“I was looking decent, but nothing fancy and certainly not sexy! I was going to the grocery store! I mean, I had shorts on, but not short shorts. I had on that little tee-shirt top, you know, the pale yellow with the little loop stitching on the edges? Nice, but not exactly an attention getter. Well I see a group of construction workers working on a building up ahead, so I just look straight ahead, no eye contact, nothing to lead them on. So when I get up close every single one of them goes presidential on me. I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to tell them a thing or two but that would just encourage them so I kept my eyes straight ahead and kept walking. What’s this world coming too?”
My uncle flew away but he left behind a bit of his wonderment. Ricky and I loaded our backpacks with food and water early this morning and headed for the creek. From the plane we saw the creek follow the low places between foothills until it disappeared at the base of the mountains east of town. The plan is to follow the paths along the creek until we reach that point. Ricky’s mom gave him her phone, just in case we get lost – I’m not sure that’s possible but there are other unknowns out there, I can’t tell you what they are.
“I love to go a wondering along the mountain track,” Ricky has decided a true hike requires music but he doesn’t know the whole song so he just sings that one bit over and over and over. Sally got tired of the music and ran on up ahead some time ago. She runs back to check on whether he’s still singing every five minutes or so, she just checked and he still is. I have my walking stick which identifies me as a hiker so there is no need for me to sing. I let Ricky take the lead and I fall back a bit in order to enjoy the quiet morning. The creek is running about half full leaving us plenty of room to walk along the bank. So far the trails that run on each side of the creek are well defined. I don’t know if they are kept that way by fishermen, kids, or animals but they provide an easy path around rocks and trees and tall grasses. Frogs jump into the water just ahead of us warned by Ricky’s song. I watch for snakes hoping they are driven away by his song too. A cottontail rabbit stops to watch us pass, waiting for us to leave the area so he can get a drink from the creek. All at once the music stops. Ricky stops walking. Sally doubles back to see what has happened and I almost walk into Ricky before I stop next to him.
“Time for a snack,” Ricky proclaims as he sits on the log that was his reason for picking this spot. He pulls the pack off his back and starts looking through it. I sit next to him on the log as he pulls out a sandwich size plastic bag of cookies. He hands me one of the homemade cookies.
“Thanks,” his mom makes the best cookies; they stay chewy instead of getting hard and crumbly like store bought cookies.
“We’re making good time,” Ricky says as he chews on a cookie of his own.
I think the time has come to get something said, “About the hiking song, Ricky,” I start.
“Oh, that’s over. Sorry if you’re going to miss it,” he says with a grin. “Getting a sore throat.”
“How much farther do you think?” I ask.
“Five miles,” Ricky answers between chews.
I hold my hand out for my second cookie, “How far have we come?” Ricky is petty good with distances.
“Two miles,” he answers with complete confidence that lets me know he hasn’t got a clue.
Most of the time being a Super Kid is something I enjoy: the look of surprise when the little guy in the crowd is the one with the right answer, the honest thanks from people who have escaped danger or had their problem solved, even a little bit of hero worship can be fun – for awhile, but being in the spotlight, being singled out, having people expect you to solve their problems gets old. After a big splash of superness I find it is best to lay low for awhile, let the rumors die down, don’t do anything that might create a snowball effect and build an image I would really rather not have.
I have a four-foot long, one-inch thick, bare branch from a walnut tree in my hand. I poke at the dirt with the stick every third step so that if anyone sees me they will know I am on a hike. But the odds are against any one seeing me. Our town is a mile away. I’ve been walking on a path made by cows for half an hour. Once in a while I do have to be careful to step over things the cows have left behind but other than that there are few decisions to make. I’ve decided to put one foot in front of the other and that seems to be working out well. A lizard runs across the path and startles me. I wave my stick at him but he’s long gone. I hate snakes and try to make enough noise to let any snakes know I’m coming. It must be working. I haven’t seen a snake yet. A tree sits on the edge of the path. Six black cows rest lying on the ground in the shade of the tree. They watch me as I approach wondering if they will be required to move or not. Under their long eyelashes their big brown eyes follow my every step. One of the cows starts to stand and then decides it’s just too much trouble and returns to chewing cud. I have to step over the legs of one cow to get to the trunk of the tree but she doesn’t seem to mind. I find myself a place to sit in the highest branch that can support my weight and watch the cloudless blue sky.
Amy sees me looking at her and gives me a wave; I wiggle my fingers in the air and go back to reading my book. The people in the book are on a serious hike; well they are not people – not human anyway. One of them is almost human, but he has powers. They struggle to stay on a path through a forest so thick the sun does not shine there. The path is seldom used and is hard to keep track of. Thick spider webs cross the path and sometimes they see giant insect eyes staring at them from the darkness on each side of the path. As they get tired and hungry my stomach growls and it takes an effort just to turn the next page. One of the fat short people like beings falls into a stream and almost drowns before they can get him back to shore but now all he wants to do is sleep, now I’m tired, hungry, and sleepy. I feel a soft tickly slide across my cheek and swat it away, thinking of a giant furry black spider.
“Ouch!” Amy says, much louder then even the level of noise allowed in the children’s section.
“Sorry, I thought you were a giant spider.”
“You ready to go home?” she asks while rubbing her cheek where my hand pushed her hand. I want to ask her why she was hitting herself but I don’t.
“Sure, I’m going to check this out,” I show her my book and climb up from the floor. The doors to the outside are smoked glass and make the day look cool and shady but as soon as we step outside the bright sun and summer heat hits us. At first the warmth feels good after the cold air-conditioned air in the library but in just a few minutes we are looking for shaded places to walk in. We end up walking in the grass between the sidewalk and the street, going around huge tree trunks every forty feet. Sometimes we take an extra trip around an especially nice tree. Amy walks behind me trying to pace me step for step, her legs are pretty short but she’s having fun back there. I can hear her giggle every once in a while. I have no idea why. She’s not bad for a little sister. We don’t see much of each other. I start taking really long steps and she sees what I’m trying to do right away and just giggles some more. I take to the sidewalk and start to run. I can hear her falling behind.
“Jimmy!” she yells. She knows I won’t leave her behind, it’s just part of the game. I slow down a little, let her catch up, and then shift it back into high gear.
“Jimmy!” something in her tone strikes me as funny and I lean against a tree laughing until she gets close and then I take off again. By the time we reach home we are both breathing hard. I let the back yard screen door slam behind us to announce our arrival as we both head for the kitchen for some water.
My mother stands by the kitchen sink, where she spends most of her time, “Sit down at the table,” she instructs us as she pours us each a glass of cool water. “Show me your books.” She tells me she read my book when she was in high school and reads one of Amy’s books to her while we drink our water. She gives each character a different voice and puts a lot of emotion into it making it much more interesting than it would be if she just read the words plainly.
As we get up from the table and start to walk out of the kitchen I can’t help myself I turn and say, “thanks for cleaning my room mom.” It’s a nice thing to say but she doesn’t take it that way. She just gives me a fake, disgusted look.
And then he started to walk slowly. One foot grudgingly followed the other. Loose black emulsion coated pebbles on the course asphalt rolled under his mud-coated white tennis shoes as he refused to take the effort involved in lifting a foot completely away from the ground. Knees stayed bent, his back curved, head hung, his eyes half open saw only the tips of his shoes and a few feet of street. His hands rested in the stretched out pockets of aged blue jeans. Old, thin wrinkled skin covered hands dug in deep so that his fingers felt the holes left from the days he had possessed keys. He stumbled once, caught himself, and continued as a center white stripe came into his limited view. One foot slid on thick paint without acknowledgment, without discerning what the change in color might suggest. A horn mounted inside the engine compartment of a small late model white car demonstrated the Doppler Effect as the car first pushed air and then pulled air and dust around him without any noticeable affect or effect. He moved, his goal in the movement unknown even to himself, but no less important, his every thought, all his strength focused on dragging the next foot into position. He paused long enough to take a breath. He coughed. He slid another foot forward and reached the starting edge of another thick expanse of white paint.
A car, coming from the opposite direction slowed and then came to a stop on the two lane, almost traffic free road, and “Are you alright” the voice was female, young, and concerned.
A flash of recognition, like lights inside his head, and then it was gone, all that remained was the blacktop and the white paint under one tennis shoe.
“Should I call someone?” she was still concerned and there was no part of her that could leave him alone. She talked, she explained, she led him slowly, she pulled, and tugged, and lifted until he sat belted into a once, moments before, perfectly clean bucket seat.
But he was still alone. His right knee lifted inside his wrinkled jeans and then this left, his half opened eyes watched the tips of muddy, white, tennis shoes.
One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat.
Break off the top, the head of the grain. I picture wheat – it could have been barley or oats or several other grains but I see more wheat where I live and I picture wheat. From the ground a long fragile stem with just a few thin leaves. On top making the plant top-heavy are rolls of seeds, fifty to a hundred kernels of wheat packed together. Pull the top off of one of the stems and just roll it in your hand as you walk along. At first a lot of the dried, grass like, covering comes off – just let it sprinkle on to the narrow dirt path between fields. Separate out four or five kernels and rub them a little harder with your thumb until they are clean seeds and pop them into your mouth. The conversation continues, you look up and smile, give your friend a little punch in response to something he said and chew a few more bits of grain. It’s a peaceful, quiet, Saturday morning.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it
The Word, God, walked along a dirt path, with friends. I like that concept.