After contemplating this for several days I’ve decided to put a hold on this note-a-day project. How do you put a “hold” on a project where you intended to write a note a day for a year? I don’t know. I suppose I’ll learn what that means later.

It’s not because there aren’t plenty of people left about whom I can write. There surely are.

It’s not because I don’t appreciate how good it is to begin each day with these kinds of thoughts.

And it isn’t because I don’t like doing it any more and just want to quit.

I’ve neglected a few other important early-morning habits lately, and can sense a void. The voids are mostly physical and spiritual and I’m not willing to live in either. I’m not spending nearly as much time in the bible as I prefer, and am not taking early-morning walks. There’s also a final two chapters and an epilogue to write for Pilgrim Strong, and those chapters contain important messages. They need me to be on my A game.

Thank you for coming along on these past 91 days of notes. We’ll reset and reframe this another way in the months ahead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life lately, it’s that there really are no rules.

As always, my deepest appreciation to anyone who reads.



Day 91: Marcin Kretkiewicz


Dear Marcin,

Marcin Kretkiewicz

It’s strange how short our attention spans are these days. Creatively if you’re going to capture someone’s attention it better happen in the first paragraph of text or the very first seconds of video. Those first glances are everything. Short of that early connection, all is lost.

Your work had me from the opening shot.

Thank you for the creative work you produced in 2015 and for how it captured my attention in the months leading to pilgrimage. I have seen some beautiful things. Few things speak to me as your video creation. When it feels like a good time to relive some of the favorite moments of my life, I turn to your work.

Best wishes in your continued creative journey, and buen camino.

Your friend,

Steve Watkins



Day 90: Dr. Ruth Hawkins


Dear Ruth,

Before there is creativity, there must first be a creator.  To the great shock of many, there is no magic fairy with pixie dust who makes the big stuff happen.

In a world where so many just want the limelight and credit, it’s comforting to remember there are some who just keep getting things done, oblivious to all the accolades they truly deserve – they just keep plowing new ground.

Dr. Ruth Hawkins. Pioneer. Mentor. Friend.

Thank you for making a difference in everything you’ve ever touched. You were raising real charitable money with real numbers long before the charitable fundraising business learned how to inflate its numbers and exaggerate its impact for its own glory. You were seeing amazing opportunities on the distant landscape before most ever saw land. You were venturing down unknown avenues where no one ever set foot, and that most of us in retrospect now say, “…of course, it was there all along.” Truth is for so many expeditions, you drew the map.

It’s been a privilege in the years I’ve known you to watch a modern-day pioneer blaze so many trails. Thank you for being someone we all can admire.

A hundred years from now when our grandchildren take their children on a long weekend getaway through Arkansas they’ll visit the places where your fingerprints will forever remain. The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza, Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, and the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess. I have no doubt you’ll leave your mark on the Sultana project in Marion. It would be easy to cite more, but there are too many to recount.

And with sincere gratitude, thank you for all the opportunities you gave me along the way. From interviews to a young college newspaper reporter, to summer intern, to employee, to counselor in business, and so many other ways you contributed to my livelihood. I am grateful beyond measure. You never, ever forget the people who give you a chance.

Happy birthday to one of my most favorite, admired and respected people ever.

Your fan,

Steve Watkins



Day 89: Pat Conroy

“I prayed hard and only gradually became aware that this fierce praying was a way of finding prologue and entrance into my own writing. This came as both astonishment and relief. When I thought God had abandoned me, I discovered that He had simply given me a different voice to praise the inexhaustible beauty of the made world.” ~ Pat Conroy

(Note: Generally, these notes are reserved for people I’ve known personally and with whom I’ve shared some personal experience. Pat Conroy was within an hour’s driving distance of my home twice and I never went – one of my life’s great regrets. Though we never met, it feels I know him personally. If you ever wondered if you can love someone you’ve never met, I can tell you the answer is ‘yes.’)

Dear Pat,

Until you, I never knew words could be so beautifully assembled. I’d never known the kind of writing where one must occasionally must stop and breathe because the prose is overwhelming. You showed me take-your-breath-away good.

Gosh, Pat, the talent in your little finger would be good enough for me.

I’m so sorry for the experiences you endured as a child and young man. So thankful you shared them for a greater good giving us all permission to feel at the deepest depths. “The times weren’t all tragic,” I can just hear your response. “Just the ones involving any member of the family.”

Never has there been a writer whose fans loved him more. A man who couldn’t type, hated the word ‘blog,’ and who knew depression in ways most will never comprehend. Charming, funny, unapologetically Southern, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and a rebel who pushed every boundary – that was our Pat.

When you passed last March I wept. If only you could write us once more about what it was like, that experience walking into the next realm. What a great next story you have to tell. I still miss you so much, but I have your words. They will have to do for now.

I hope to shake your hand firmly and give you a big hug some day. There has never been a man with bigger and more humble heart.

You are my hero.

All my love,

Steve Watkins






Day 88: Marie Celton

Dear Marie,

One of life’s great joys is the time we sometimes take reflecting on friendships and the circumstances bringing them together. But for a change in occurrence here or there, a different route taken, a departure or arrival of a moment’s difference, our life is forever altered in the people we meet.

And I’m so happy that we met, you and I.

As fate would have it, three of us elected to spend an extra two euros for a lower bunk that night. That was money well spent. You and Barbara from Germany were my companions for the night. Too bad about all those bedbugs she’d encountered the night before.

I’d never heard of Reunion Island. When you described your home there I slipped away a moment to locate it. Maybe you do have a house there. Maybe it is an occasional resting place. What I see so clearly now is that you’re truly a citizen of the world.

It’s so enjoyable watching your travels here and there. It takes a special person to travel solo. We must eliminate the fear. Remember our conversation that day? There was such wisdom in the things you said. My prayer is that you are finding the answer to life’s greatest questions. At least you are looking. Not everyone has the courage to go looking. Keep looking, Marie.

I hope you are smoking fewer cigarettes (which was one of your purposes for camino) and the plastic bag addiction is long a thing of the past. Ha!

You were one of the loveliest walking partners with whom I enjoyed time on the Way. Thank you for sharing your time.

Love and admiration always,

Steve Watkins






Day 87: Bob Scheidt


Dear Bob,

Perseverance. Toughness. The ability to overcome. Great qualities all, and worthy of admiration.

When I think about you, these are the words that rush to mind.

Your Facebook “bio” is an all-time favorite.

“Forty-three years of living with Type 1 diabetes; 108,000 miles walked since 1973; two continents down, five to go.”

A bit of the past, a touch of the present, and aspirations toward the future with no sign of slowing down. If I came across this description by accident, I’d think, “…now there’s a man I’d like to meet.” Yes, I want to meet a man who’s walked a hundred thousand miles.


Thank you for all your kind and encouraging words in my two walks across Spain, Bob. They truly meant so much coming from someone like you. It’s a great pleasure watching you there now. If there’s anything I’ve learned back home, it’s if you can’t be there in person, it sure is nice having someone you can cheer for who is.”

I see you walked into Burgos today. Enjoy the city and have some nice chocolaté con churros for me.

Ultreia, as you make your way toward the Norté, and have a buen camino, my friend.

Your admirer,

Steve Watkins


Day 86: J.R. Blackburn

Dear J.R.,

Having good neighbors is such a pleasure. It’s difficult calling it a neighborhood without the good neighbor part.

We will miss you so much in our little Culberhouse Cove.

The “For Sale” sign remains, but you and Terry are gone now. I love the way you cared for everything – the grass, neighborhood common areas, a clean truck at least once a week – always busy, always doing something. We’re so glad you were here for a time.

Best wishes in the new home, and thanks for leaving our neighborhood a better place than you found it.

Your friends and neighbors,

Steve and Dana

Day 85: David Landis and Anna Dintaman Landis

Every morning’s typical breakfast routine, planning the day ahead and thinking just a bit about tomorrow.

Dear David & Anna,

Everyone approaches things differently, I suppose. Some people try planning every detail as much as possible. Others go at it knowing almost nothing. Getting ready to solo walk 40 days across a country, I wanted a balance somewhere between the two. Your guidebook was the perfect planner.

It may be true that anticipation of an experience like pilgrimage is one of the very best parts. As part of my anticipation, I searched all the popular guidebooks and chose yours as my companion before, and during, the walk. It seemed it had everything a person could need.

Adventurers and authors, David and Anna Dintaman Landis

Reading through the sections in the weeks before departure, your descriptive narratives, elevation charts, beautiful photos, and historical sidebars only increased my excitement. If the trip was as good as the book, I was bound for a great experience. Just before departure, we purchased two additional books for my wife and mom, and for their own daily account of my progress across the Iberian peninsula. Dana carried hers a year later in 2016.

On arrival, and from Day 1, the guidebook was among my top three most valuable possessions. There was a quick routine study every morning, lunchtime, and just before bed. Your work became a trusted daily planning tool, and even remedied a few jams along the Way.

I still have it. It survived a nearly white-out, seven-hour blizzard down O Cebreiro, the constant dampness across the Basque countryside, and even a few accidental spills of a refreshing second-breakfast San Miguel. Dog-eared, worn, and crinkled from so many wet-dry-wet cycles, it sits on the bookshelf as a prized, trophy-possession of perseverance and the best of times with new friends and great adventures.

Thank you for your gracious endorsement of my own book due out in a few months. It’s such an honor. In a different sort of way, I hope it contributes something just as special to the body of literary works dedicated to the place that means so much, to so many.

Buen camino, y vaya con Dios.

Your friend,

Steve Watkins

Day 84: Monette Class of 1984


Dear Classmates, (all 23 of you)

How can Day 84 pass without each of you coming to mind? My original society. My gang. My tribe.

Weren’t we the lucky ones living in the heart of small-town America, free to come and go and find as much trouble as we could, even though there was honestly so little trouble to be found? For 12 years we propped one another up, laughed until we cried, and tasted the beginnings of how we’d write our individual life stories.

When I think of you all, I think not of who I wish to be, but rather the heart of who I truly am – a small-town farm boy from rural Arkansas.

Cruising main, ball games every Tuesday and Friday night, maybe a Saturday night movie and pizza in Jonesboro if it had been a good week. There was much predictability to our young lives. I think we rather liked it that way.

If you have as many fond memories of those 12 years as I, you occasionally get lost in your thoughts as you sit in the stands at a grandchild’s ball game or a sixth-grade graduation. You reflect on the most innocent times when your priorities were consumed with things such as finding time for your next car wash or who wouldn’t completely turn you down for a date to the junior prom.

Memory still smells the hallway smells, and hears the familiar voices, and it still hears young cheerleader voices reverberating through that old gym I called home:

We’ll be loyal to you, MHS, to your colors be true MHS; We’ll back you to stand as the best in the land, for we know you have pep, MHS, rah, rah. So, answer the call, MHS; We are backing you all MHS. With brain and with muscle, we’ll get right down and hustle, and win for you all MHS, Rah, Rah!


(In memory of Shawn Perrin, student council president, teammate, friend.)


Day 83: Paula Miles


Dear Paula,

I’m not certain if everyone does this, or even if it’s good or bad, but at some point a few years ago I realized a subconscious pattern where I’d file away certain thoughts, and even create categories about the people I’ve known.

Paula Miles (left) and Linda Hinton.

There’s a small file for the troublemakers, a special file for the mentors, one for the people whom I really need to do something nice for some day, and another that I just call “the good people.” There are dozens more files actually, but you get the idea.

During the times I’ve reflected on you and Rick, you’ve both always been at the front of “the good people” file. It may not sound like much, but it’s one of my favorite, most treasured files.

This all came to mind a few days ago when you volunteered to send a letter of support for something I’d asked about, and shown an interest in pursuing. You went out of your way in doing something really nice, and it was such a kind gesture. We live in a time when that kind of thing should really be more appreciated. Some people have a better understanding than others that the mission field begins right outside our front door.  I’ve always seen you and Rick as two people who get that.

Well, I do declare…

So many great things in Arkansas have been set in motion with your help – treasured histories helping us recall our connections to Ernest Hemingway and Johnny Cash, the Southern Tenant Farmers movement, Lakeport Plantation, and the Sultana tragedy.  The low-key role you’ve played in so many things is the true indication of a pure servant’s heart.

Thank you for all the big things, and for all the small things. Your gesture toward me a few days ago may seem small to you, but it was a big deal to me.

Thanks for being one of the “good people.”

Your friend,

Steve Watkins