|From our Lincoln, New Hampshire appearance. (Photo by Ken Stampfer.)|
Over the last two weeks Atticus and I have driven more than 3,000 miles during the first leg of our book tour. We’ve been taken far from the land we love.
We’ve traveled from the bucolic countryside of northern New Hampshire down through many of the more urban areas of the northeast. We’ve been to the ocean, stuck in smoggy traffic in the bowels of the highways coursing through New York City, walked the cobblestone streets of old Richmond, Virginia, and driven through the farmlands of southeast Pennsylvania. Along the way we’ve visited spirited independent bookstores and met audiences of all sizes: from more than 200 to less than 10. The audiences have been wonderfully receptive and on most occasions we had more than 50 people in attendance, even in places where you would think there wouldn’t be many. It’s been a pleasure telling them about our journey. It’s been a privilege to tell them about these mountains.
Six years ago when Atticus and I first started hiking we befriended Steve Smith, a long-time White Mountain scribe, author of several books, and owner of Lincoln’s Mountain Wanderer Map and Bookstore. During our conversations about writing and these mountains we share a love and wonder of I let him know that it was my dream to write about them the way the artists of the 1800s painted them. It was my wish to portray them accurately and to reflect their magnificence and when I was done I wanted people to look at them the same way they did when the White Mountain artists shared them with the rest of the world. I like to think that I have succeeded. As people read our book I hear many things but the one that pleases me the most is when they say, “I need to see the White Mountains.”
Mike Dickerman, Steve Smith’s co-author of the Four Thousand Footers of the White Mountains, and an equally legendary scribe who has written about these peaks for more than two decades, recently said that Following Atticus is “an instant regional classic.”
When we receive much in life, it is our duty to repay it in kind. Perhaps not to where it came from but instead to others who are in need of what we have. I have never been motivated by money or fame. I’ve always been driven by my passions and passion is what brought Atticus and me north. It’s what drove me to write our book. In the process I wanted to share this sacred place with others who have never seen it, just as I once wrote about it in letters to my father. He had been up here many times, but always as a windshield tourist. And so when I saw sights that would have brought tears to his eyes and brought him to his knees in awe I didn’t think about what I’d seen, but rather how it made me feel and then tried to capture that feeling in words so he could feel it as well.
I don’t think when I write – I feel. Because of this I will never be considered a great writer, I imagine. I’m far from an intellectual. But to hear those who have never been here say “I need to stand on top of one of the White Mountains,” well, I feel I’ve succeeded at least in some small way in capturing their grandeur.
A friend of mine weighs at least 350 pounds. Recently he noted he was on a diet and had started visiting a personal trainer to help him lose weight. I congratulated him and asked him what motivated him.
“I want to see the Bonds one day.”
He had just read our book. Nothing filled me with more gratitude than hearing this.
As we’ve traveled far from our home in Jackson, I’m happy to report that Atticus carries himself as he always has: with a great sense of self and without a leash or collar. He’s walked city streets and country lanes on our book tour just as he always has – some twenty feet in front of me. And when I speak he’s either sitting in the crook of my elbow or lying on a comfortable blanket on a table. Sometimes he sleeps. He doesn’t look much like a mountain dog. But then again he never has. Just as I’ve never looked like much of a hiker. But I think that’s what makes our message all the more intriguing. People look at us and say, “If those two did it, so can I?”
They are correct.
And yet there’s more to it than that. I’ve seen these mountains and looked up at them with delight and fear and respect and reverence. But the only reason I have is because a little dog led me. I’ve been a lucky participant in this marvelous journey simply because I followed an extraordinary little dog. And why did I do that? Well . . . sometimes you just need to follow your friends. You just never know where it will lead you.
Where it’s led me is to the top of the world. At least that’s the way I see it. After more than a thousand miles of sharing the trails with Atticus M. Finch I’ve been scrubbed clean by nature and brought back to see innocence once again. I’m a fortunate man.
It all goes to show you that anything is possible – especially here in these magical Mountains.