One afternoon, as the young bumpkin worked his small bean field…
…he spied, in the distance, an old man slumped with fatigue beside the road.
Being kind by nature and upbringing, he filled a pitcher from the well bucket and gave the traveler a cup.
Sometimes when you help a stranger, you are rewarded beyond your imagining. And so it was with the bumpkin…
After the old man had drained the cup, he told the lad, “If you walk down this road ’til you reach the edge of the horizon, you will find many many things. And one of those things may just be the thing your heart most desires.”
Before the young man could think to speak, the old fellow jumped up and ambled on down the long straight road. He soon disappeared into a swirling cloud of dust stirred by the wind.
The lad believed that anyone so withered with age must know something. That stranger looked just like the wise man in the story book!
However, he liked his little farm and felt guilty about leaving the fields behind. So he told himself, “As soon as I reach the edge of the horizon, I’ll come right back.”
As the sun rose the next morning, he set off down the road…
His eagerness sustained him for the first few days. But then he started to doubt—the horizon seemed no closer than when he’d begun.
Finally, he asked an old woman on a mule how much farther to the edge of the horizon.
The old crone shouted with the mocking laughter of a crow. “You fool! You could walk forever and never reach the edge of the horizon.”
Before the lad could think to speak, she nudged the mule in the ribs with her big toes and was soon lost in a swirling cloud of dust stirred by the wind.
He didn’t know what to do. Had that white-haired coot lied to him? “Well, I have indeed found many many things, just as he predicted,” the young man reasoned. “Maybe the old woman, in her mischief, wishes to mislead me. Well, for the time being, I’d better keep going—I don’t want to lose my heart’s desire.”
The truth is: though he wanted to return to the farm, he also wanted to see what he hadn’t yet seen. So one desire won out over the other. Why?—why this curiosity? Maybe the wise ones know the answer. But not me. In any case…
…our traveler continued to walk into lands unknown. And continued to find many things along the way. Though none of the things seemed to be the thing he desired most, he still enjoyed finding them. So he continued on.
He walked for weeks, for months, for years…
…and slowly, over time, forgot about finding his true desire. Of course, as he learned of the world, he discovered the old woman was right: you can never reach the edge of the horizon, because we live on a ball, not a pancake. Though not yet wise, our friend was no longer a bumpkin.
Some will likely say he wandered lost. But I believe he’d actually discovered his heart’s desire: to learn of this world and its many many things. And if you’ve found your heart’s desire, how can you be lost?
In any case…
…because the world is round, his path eventually returned him to his farm.
Everything he saw there—the house, the fields, the fence, the windmill, the well—seemed familiar and yet different. Different due to years of neglect, but also different because he was a different person.
He felt unsettled by his perception of the place. However, he was a traveler now and travelers enjoy the unusual experience.
As he roamed through the pale-yellow wild grass of the fields, he wondered if this land could ever be his home again.
“But what is ‘home’ anyway?” he asked himself.
“This farm was once my home. And though it feels a little strange to me now, I still feel that I know it. But I don’t think it knows me—not anymore, anyway. So I don’t feel at home here. Maybe ‘home’ is both a place you know well and a place that knows you well.
“By that definition, maybe the world at large—the world beyond this farm—can be my home. After all, I think that world knows me—I often feel it watching me as I walk: its invisible eyes seem to see into me.
“However, I still don’t think I know that world—not well enough anyway, not well enough to call it ‘home’.
“But perhaps I could, in time, if I continue my travels.”
Once again, he’d found an excuse to leave the farm.
In the following years, as our traveler made the world his home, he circled the globe again and again…
…and so, kept coming back to the farm.
And each time he returned, he remembered what he’d realized upon his first return…
When we return to the place where we began, we know it, not for the first time, but for the second time.
And the second time will be always different from the first, just as the third time will be different from the second, and the fourth different from the third.
Each time we return, we will see the place with different eyes, and so we know it a different way.
And each way will have its own truth.
© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry