On day 13 of my journey I left my camp spot in Twentynine Palms and set out towards the Glass Outhouse. Knowing there would be no services for over 100 miles, I stopped at a grocery store to resupply my food stock.
After picking up enough food for the Mojave crossing, I left the store and found a little nook in the parking lot to re-pack my bag. As I puzzled to fit an extra 5 day’s food, a woman approached and, seeing my sign, began chatting.
After a few minutes we learned that I have the same first and middle name as her late mother. The woman, Deena, felt it was a sign. “I was feeling my mom’s energy earlier, she must really be working it this morning!”
We shared a few moments talking about her mom, my walk, and climate change, until she said goodbye and walked into the store.
About two minutes later, just I had finally fit all the food in my bag and strapped her shut, Deena came back out holding a festive stuffed penguin.
“My mom loved penguins, and I saw this first thing when I walked in the store! Can you take it with you?”
With barely enough space in my pack for food but not nearly enough heart to deny Deena, I accepted the penguin.
Deena was thrilled. “Now my mom will be with you. She’ll keep you safe.”
I very genuinely thanked her, tearing up at the thought of a passed Hannah being with me on my journey. I squished the penguin, who I have named Hannah (after Deena’s mom, not myself…) into my pack and said goodbye to Deena.
It wasn’t until hours later when I called a friend from my tent that I cracked up about the whole situation. I’m laughing as I write this, two weeks later, as Hannah the penguin sits in the bottom of my pack.
When I tell people about the penguin they generally laugh and urge me to get rid of her or give her away. Although I could use the extra space, I will do no such thing.