Moving through the night I emerge from one shadow a sentient being and, as I walk, I quickly evaporate into another shadow over and over again. The moon shoots through space like still fire and creates the world around us, while the darkness disassembles and forgets it.
We fear the unknown, or so we call it, but our mind, ever active, attempts to know the unknown. We come up with things like ghosts, ghouls, spirits, supernatural entities, and we tuck them away into the black of the night and we fear that they will step into the light. Though we secretly wish to prove their existence, or not.
We think of that time we thought we saw something out of the corner of our eyes, thought we heard something understandable exit the white noise of the night and manifest as something we could understand. We think surely it could not be our imagination, perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t.
In reality, it is we who haunt and brood over these places, projecting our wants and fears into the dark of the night. We dig deep into that unknown territory of our mind without knowing and project those ghosts into our lives. We are more bold in our nightmares and ask to see our worst fears first-hand, unlike our waking life where we ask for bits and pieces and then form an experience around them.
We haunt these places like ghosts, forever seeking memories from the past – seeking to relive some place and some time. We are addicts, we are all addicted to memories, and we walk into new rooms and look for old memories like an addict looking for it’s next fix.
We pretend we like new experiences, but it takes us awhile to formulate opinions about new experiences and so we always live in these moments after the fact. My eyes are a periscope, my mind is the pilot, but I can’t tell if my navigator is there or not. Perhaps, this navigator is on a covert operation, and I don’t need to have direction in life, but to just act and live.
The fact that we’ll all be gone someday tears me to pieces, but of course, that is my story. Another’s story will come along and override mine, like footprints drained out through the rain.
I breath dust as I work my way through the brush like a rusted key trying to fit into a hidden away keyhole. Needles scratch my stomach and bugs or leaves scrape my face, can’t tell. Eventually, the smothering becomes deafening and I lose all bearing in my surroundings. All that matters is getting to the other side. I clutch for a grip, but feel none. My feet drag in an attempt to feel solid ground. I breath in dust.
Eventually, my eyes still closed, I make it to the other side. Only air meets my fists, and air I breathe. I set awhile in contemplation of the ordeal I just incurred. I look around – nothing, but a plain open clearing, with the object in the distance. As my feet pitter-patter forward instinctively, this ease to walking forward makes it that much harder to describe what it was like moving through that rough terrain. What was lost, and what was gained. To this day, I’m still not sure.
I look at my torn clothes and wonder how many suns have set, how old am I? Well, when I say it like that it becomes subjective. What we should really say is, “How many years have you seen?”, “Old”, is purely subjective. In my past, I’ve known people who have seen few years act “old”, and I’ve seen people who have seen many years act “young”.
Voices echo from the past, “the nature of the being is affected by that which surrounds it”. True. Perhaps I’ve been focusing too much on appearances on this long, lonely road. When in the end it is, but me who pushes along. It is almost as if I must strive to lose the bearing of appearances, and focus on the importance of thought and being.
As I say this, I’ve been walking for several minutes. With this knowledge I move forward, a little smarter in some regards, a little dumber in the points that don’t matter.
With this, I reach the object in the distance. I walk through the gate, and into the forgotten city.
The earth tremors as I walk past, the horizon shaking as I take each step. Floral scents fill my nose as I look by wondering how much animal is in those plants.The crunch of my footprint echos off into the world and I hear nothing in response, but my own breathing. Still, I prefer the loneliness here – left to my own devices to sit back and digest life.
Some things you can’t teach, like how much you should love, how much time you should set aside for things, what you should say when you have nothing to say. I suppose it’s tough, because some things are proprietary and deeply personal to the recipient. Some, though, love like a young man – holding nothing back. Others love like a parachuter, afraid to let go. Some men don’t know how to love.
A flower is a flower until someone comes along and calls it a rose, though, and for any one of the things we come across in life – what is the right name? And what is the place in our life for such a thing?
Perhaps, everything in life is just sitting around, slowly rotating out into the void, until someone comes along to show some warmth and love. Perhaps that’s what built civilization. Perhaps that’s what builds a person. Time will tell, if that’s what builds a life.
The earth below our feet grounds us to what is real and what is known. We leave trails in it as we walk and the world slowly erases our trails after enough time has passed to make us irrelevant. The sky connects us with the unknown and presents us with an unsolvable puzzle that both quenches and aggravates our instincts as adventurers of both the land and our minds.
That instinct for adventure was created by the awe of the horizon, and the dark lines and shapes of the night. Both provided a mechanism for imagination that allowed us to side-step our knowledge of what is and what could be. It was fueled by both a lust for life and a disinterest in the status quo.
Those who give up the adventure get lost somewhere in time in their minds. Sometimes, the point at which they get lost is right before their adventure is about to begin, but fear of failure in the unknown immobilizes them and prevents them from moving any further. Other times, they get lost in themselves and forget what they were searching for – forever roaming like a ghost without place to brood. Still, others find what they were looking for and lay their dusty boots on the mantle and hang their coat on the rack until the Last Big Adventure.
Eventually, we will become adventurers among the stars and drift slowly out into the darkness looking for a new definition of and way of life. Our campfires will be replaced by deeply tinted windows overlooking a star as we gather and pass on tales of old and new. The road ahead will appear ever lonelier, as the dirt is replaced by the big emptiness and we leave no trail.
No matter where the adventure takes us, the purpose remains the same. The wanderer seeks because he can and he is able, the terrain for which he traverses is there, and the horizon is ever-present – both visually and mentally. The wanderer projects questions into the world and then seeks his answers in obscure places. These answers are not carved into rock or into the dirt, they are evoked in the wanderer’s mind by the right place and time.
Walking through what looked like a former farm I quickly made my way to a place shrowded in trees and shadows. Making my way across mountain cliffs and only stopping to gaze at the horizon in quiet contemplation. Through the brush and the wind I moved like a ghost, only real when I pushed my imprint into the mud or bent a branch as I slipped through.
These roots I step over – they’ve been working for quite some time to get their grounding. Those leaves overhead – they’ve been pushing inch by inch for a long time to get to the point that they’re at. I have only been here for a minute, and yet I have been pushing myself along for quite some time.
I touch the earth with one hand as I gain steady ground with the other and feel it crust and then slowly fall away between my fingers. I calm my mind and quiet myself even further to hear that which is around me. The quieter you become, the more you able to hear.
I heard times passed, steps walked, anger absolved, I heard loud voices and love lost. I was, of course, alone.
Sometimes, experiences can imprint themselves on a place and that imprint isn’t easily avoided. It’s like hearing echoes from the past. Like you get the feeling that something important happened there, but you’re not sure why, and you’re not sure what you can do to contribute towards it.
Then one day you see a very familiar footprint. It looks like somebody you used to know, but haven’t been able to keep touch with. You examine the footprint and become shocked when you realized it is your footprint. How long has it been since I’ve been here, you wonder? Perhaps I thought I would never return, always looking forward, never looking backwards. Until today.
The person who walks over this ground today is not the person who walked through it years ago – there’s something different. Something alien about the footprint. Would I would to have a conversation with that person, who I was years ago. Perhaps I was everybody? Perhaps I was nobody.
I stop awhile, and realize that thoughts are like endless caves. The dark lines and dark shapes provide a mechanism for awe due to the fear and uncertainty that beholds them. These endless caves lend themselves to uncertain thoughts. It is very easy to go down the rabbit hole and not understand when you’ve come out the other side. Perhaps though, I have gone too far down the rabbit hole, and what I gaze upon now is a mirror of what I use to see on the other side. Like a pilgrim looking through a fogged window, I stare about the world as I see it through my limited perspective.
Though I know, the road can’t be rationalized like that. It is ever present, always in front of you, and what’s left is always behind you. The love for the unknown and unexpected is a wanderlust that can’t be reconciled easily. And perhaps, shouldn’t.
You realize perhaps that’s the purpose of the road. For it is only when we’re idle that we become complacent, and the road provides us an avenue to venture when we want to venture from ourselves.
I smelled the change in the air, it smelled like dirt and water and last fall. I looked at the opaque clouds above the misty mountain-tops ahead and wondered if I should press on. Somewhere a fire burned and the smell of family surrounded by a campfire nudged me forward.
I never actually saw that campfire.
But I remember campfires with dragonflys patrolling overhead, I remember the sound of a fire roaring to a finish, I remember the feel of the rocks underneath my back, and I remember stretching out and feeling only myself.
When you think that much…time slows down, you start to feel the arch of time behind your back, and the slow rotation of the earth in front of your eyes. You start to thinking about the slow rotation of the planet through that vast emptiness. Like a stone you threw long ago perpetually skipping across the waves of time. Sometimes those waves come around full circle and what’s left is a disorienting distorted view of yourself. Or perhaps the unexpected view of yourself is the most honest.
I stop, and kneel.
I look at my hands, dry and cold, my arms shaking, or is that just my heartbeat? These hands remember hugging my family – now they hug the trees, hug the branches of the gatekeeper brush ahead, palm the faces of the rocks I traverse, and now carve into the planet a message.
Love much, and love often is the message I left behind – though I don’t remember the exact words. It was, of course, long ago.
What is it about love that transcends space and time? Why do we love the things we don’t understand, and the things we hate we understand too much? Love in the most basic sense occurs when we start to think about the things we cannot live without. Love in the most complex sense refers to the name we give to our insecurities. Both end the same way.
The message I scratch in the dirt is one I hope to come across again someday. Perhaps, one day, when I am reborn as someone else. Perhaps, never. Perhaps, I came across this message long ago and I don’t remember. Maybe I don’t know, and maybe I never will.
I walked awhile until I came across a plain unlike most plains. There was a cottage in the clearing – of this I was certain – but there was also a mountainside upon which it rest and a dense bit of woods behind it. It was morning, and the sun painted an image of sunburst orange and blue trying to mix together like oil and water. I didn’t mind.
What a world I would give up to live in this cottage, I thought, as I set pace at the cottage to form an inquisition against the inhabitant. Step by step, wondering what I would say. How trivial – I thought, when I realized these things are best kept ad hoc – for the best questions are always the ones left unasked.
As I came across the cottage I noticed several things, chiefly among them was that the cut logs on the side of the house were overgrown with mold – no one had wanted to keep this house warm in years. There was also dust upon the doorsteps leading to the porch like an undisturbed lake – screaming about the stories of a bygone time with it’s misshapen steps, but welcoming like an old grandmother happy to see guests.
Creeks and moans whispered under my feet about my visit as I press on each step as I contemplated my decision with each successive move forward. As I stood on the porch I felt the wind in my hair and the dust upon my nose. I wondered for a split second if I should knock and push open the door.
I did not wonder for long though. Perhaps too long have I traveled The Road, too long have I knelt next to the streams and listened to the birds, had conversations with the crunch of the dirt beneath my feet, wondered in awe with the sky above my thoughts – now do I see upon the grounds immediately before me like I see upon the road ahead?
Long did I wonder, and long was my gaze as I stared at the door. I went ahead.
I knocked – there was, of course, no response. I pushed open the door and I swear that that door did scream like a quiet sonata as it came to screeching halt. I expected to see a family turn towards me as I opened the door, or perhaps an elderly, chair-bound man, but what I saw was much different.
Emptiness, like the great void above our heads in the night sky. Some furniture here and there, but no pictures, no landmarks. In fact, nothing to identify the previous owner.
I went into the kitchen, no grease upon the stove, no rust upon the oven, no wares left upon the counter-tops, just a snow globe in the corner of the room. The snow globe had a mountain in it that reminded me of my prior footsteps and a bygone time, but I stopped myself short didn’t think much of it.
I continued into what would have been the bedroom, but there was nothing in the room. Like the prior tenant lived, and left, without a trace.
Perhaps they left into the woods, you think? But the woods are dense, are dark at night, and are misleading during the day. They do not lend themselves to easy adventures.
It is, of course, easy to say that whoever stayed here, stayed with family. And by that, I mean, they had no family, at least not physically, but perhaps in mind. No family to stop you from wandering into the woods, no family to make you leave behind a trace – I think as I run my finger upon the mantle of the fireplace.
I thought this to be true, until I came across as dark room. The dark room had stuffs in it like it had been packed tight for a long voyage. Indeed, I had trouble navigating through the dark room because it was so packed.
A knight in armor here, a tea kettle set there. I felt unrest until I came across a photo album.
I then realized why the previous tenant had left in such a hasty manner. The photos told a sad story of love found and loss through consequence due to pure chance. Love abruptly ended, life lost. Even now, it is, tough to talk about.
Perhaps, that is what drew you here, you wonder. Perhaps, you needed to talk about these things. Perhaps, you’ve always needed to talk about these things. As always, it is tough to say. What you can say is that this photo album told a sad story of love and loss and the unwillingness to cope with a the reality of losing a piece of one’s self.
You walk back unto the porch and stop before you hit the screaming steps again. Before you set foot back upon the land you wonder – you wonder how long it will be until we realize our most important memories aren’t the ones we experience here and now, but the ones that transcend space and time.
I move like a phantom – sifting tools between my hands and shuffling footsteps like I’m trying to find a lost love one through a crowded plaza. A force propels us forward, unspoken, much to our chagrin, but a force nonetheless that has an appetite for resolution and arbitration. Like a needle poking through layers of comfortable blanket, this force penetrates our lives and pinpricks us right at our most aggravated point of stimulation.
It makes you think about how much you love life, which leads you to think of death.
Death – does one just casually slip into the stream of the forever? Simply to be reconstituted as another familiarity? And what of the inbetween? Or, so to speak, the road that we all walk? Does it simply get lost, like tears in the rain? Or does it simply get misconstrued?
Take, for instance, an impromptu actor on an impromptu stage, at an impromptu time. Does the actor not first say, “wait?” while he recollects his bearings and coagulates his wit? Once he is situated, does he not look back at his prior confusion in oversimplification? Like an improv actor, moving with the actors, forgetting the settings, far and many inbetween, do we move through life?
I don’t know. That’s the question.
For in life, hard work looks like hard work until hard work turns into relaxation and awe. Relaxation because we finally gave ourselves a break, awe, because we finally showed the world what we were capable of and it reciprocated – and we were ready to receive it.
But the world is palpable, relative, tangible. Like a ball of clay rolling down a long, endless hill, it continues. Once some bold, unforgiving visionary comes along and takes that clay and molds it and says this is this, this will forever be this, and that is that then the ball of clay has shifted and changed. But not too long from then, over time, long after that visionary is gone, that ball will continue rolling down that long hill, smoothing itself out and waiting for the next visionary across the endless sea of time.
And yet, do we speak to each other through the open window, across the music to one another to relay these things, like a ghost whispering to an unborn child. To the next generation? Or do we simply believe was has passed-has passed, and that is that?
No. I believe in another world. A world where one can transcend time as easily they transcends space. One that connects people from across generations as easily as one can connects dots on a map. As I look into the distance trying to answer my own question I am taken away. Not by a scene, or the view, but the music that is the ambient orchestra of our live. For a minute, it took me away to another time and place where my dreams felt like a lifetime.
The ability to transcend ourselves is a widely undervalued ability. What is the ability to transcend ourselves, but to transcend space and time? The ability to take a look at ourselves through someone else’s eyes – what would we see?
It’s seldom that we set aside time for ourselves.
We set aside time to clean the dishes, to do the laundry, to read that book about that road…but how oft do we set aside time to explore ourselves? Would we even know where to start? Where to go? What to look for? Who to look for?
If our identity can be summed up by the sum of all of our linear actions then of what use is our mind? Trees go through life experiencing a number of events, should we associate those events with their identity?
Could we associate all of the things we have done in life with our identity?
If so, what of our future? How does that come into play in the grand scheme of things? For our mind is our most valuable asset, we give close friends, but a glimpse into that of which we understand, like a carefully guarded secret. Perhaps, not a secret, but a treasure. Buried deep below the dark waters of our consciousness, only diving deep after taking a breath of uncertainty and resurfacing with only vague images of which we can only form the most general of opinions.
I pondered this as I walked down a quiet, somewhat lush road until I came across two trees planted side by side, perhaps by chance – although, isn’t everything that we experience placed into the stream for which we call ‘chance’? – at which point I stopped my weary feet and stood awhile.
I wondered how well each tree knew each other, given that they had experienced so much of life together. Experienced each linear event together, grew old together.
It made me think of those who have come and gone.
Does the very act of carrying someone with you in spirit facilitate someone growing with you? After all, they only exist in your memories – only exist in your stories. By degrees, we make ourselves available to our imagination for those who have come into our lives and left prematurely.
We set awhile in a quiet room, we say to our imagination, “Okay, I trust you, take me with you.”, and we transport ourselves to a time and a place when we are back together with our most cherished, but lost friends.
Perhaps the road ahead is not littered in provocative scenes that lead us to such wonder, but perhaps we lend purpose into those scenes to make them as such. Perhaps, you think, this purpose is the ultimate gift to our friends who have come and gone – a gift that can only be given postmortem, and one that never be translated into words that others may understand.
But others may understand the language, and relate it back to their memories, their personal sunken treasures, and thus, they will give purpose to the footsteps of their future.