Sunday, March 19, 1995

The Path

for Tracy

They walked along the gently winding trail through the open field.

On their journey, they passed through many fields like this one and between those fields were woods and small deserts, swamps and rocky hills.

They crossed chasms, streams and rivers... but they did so together and always hand in hand.

He was young and eager, but possessed knowledge through early learning to keep his eagerness in check and in perspective.

She was young as well, but more experienced, having learned much when she first set foot on the trail some time before he did... and when he felt lost and as if he were going to stumble, he asked,
"May I hold your hand while we travel?"

He had knowledge that she lacked, but shared with her willingly what she asked and could understand.

She knew the trail which he did not, and willingly showed him the way... at first leading and then sharing the way and the experience.
He had left someone behind before starting his journey on the trail... He tried going back and assuring this person of his return, but as his journeys along the trail became more distant, it proved increasingly difficult and he began to feel alone... and the trail looked less defined as he traveled.

She had met another traveler on her journey, which was to be expected, and they fell in love and agreed to meet at an intersecting point as they had the first time they met... and from there they would walk together.

So he met her and she met him. He left someone behind at a place called "home" and she left someone behind as their paths crossed at an intersecting point...

He carried with him his knowledge; she, her experience. And each found that it's difficult to maintain one without the other... for both are required if one ever expects to reach wisdom.

When they met, he was stumbling through a wood and she was walking quietly along the trail. He was having trouble staying focussed on the trail, for tears make it difficult to see, so instead he focussed on her and knew that she would lead the way... he didn't know how... he just knew.

Eventually, he walked along side her and asked her about the trail;

"Is it always this rocky?"


"I suppose I can deal with rocky, but why is it so steep?"

"That's just the way the trail is."

"Is it always this steep?"



"Sometimes, it's steeper."

"Oh, Dear."

"Don't worry, it'll level out... and sometimes it'll go downhill."

"Do the rocks get smaller?"


And so they walked... and so they talked... and they shared. She shared of the trail with him... And he of another trail with her.

"You know," he said, "I have heard of this trail we're walking all my life. I've heard of it's twists and turns, it's hard and soft places, it's rough and smooth places... But as much as I heard, there were no second hand words of experience that could truly prepare me for it. None of the experience of the trail alone, had by others, could make my journey any less difficult."
"You seem to be doing okay, now," she comforted, "and I'm walking with you."

"I know, and for that I am grateful; I am doing fine, though I continue to stumble "

"We all do."

"Thank you... But it's not the experience of this trail alone that has strengthened me... But the knowledge of another. A path with out hills and valleys, without rocks in the way or thorny bushes to navigate around. A path that is straight and true."

"I'd like to walk this path... It sounds much nicer than the one we're on now. Let's go there."

She understood, but her understanding was like that of a woman at a certain well who didn't want to labor for her water once she heard that she might have within her "a well of water."

"It's not a place that you go to," he continued, "Though it will lead you somewhere. We can't abandon the trail we're on now because it is the experience of this trail that we need as our school teacher, our point of reference, our basis for comparison once we reach the goal that the straight path leads to. For once we reach it, how sweet the reward, having first tasted of the bitterness of this trail."

"But how do we walk on the straight path if we can't leave the trail we're on now?"

"We take it with us. We keep it in our minds and in our hearts."

"But all I have known is this trail. Some of what you have said sounds familiar to me, and I've tried to apply it as best I could, but the trail is still what I know best, even with all its twists and turns, its rocks and thorns. You speak of a path that I can't see, that I haven't fully experienced."

"And you walk on a trail that I have trouble seeing, sometimes," he said, "but you've helped me to keep my pace... You've helped me to stand straight and know when to duck... But there's more than this trail. And the knowledge that I've acquired... that I continue to acquire, helps me to see it all... to put everything into perspective. It doesn't make the trail any less steeper, or the rocks any smaller, but I can see their purpose more clearly now. This knowledge is something to help us understand, to see more clearly the straight path through the crooked trail. It's not a filter, it's an enhancer. It doesn't block out what is bad, it helps us to see what is good... And in its own subtle ways, it provides us with a guide, and a hand rail along the path. So through the rocky terrain and in the thundering storm, through the thick fog... we won't lose our way. As long as we don't let go. The path, the guide and the rail will always stay true. It's up to us to follow them... I've let go a few times, I confess, and I struggled and I stumbled, but it got a little easier and a lot more clearer once I found my way back and held on."

And so they walked and so they talked. He increased in experience, she increased in knowledge and they both increased in wisdom. And when one stumbled, whether on the trail, or even on the straight path, one helped to pick the other up.

It was on a particularly rough stretch of the trail, which simultaneously ran along the wall of a cliff and through a line of bushes, when he heard difficult news of the one he left at home... and she was worried about the one she was supposed to meet.

Once again, the trail was a little blurred for him and she struggled for knowledge to help her understand, when he asked her the simple question,

"May I hold your hand while we travel?"

"Sure," she said.

And together, hand in hand, they continued their journey. Together, they helped each other... With his knowledge and her experience, they saw the whole picture, found the straight path and worked toward bringing their loved ones together.

Eventually, though, they came to a point where the trail they followed together for so long split and they had to go their separate ways.

He looked down at their hands, still clasped together, and said,

"I don't want to let go."

"Neither do I," she said, "It feels a lot safer on the trail when you're holding hands with someone you love."

"Especially when that someone is as experienced with the trail as you are," he said.

"Or has the knowledge to see the straight path."

He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek and said, "You can take this knowledge, that I've shared, with you. And, eventually, see the straight path in its entirety."

She kissed him back, saying, "And you now have experienced what I have experienced, so you will be better off as well."

They started on their separate paths when she stopped and called to him,

"Will I see you again?"

"Yes, Dear," he said back. "I just need to go home for a while... There's someone I've forgotten back there."

"Yeah," she said, "I'm on my way to see my someone, too. Let's all get together one day... and be friends."

"That would be wonderful. Then we could all hold hands and walk together."

She smiled and said to him, "I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm still holding your hand."

"Me, too, Dear... Let's hold on forever."