As I walk, I will make my way eastward–against the all-American admonition to “Go West–” and upstream–against the flow of the Delaware, Hudson, Housatonic, Connecticut, and Merrimack Rivers. And also against the flow of my life, which has always been to leave the tragedy, as well as the pastoral romance, of my childhood in New Hampshire and New York State behind.
The long walk home is something like a fractured mirror of the course of my life: my mother’s family origins in the Massachusetts highlands, my earliest memories in New York’s Hudson Valley; my schoolboy years in the hills and forests of New Hampshire, college and work in Amherst, Massachusetts; my present life along the Delaware.
I will walk out my front door in prosperous Center City Philadelphia and through the wildest place I will encounter all the way to New Hampshire: the city streets of Germantown, the old suburb where Welsh lived. Now a wasteland, only a few blocks from Welsh’s home or mine, North Philadelphia is largely abandoned today. These urban badlands are as desolate in 2015 as the clearcut New Hampshire mountains or the poisoned Pennsylvania coalfields were in 1915.
Leaving the city, I will follow Welsh’s trail step by step, by canal towpath and rural boards, up the Delaware River to New York State.