Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day 25

Monday, March 30, 2015 – Pilot Mound, Iowa
{For the latest Iowa Pipeline Walk route and schedule detail, click here.}

Walking in wind

Walking in wind

In the countryside on open gravel roads, few days are “perfect” for walking. Today, the temperature is pleasant enough, but the wind is brutal, relentless, draining. It is hard on my body, but equally hard on my mind.

Walking north and west, either a crosswind or a headwind – 30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 – pounds away at me the whole day.

My path leads toward an impressive, sprawling wind farm. I imagine the towering turbines as living beings, happy, watchful sentinels whose blades are outstretched arms hungrily embracing the strong winds. My bane is their blessing, and a blessing for the Earth.

The near constant traffic of corn stover racing across the road in front of me serves as a visual reminder of the intensity of the wind. Every so often, a flock of birds attempts to take flight, only to be spanked back down to the ground. Once, a hawk, prey in its talons, tries to fly from me into the headwind, but must settle for a less desirable downwind destination.

Every mile or so, I come to a farm house. If it appears no one is home, I roll up my flier and stuff it next to the mailbox. On one occasion, the wind tears the flier from my hand, and I watch helplessly as it races down the road at a speed I could not match even running, let alone walking.

I am a militant anti-litterer. I feel terrible as I follow the flier with my eyes, watching it travel a good half mile before I lose sight of it. I recall the time I was at a busy intersection in Des Moines, horrified to see a driver at a stop light throw the remnants of her fast-food lunch out the window. I ran over to the car, picked-up the trash, and said “Excuse me, I believe you dropped this,” as I threw the pile back into her car. She thanked me with an impressive string of expletives.

“Yup, Fallon,” I said. “Litterbug. You’ve become that driver you chastised years ago. Only worse, cause your name’s on your litter.”

Hour after hour of wind roaring in the ears does funny things to my mind. As a coping mechanism, my thoughts ramble. I weave strange stories. I recall fragments of dreams I’ve had recently, add content, bring them to more satisfactory endings.

Inevitably, when weaving fantasies no longer satisfies, I ask myself, “Why the heck am I doing this?” I think about Biblical references to God speaking in the whirlwind, and an answer comes:

All worthy accomplishments, all meaningful struggles, are achieved through sacrifice, determination and discipline. Deep commitment to a cause involves one’s body, not just one’s mind. Studying the issue, writing and working at our computers are important. But defeating this pipeline demands not just a cerebral investment but a physical one as well.

For me, that investment involves walking. Farmers and conservationists share an even deeper, longer term physical investment in the land.

For all of us, there may come a point in this struggle where the only option left is to physically insert our bodies between the bulldozers and the land we love.