m going to be a father soon,” Martin says.

He looks proudly over at Henriette who smiles back. I can see the excitement on both their faces as they are closing in on one of life’s greatest adventures. 

“Two months left,” he says. “It’s our first and we still don’t have a name.”

I tell them how my parents gave me a crazy middle name, but went with Daniel for my first name.

“It was good so the kids didn’t make fun of me in school,” I say. 

Martin’s eyes light up.

“We were thinking of Daniel!” he says. “It’s her grandfather’s name.”

I laugh. 

“Maybe it’s a sign,” I say. 

The three of us take a picture together when they drop me off. The lighting is bad, we’re standing in a parking lot, it’s at an odd angle from my small tripod, but I love that picture. I love knowing that I’ll always be able to look at it, that it will always make me smile, that I’ll always see it and remember Martin and Henriette and wonder if what he said to me as they pulled out of the parking lot is true.

“It’s going to be Daniel!” he said, a big smile on his face. “We’re going with Daniel!”

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5 thoughts on “Europe N to S: Can’t Steal Memories (8/9/16)

  1. Great one!!! I stood in Walmart laughing and talking with Peggy and Mike about you and the delight of your blog. We laughed and talked about the wonderful sea of people showing up for you in so many ways and as usual It comes around to, “Wasn’t Theodore Jones great? That’s my favorite!” It also comes around to inspiration. We are all in this together! Yippee, another wonderful Daniel in the world!!

  2. Just a warning. Never tell anyone in Norway that “Thor” is a “crazy middle name.” Just saying………

  3. This post had me move from sadness to grinning with all the loving memories to screaming with delight! I feel like the cork when a champagne bottle is popped!

    What do you mean “crazy middle name”?

  4. Dear Daniel,

    Sorry to hear about those challenges you met in Norway.

    I was so moved by finding my name mentioned here as you are my inspiration what comes for long-distance hiking. It’s beyond me how someone can walk those miles day in day out, but perhaps I’ll start to understand when I’ll cut down the weight of my backpack closer to yours and trusting that I don’t need to carry that much food with me as I seem to do… :-O

    Well, even carrying some 35-40 pound backpack and having a lot of climbing done during that particular day I still managed to do one 25-miler during my 503-mile-long walk which I finished one week ago in Kittila, Finland. I was so happy to meet you between Abisko and Kilpisjarvi along the Nordkalottleden and always talked about you, when someone I met along the way thought that I was doing some long hike. 🙂

    Yes, I told them right away that, “Well, of course I’m quite proud to do this, because this is my first real hike, but to be honest, this is just a weekend trip comparing to my friend Daniel, who’s walking Europe from North to South.” I think it just went beyond their understanding, because their reference point was those 3-5 days walks from cottage to cottage and hardly ever sleeping in the tent like we do. I think it’s the whole different ball game NOT to be able to get your shoes, socks and clothes dry during the night and end up putting them on wet in the morning and repeating that for a few weeks. Not to mention NOT having any hot shower for 2-3 weeks and end up looking like a caveman! 🙂

    I trust you are able to walk out of the mountains of Norway & Sweden safely before the winter comes!

    Best Regards,
    Turo

    PS. By the way, that brown eagle feather I carried in my hat was lost, but then the new 21″ long one was found, but it was just too much to stick that big eagle feather into my hat! 🙂

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