Tuesday, January 4, 2011
THE TRAVELING MAN
by Ariel DeAngelis
(this is a story that I'm importing from my FaceBook profile "notes". At the time that I wrote it I just thought that I had an interesting idea for a story that seemed to flow through "stream-of-consciousness" writing. More recently however, I've come to realize that Michael has actually co-authored with me many of the stories I've written. This is one of them... Thank you Michael! Enjoy!!)
Once upon a time, there was a man who was a traveling man. The traveling man loved to travel all over, and in fact had been traveling most of his life. He felt emphatically that it was his destiny.
Though in the course of his travels he felt he still needed to feel grounded somehow, and so, from each destination that he stopped at he would take with him a souvenir; a little reminder of where he’d been, what he’d seen and what he’d done. Most of the souvenirs he collected were small enough that he could carry them quite easily. Occasionally, he would just have to have a huge one that would weigh him down much more than the others. But even though through the years the pack on his back kept getting heavier and heavier, and huger and huger, he just couldn’t bear the thought of parting with any of them. And so he carried them all, every last one of them, everywhere he went. People who saw him would always remark, “Wow, that’s a mighty big back pack you have there! And look at all of those souvenirs! Isn’t it heavy? Don’t you wish sometimes you could just leave some of them behind?”
The traveling man would just smile and shake his head saying “no, I keep these with me as reminders of where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and what I’ve done. It’s true that some of them are more burdensome than others, but I’ve carried them this far… I think I can carry them a little further”. And with that he would hoist the pack on his shoulders to distribute the weight once again, and off he’d go to his next destination.
Well, as you might imagine, after many years of doing this, the traveling man’s back pack got so huge that it towered several feet above his head as he walked and climbed and sometimes even swam where ever it was that he wanted to go. He didn’t seem to mind too much; his arms and legs had gotten very strong from the years and years of carrying the pack full of souvenirs. In fact if he twisted an ankle or strained a wrist he would hardly seem to notice because he was so used to feeling the fatigue in his limbs he just kept going.
Sometimes he would come across other people in his travels, who were carrying their own packs of stuff… some people had really beautiful stuff and others had in their packs what looked like garbage, and he wondered why anyone would haul garbage around with them. Every once in a while, he would notice a person with a back pack who was having trouble keeping it on their shoulders. He’d watch as the person struggled and once in a while someone would beg him for help getting their pack seated on their shoulders, but he would just laugh and say “well, you’ve got quite a pack there, but have you seen mine lately?” pointing up at the enormous pack on his back. “I have enough to carry without helping you with yours too” and he would go on down the road laughing to himself about the irony of that.
Sometimes the traveling man would think about how lonely he was. He always traveled alone, and this was of some concern to him because sometimes he thought he might like to have a traveling companion. Maybe he might even like to have a traveling wife. Unfortunately every time he tried to get close to anyone, his overstuffed backpack would always get in the way somehow; either literally, or when it was suggested that he put it down, or just out and out get rid of it all together to make the relationship easier. He was so fixated on the contents of his pack however, at times he thought he might just love them more than life itself.
One day, the traveling man had been heading in the direction of a long cherished dream of his; to visit an ancient city made of gleaming crystal said to be the origins of all civilization. As he walked across the plateau he could see the city sparkling in the distance. It was so bright and shiny he couldn’t take his eyes off of it as he closed ever nearer.
Finally he stood in front of the grand city. The image took his breath away and he could feel the subtle energies of the people within beckoning, calling him to join them. He took a few steps closer and nearly fell off the edge of a precipice into a deep canyon that lay between him and the city. He stood there a moment looking and wondering. Hmmm… maybe it wasn’t too far, if he got a running start he might just be able to jump across. He couldn’t let a measly little canyon get in the way of his lifelong dream now. Then he pondered the pack on his back. He really didn’t want to leave all his souvenirs behind, even though he knew they weighed him down terribly.
He looked up the canyon and down the canyon, and noticed down the canyon a ways, an area where there was a line of people who were making the leap across the canyon into the beautiful city. He noticed an effect like little sparkling stars falling off into the canyon as each person leapt across. And so he started walking toward them thinking that perhaps they had gravitated to that spot because maybe the canyon wasn’t quite as wide there and they could cross more easily.
What he felt he should have been able to walk in 2 minutes actually took him the rest of the day. He knew his backpack of souvenirs was slowing him down. When he arrived the sun was almost ready to set and he knew if he was going to make the leap on this day he’d have to hurry as it might be dangerous to leap in the dark of night. He watched as one by one people stepped up to the edge and leapt, landing effortlessly on the other side.
He walked back a ways from the edge of the canyon, and adjusting the weight of the pack on his back, readied himself and then took off running. He ran as fast as he could, but as he neared the edge he realized he wasn’t going nearly fast enough and would never make the leap to the other side. So he dug in his heels just as he reached the edge and once again narrowly escaped plummeting down into the canyon.
He sat for a moment on a nearby rock, and pondered his situation. He REALLY liked all of the souvenirs in that pack; even the ones he knew were unnecessarily heavy. He took the pack off his back and set it down and opened it, looking at the souvenirs that were the ones on top. He ran his hand over them all – he knew each one by feel. As stood looking at them, he suddenly became aware that it had been a really long time since he’d dug all the way to the bottom of the pack to look at the souvenirs he’d acquired such a long time ago. He wasn’t even sure if he could remember what was really in there. His mind ran briefly over a consideration that perhaps he could just unload the souvenirs from the bottom of that pack to lighten his load so he could fulfill his life-long desire of visiting this special city. And as quickly as the consideration came over him, it left. He just couldn’t bear to part with any of them. So he got back up, hoisted the pack and it entire contents back up onto his back and continued on down the canyon a ways hoping to find a spot where the gap was narrower.
The going was very slow. He was starting to tire. And the farther he walked the farther out of sight his beloved city was. Only a sliver of the sun remained above the Earth’s rim, so he knew he was going to have to do something soon. He headed back to the place where all the other people were making their leap from. He watched them again, and wondered what it was that allowed them to make the leap so effortlessly. One by one, up and over… and then he saw it, or rather it was what he DIDN’T see that caught his attention. Not a one of them was carrying anything except themselves and the clothes they were wearing. How interesting. He guessed that most of these people had never been very far away from home, travelers like he was, otherwise they’d have their backpacks full of souvenirs as well that they couldn’t bear to part with. Well, then that must mean that he was certainly a more well rounded fellow of a very sophisticated demeanor, and because of that, then he SHOULD have an easier time of making that leap than they did. He just couldn’t figure it out.
So he walked up to one of them and struck up a conversation with him, “Say there, YOU getting ready to leap there. I see you have no backpack such as I … that must mean you haven’t been many places in your life, right?”
“Well, no”, the person getting ready to leap replied, “that’s not what it means at all”.
“Oh yeah?” said the traveling man, “I’ve been just about everywhere there is to go, where have you been? What have you seen? Where are YOUR souvenirs??? Hmmm????”
The person getting ready to leap just looked at him and smiled and said, “my good man, I’ve been all around the world 20 times and have visited every continent and every country there is 3 times 20 times, and I’ve seen such wonders as you could only imagine, because I could get to places you couldn’t with that backpack such as you have there”. The man getting ready to leap looked at the traveling man and asked him “what have you got in that backpack anyway?”
The traveling man replied “souvenirs” in a rather snarling manner. The man who was getting ready to leap laughed softly, to which the traveling man demanded, “what are you laughing at? I again ask you, where are YOUR souvenirs??? Or did you never have any??? Hmmmm???”.
The man who was getting ready to leap looked at the ground for a moment and then looked back up at the traveling man, “I did get souvenirs along the way through the course of my travels. Some I realized right away were too heavy to take with me, and so I put them down and left them where they were. Others I realized were of great value and maybe useful to someone else I gave away to people who needed them more than I did. Some that were just too unwieldy or had too many sharp edges or corners I realized were hurting me and so I threw them away. The ones I brought with me on my journey here, I left back there in the desert somewhere, as I knew that once I entered the beautiful city, I wouldn’t be needing them anymore for in the city is everything you could ever imagine wanting and more”.
The traveling man said “Pffftt” in disgust, and watched as the man took a running leap and sailed effortlessly over the chasm.
The traveling man adjusted the pack on his back again. He figured he’d give it one more try as he noticed the sun had sunk to just an orange glow on the horizon. Just as he braced himself to get one more good running start he heard a voice call out behind him,
“Excuse me,” the voice said, “can I take that for you?”
The traveling man turned around and saw a very gentle looking fellow dressed in a soft white shirt and pants standing behind him holding out his hand to the traveling man.
“Take what for me?” asked the traveling man in a gruff voice.
“Why, your backpack of course” said the man dressed in white. “Don’t you think it’s a bit heavy and bulky to be trying to make the leap with it on your back? It is a ways across there you know. You’ll have a better chance of making it if you let me hold it for you”.
“Sir, I’ll have you know” the traveling man replied, “that I’ve carried this pack throughout most of my life. Now granted, in the beginning it wasn’t as heavy as it is now, but I’ve done just fine hefting it from place to place. And besides, how could I possibly trust you with all my treasured souvenirs?”
“Oh, rest assured; if you get to the other side and you want to come back for them, they’ll still be here. I’ll make sure of that!” the man in white answered.
The traveling man looked at the canyon, and then back at the man in white. The sun was now barely a purplish haze on the horizon and the stars were beginning to shine. It was becoming more and more clear to the traveling man that he would have to part with his treasured souvenirs for just a while if he ever hoped to make it to the beautiful crystal city on this day. He heaved a great sigh of resignation and slowly slid the straps of his backpack off his shoulders, and set it on the ground.
With the backpack of souvenirs on the ground and the desire of his unfinished mission so prevalent in his heart, the traveling man felt so much lighter he almost knew he could fly. Maybe he did know he could fly. A great feeling of excitement and anticipation welled up inside of him, filling his whole being, and he knew what he must do. He looked at the man in white and said,
“Kind Sir, I thank you so much for opening my eyes to the possibilities that await me. I don’t think I’ll be needing those anymore,” he pointed at the backpack full of souvenirs, “they are all in the past, and I am in the present. I have a destination I must reach before the day it out, so I must hurry. You can keep them, or give them away, or throw them away if you like. I truly don’t need them anymore”.
And with that the traveling man got a running start and leaped gracefully over the canyon, landing perfectly on the other side, just inside the open gates of the beautiful crystal city. While he was in mid leap the man in white swung the backpack out into the canyon where all its contents flew free and scattered in the wind. And as gravity took its toll on them, they each took on a little sparkle as if a thousand tiny stars were falling away into the canyon.
©2010 Ariel DeAngelis - all rights reserved
Note: please feel free to copy this and redistribute it to all whom you feel would like to read it; all I ask is that you keep the copyright notice in place.