As a child I lived a block away from the Montana State Prison. In a child’s eye and mind, it was a huge fantasy castle built of granite blocks and brick, with medieval turrets on every corner. The only thing missing was the moat and draw bridge.
It was very impressive, and very ominous at the same time. Everyday, on my way to school, or just going out to play, I would walk, run, or ride my bike down the street and try to imagine what went on behind those castle walls.
At the south end of the prison, outside the walls of the castle, there was a large field surrounded by a massive steel fence topped with barbed wire. Part of everyday, uniformed men, would appear and I would watch them lift dumbbells, play catch, play baseball and basketball; some would just stand around and smoke cigarettes. It never looked like a happy place to me; I could always hear some laughter but there was always a heavy vibe, way before I ever knew what a vibe was. There were always men who just walked. They stayed close to the fence, as close as they could get to freedom, on a path that led nowhere, but everyday, day after day, they walked that path to nowhere. At the time the field looked gigantic to me, but looking back now, to circle the field was probably about a quarter mile. There was no particular order to the men who walked, sometimes in a line of three or four, but mostly just aimlessly alone, head down following the path to nowhere. I always wondered, what were they thinking?
That was many years ago, and really, I never thought about it much until June of this year when I found myself blazing a path to nowhere in my back yard. I counted my steps and found that it took fifty six steps to make a complete circle around the fence line in my backyard. I’m six foot three, so each step I take is not quite a meter and a little bit more than a yard. So if I walked around the backyard four times, it is almost a quarter of a kilometer, that means five times around is approximately a quarter mile. Ten times around is approximately a half mile, twenty times around, well, you get the picture. I try to walk over a mile a day, so to calculate how many circles I’ve made around my back yard since the middle of March, and the Covid lock down till now, I would be pushing three hundred miles more or less!
I don’t know when I started thinking about those prisoners walking a path to nowhere, but it has become almost my mantra in life now. A Path To Nowhere. I feel like a prisoner serving out my time! My life has become very regimented. Rise early, out with the dog, five or ten laps, coffee, news, wash the dishes, five or ten laps, play some music, lunch, out with the dog, ten or twenty laps, nap, ten or twenty laps, dinner, a little TV or a movie, out with the dog, five to twenty laps, then off to bed. It was kind of relaxing for about the first three weeks, but all of a sudden I flashed back to my childhood, but I was on the inside of the fence now, walking aimlessly, mind on nothing in particular, on a path to nowhere. Yes, a prisoner of the Covid pandemic, the only crime I’ve committed is being a citizen of the United States! Hopefully things will get better with time, hopefully people will realize how serious this pandemic is, 250,000 of our fellow prisoners are dead with many more to go, who knows, you or me may be under a death sentence, time will tell. Until whatever happens, my dog and I will walk a long mile. A path to nowhere.