Sometime this morning, I decided to turn off my computer and put on my hiking boots. I strapped on my water bottle and binoculars, and headed out on foot down to the Haw River, which runs clear across Chatham County. I'm glad part of it runs within hiking distance from my house.
The first time I came to this river I saw a great blue heron. He hopped off of a rock, beat his wings a few times, then spread them out like a kite, gliding across the trail as I made my approach. I took this as a good sign. It was a sign that said, "Welcome."
I pass a horse farm on the way. A pretty pinto sees me walking down the road and comes to the fence to greet me as I walk by. I stop to pat her. I can see she is very friendly and likes to be patted. I see the sign that says "Horse for Sale."
"Wish I could!" I say to the horse, then give her one more rub on the head before going on my way. I turned around at some point to see her still looking at me from behind the fence. I wave and say, "Bye bye." It sure would be more fun to do this trip on horseback than on foot.
Around one more bend and down a hill and I come to the river. This is a great place for bird watching. Mallard ducks and egrets are common to see, also tanagers and vireos. During the spring, the tree frogs sing all night long. In summer, the river is full of turtles and frogs. This place is magical. I used to come here and write about "plants and birds and rocks and things" before I ever wrote about crime.
I found a nice rock to sit on while meditating on the sound of water spilling over rocks. The sound is soothing. I let it carry me away.
The memory of another hiking trip floods over me. I was with a group of friends looking for a body. I ask myself why it was easier for me to write about myself as the third person when I wrote about that venture. I'm still not sure why.
Every day since that day, I have thought about when the remains of Debbie Key will be found. I keep believing it will happen some day. I hope I will be alive when that day comes.
Pearl is a lady I often see. We get along well as friends, but never got past the friendship stage. She always tried to encourage me to get back to writing about nature, and laments that Debbie has taken so much of my attention since 2005. I tried to take her advice, and what happens? I can no longer hike down this trail without thinking about looking for bones.
All along the roads out here it is common to see dead deer, that have been road-killed, in various stages of decay. State wildlife authorities have reported that there are more white-tailed deer in Chatham County than there are humans. We definitely share habitat, but unfortunately many get killed by our cars. I often see herds of them crossing my yard. Yet, no matter how many times I see their skeletal remains on the roadside, I have to stop and look. Except for the skull. pelvis, and feet, they look quite human.
I am trying to prepare myself for what I hope to find someday.
John Allore traveled from Quebec, Canada to North Carolina to get away from Theresa, but found that he couldn't get away. Now I find that a nice visit to the river can no longer take me away from Debbie. It comes as no surprise.
Coming back home, I think about the last time I walked alone through Carrboro, I was approached by a man who recognized me as the one doing the website about Debbie Key. He was on a tirade about how he wants to hang Dalzell from the old oak tree, and hold a torch under his butt while he hangs there. He wants me to encourage people to hunt down his nasty ass so we can do this. Then I'll really have something to write about. I told him, "Love is a whole lot stronger than hate, and it feels better. You should try it sometime." Then I walked away.
I didn't spend much time in Carrboro after that. I felt more comfortable being out here where my neighbors know me only as the nice old hippie who lives down the road, who grows flowers and smiles at everyone. Then one day, my neighbors were watching NC Wanted and saw me in it. They soon learned about the website I am doing, and the story I've been telling. It hasn't seemed to affect the way they relate to me at all. They all kinda say, "Go for it!"
But it reminds me that I cannot walk away from Debbie Key. She's gonna follow me wherever I go. However, I no longer see this as a bad thing.