The Wanderer & His Children.
“When,” I ask humbly, “is it time to tighten the laces on my boots and to just start walking?”
“When,” I question the universe around me sternly, “is it time to stop catering to the maniacal creations of man and start living?”
I feel it in every pore of my body and nearly every fiber of my existence.
I need to walk. I need to let go of all of this stuff and just start walking.
Starve if I must, freeze if I have to, die a lonely and tired death if that is what I am destined to do, but do it nonetheless.
I close my eyes and can see it clearly, a roughly unshaven man walking with the mountains and the pink-hued tales of sunsets as his backdrop with nothing by his side but the stories of then and the causes of now guiding him.
The more I sit idle in this apartment, the more I feel sure that every note the universe sings to me is telling me to leave. The more I sit alone in stillness, the more I am sure that the echo in my mind takes me to a place I have never been before. The more I look at the wreckage of my life behind me, the more I feel destined to walk the wilderness of this place both figuratively and literally. The more I look at my hands once filled with the grip of lovers, the more I know I should have a walking stick in one and a book in the other. The more I miss the embrace of passion, the more I am certain it only stings to open my arms.
My heart is open and full, even if my arms are empty. My legs are restless with the fatigue of modern life and with the weight needing things. My shoulders are raw and sore from bearing the crosses of my experience, and rather than stumble and fall under the weight of that wood, I simply want to pick it up and throw it far over some cliff somewhere. I want to watch it tumble through the open air, and I want to watch it shatter into a billion splinters as it hits the craggy rocks below. I want to be done with it and die a free, liberated soul.
Yet the universe has given me chains that bind me to this place. I look at the eyes of my loving children and I weep for the ties that bind me here. I hear the word “Daddy” and I shudder at the thought of not hearing it again, save those moments when dreams remind me of who I am to them.
I wonder if they could ever forgive me for leaving while, at the same time, I wonder if they can ever forgive me for staying. I wonder if I am failing to teach them the most wonderful lesson of all, that we are not born to wear the chains given to us by our parents and, ostensibly, by our posterity but are rather born to be free people liberated from such need.
I wonder if they would get it, if they would take flight themselves one day, and if they would love the man who simply sought to be a free man wandering among the chains that bound others to a nonexistent dream. I wonder if I need to be the teacher, or if I need to remain a slave to the ideas of what I need to be, created not by me, but by others who will teach my children that I have failed them.
In those fibers of my existence that cause me to stay, I have found a tight chain binding me to this piece of ground.
The mountains call. The beaches beg. The road whispers in my ear, but the chains clang loudest as my babies hug me and tell me how much they love me. The sweet music of that clanging chain rings loudly in my ears, reminding me of all I have ever wanted to be while demonstrating to me that I can be it given the right set of eyes, ears and limbs to adorn me.
Their love fills my heart with the nectar of the gods; their laughter fills my ears with a certain knowledge that I am here for a reason. The universe laughs heartily at this human notion that I am a provider of something even as my mind begs to be that provider. I want to be special here. I want to be needed here. I love being “Daddy” and I love being me. Yet, I need to walk to be free.
For now, I lie next to my son and play with my daughter’s hair, listening to their stories and their jokes and their dreams—only imagining walking free among the trees and sleeping under the stars.
I only imagine the pangs of hunger as I wait for nature to provide. I only imagine never hearing my phone ring, or getting the mail, or hearing about some human atrocity or insanity inflicted on another. I can only dream of the sounds of nature being my constant companion, and earth under my body as I make my way to some destination only God knows.
I can only imagine meeting people whose names do not matter, whose faces are but temporary visions in a story full of those things. I can only imagine being woken up each morning by the rain, or the sun, or the birds or the crack of thunder.
I smile, wandering in my mind while enjoying the moment with those who love me dearly.
I laugh at the sound of my son cracking himself up.
He is his Dad’s son for sure. No one can crack himself up like I can save this wonderful boy who is lying on me, telling jokes that magically appear in his head. I love his little voice, the fact that a boy so big for his age can still bring a smile to my face with the innocence of his voice. I love his big little hands as they hold mine, his fingers tightly grabbing his “favorite poopy Daddy” with all of their might. I love his stories, his insight, and the brave way he adorns his fears as if they are a cape rather than something to be ashamed of. I love how he buries his sturdy head into me when something that scares him comes on the screen, and how he tells me his goal in life is to be “an Army guy who delivers pizzas.” I love his rationale; he can be in the Army but help people who are hungry at the same time.
A peaceful warrior who carries a big gun with the voice of an angel making people laugh along the way. That’s my boy.
I give a chuckle marveling at my baby girl.
She was born early and a fighter with what the doctors called “an attitude.” Yes, an attitude, a medical term for a tough female who has a heart of gold and a will of tempered steel. Her laugh can make anyone laugh, and I love when I say something that hits that spot where that laugh comes from. She’s as beautiful as her mom, with an artistic ability that comes from both her parents. She is steely sensitive, often unwilling to let her heart out even as her compassion and love comes spilling out all over the place. Her smile can make me instantly feel alive, and in those rare moments when she says, “Daddy, I love you,” my heart melts and the sun breaks through even the thickest clouds.
I know love here in this place with these beings, and I know the sweet music of a man imprisoned by the sheer joy of love like a bird imprisoned by the loving tug of wind beneath its wings. Sometimes the freedom isn’t in the flight, but in the ability to land wherever you so choose.
My oldest daughter isn’t here; she’s away at college being mad at me for one thing or another. She may never know how she woke me up at the moment of her birth. She may never realize how dead asleep I was in my own drunken state, and how that gigantic spark of love felt the moment my eyes saw her and began an awakening process that continues to this day. She is, was, and remains a gift who doesn’t realize her greatness. Yes, I am blessed.
Those are my tethers to this world, this reality: my “happy chains.”
Those are the fuel to the fire of my joy that shows itself in the smile that crests upon my face in their presence. Those are the once-dreams-now-reality manifestations of a prayer once uttered by a lonely boy in the darkness of his tortured chamber. Those are what keep me here, rooted in the human dream-state we call reality wondering why I need to live here at all. Those are the little specks of “me” that grow daily into something completely “not me.” Those are flakes of angel’s dust that will remain long after my body returns to the place it was spawned from. Those are my children, my babies, my life.
Smile now and get the joy out of you. Laugh at my condition, the one that sees me playing this insane human game because of a divine joy I have in being with those I love.
Laugh at me while I play a string-less guitar, singing a song you have never heard of before.
Laugh at me as I dance out of your rhythm although certainly within my own.
Watch me walk, fade into the pink-hued sunset of my dreams as the laughter of my little ones follows me into the wilderness.
Chuckle if you must but please, I beg of you, never offer me that sympathetic “shake of the head” in bewilderment of my actions. Never offer my children a condolence as they eye their dad with a spy-glass that cuts through the trees and the mist and the fog and the dew, leaving only a certain truth to be seen. Let them laugh at their Dad and be free unto themselves in whatever fit of laughter, anger, sadness or joy they find in their ever-present moment. Who knows, maybe one day you may strike up the courage to tighten your laces and walk into the woods even if for a little while.
As for now, I will close this chapter as the dusk settles in on yet another day. I will go and check on my now-sleeping sparks of joy and settle into my own place for the evening. I will let go of my passion for walking and rest here for a little while, waiting to repeat the insanity and the wondering and, yes, the wandering all over again tomorrow.
I am not sure of anything except the fact that if I am graced with yet another day of breathing, I will be blessed with another day of looking out at the horizon, wishing I was walking there. I will wake up, shower and make breakfast for the three of us. Then I will begin yelling, screaming, begging and praying for my little ones to get ready for school. I will have to remember that they don’t necessarily care to brush their teeth or comb their hair.
I will have to be aware that their school necessities are necessary not to them, but to insane adults who put such importance on such meaningless things.
I will have to remember that they don’t quite yet get the vast importance of “being on time” and that they simply don’t yet know that money does not grow on trees.
I will have to remember that none of my important “adult” things matter one bit to my two littlest bundles of joy.
I will then realize, again, that I am jealous that they haven’t yet been bitten by the serpent of insanity that has infected most of us with a disease called “adulthood.” I will then shake my head, vow to take it easier on those who still marvel at the idea that we adults think that we are, well, right. I will also vow to be more like the boy who believes that Army men should deliver pizzas and the girl who refuses to quit at anything she does. I will also vow to call the 18-year-old who doesn’t answer anything, unless it’s a text, and who will most likely not return my voice mail.
Then I will look out at the trees, tighten the laces of my boots, and vow again to walk one day to parts still unknown. I will hear the mighty roar of nature in my mind. I will feel the breeze rustle through my heart and the leaves fracture beneath my feet. I will dream of freedom from the dream even as I caress the chains that keep me firmly planted here. I will go to an office I can’t stand, go through the motions I have practiced most of my adult life, and wander through the mundane practice of insanity we all call “sanity.”
I will do it all over and over again until, one day, I either walk free or return to the dust we call “heaven.”
Adapted from www.countdowntotimelessness.com
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Ed: Brianna Bemel