My Grandma Anna arrived in America at Ellis Island on July 9, 1907. She was four years old and had traveled with her mother from Osterild, Denmark. She remembered the boat trip being long and how the blaring foghorn scared her. What a journey for a child and her young mother!
Seventeen years later my Grandma, her whole family, and all their possessions traveled from Mott, North Dakota to Arlington, South Dakota by covered wagon pulled by a pair of horses. They crossed the Missouri River at Bismarck, headed east to Jamestown, then south to Arlington. They walked 450 miles back to their extended family in South Dakota.*
Every morning I walk with Tamba—at the most, we walk a mile. When the temperatures are well below zero, we don’t get that far. One morning after a fresh snow, I realized that we were walking with the animals that had come before us! The prints were fresh in the fresh snow, and I wondered how many minutes ago they had walked this very same path. The deer will walk down the road, the fox crosses the road from the quarry land, circles through the neighbor’s woods, and often treks through our yard.
The deer and turkey have a path under a pushed up section of fence that gains them access to the protected quarry land.
There’s also an opossum, a skunk, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, cats, and dogs who travel down and across the road we walk along.
Occasionally I see the deer or turkeys or fox, but mostly they walk their journeys without my awareness. I follow their paths, and they follow mine. I cross their paths, and they cross mine. Unknowing. But fresh winter snow illuminates the animals’ paths, and I can see us walking together. It makes me feel connected to them in some primitive way. Their quest for food. Their pathway to shelter. Their trek to safety.
Part of the DNA I carry came across the ocean on a ship to Ellis Island and walked across the Dakotas in the hot July weather. *Thanks to my aunt Faye and my dear cousin Marvel, may they rest in peace, we have stories and genealogy from the generations who walked before us. With that history of our family, we are aware of how we follow their paths and how they cross our paths. I am connected to my Grandma and to those who came before her. With the history of inspiring words and realistic pictures, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. last Monday. With that history and celebration, we are reminded of the quest for freedom, of the pathway to equality, and of the journey to a better life. Our pathways are illuminated, and I can see us walking together.