Saturday, June 20, 2015

37. Breakfast at the Inn, then on to The Hook

The Sand Dune Inn served a complimentary breakfast, so Alan went down early, and found the place already quite busy. The two girls from the spa last night waved him over to join them, and this time he wasn't hesitant. 

"Hi," He said, and then took a chair. "I gather you are both traveling ...?"

"Oh, Yes", the one named Andrea replied. "We're on our Long Walk...You know, where we carry everything with us, walk places, camp out, stay at tribe settlements for a while..." 

"We've been out about six months now," the other girl, Hannah, added. "We're off to Hooksands Preserve to swim and do nothing for a few days, then to the Shores Tribe where we'll be staying for a while. They raise shellfish on Sandy Bay and we heard they're really cool."

After completing public school, many teenagers take The Long Walk...

"Wow," Alan said, "Six months is a long time! I'm on a walk myself, but only for a couple of weeks, I think."

"Oh, we're just starting out!  We hope to stay on the paths for two years - if we can get on together that long," and they gave each other a look that could have meant anything.

"So what'll you do at this Shores Tribe?" Alan asked.

"Uh, dunno yet. Work in their cannery, tend the gardens, babysit," Harriet shrugged.

"They make the most delicious smoked oysters...very pricey in the shops!" Andrea added.

Just then a very young waiter approached the table, and both girls said to Alan, "Get the sausage omelet!" So Alan said,"Okay", and to the waiter, "Please add a bowl of oatmeal and coffee with cream." 

"So," Alan said after the waiter left, "you're going to wander around for two years...?"

"Yeah, but with a purpose. Didn't you do it?"

"Uh, no. I'm from the States and no one does that there - except a few loners or traveling hobos. The closest thing I guess, would be a long hike in a National Park, but not like you are describing. It would be a dangerous undertaking for young people there, especially just out walking. Everyone drives!"

"Huh! That is so sad, said Andrea. "I don't know how I would have gotten through public school if we didn't have The Walk to look forward to...it's all anyone talks about during our last year."


Then Hannah asked, "So how do people learn about who they are or what they're meant to do in life? Okay, here's an example: When I finished public school, I knew stuff but I didn't know me yet, or what I want, or who I'm meant to be, and all that. We go on The Walk, as we call it, to find ourselves. The guv'ment even helps out by offering money to tribes like Shores, to pay us to work in their trades. Over time, we stay and work in several different tribes, or even for the guv'ment, fixing trails, planting trees, and learning stuff. And then afterwards, some of us go on to university, and others might stay on at one of the tribes."

"And we meet boys, too." Andrea added with a grin.

"Aah," said Alan.


****************************

Thoughtful about all that, and fully restored (The breakfast was perfect!), Alan bought a few trail meals, packed up his bag, and set off for The Hook. Once out of Biloxi, the path turned sandy and slowed his pace. For a few miles, he walked along a narrow verge where the nearly white sand dunes met the salt marshes thick with patches of mangrove-like thickets. He was inside the Hooksands Preserve now and there were no settlements. The dunes cut off any sound from the ocean but the marshes and thickets were full of birds carrying on with melodious calls, strange burps and outright screeching. It was a spare and beautiful landscape!

Finally the dunes flattened out revealing miles of sand bars and shallow channels, the sharp end of the Hook! Now Alan could hear distant surf on the ocean side, and he also noticed, in the distance to his left, a lighthouse, complete with a keeper's house - the only structures anywhere around. 

On the sand flats ahead, he could make out some distant figures - people running and dancing among the shallow pools. It must be low tide, Alan thought.

He finally stopped and sat on the last of the dunes, where he had a good view of the outer sand bars. The patterns of sand and water, and a few people out there, made it an appealing place to sketch. 

He sat down to have some lunch and unpack his art stuff.