My future weighs heavy on my mind. I am happy. But, finances, housing, job, relationships…nearly everything lies balancing on a tenuous slope with the spring thaw in sight. I could not stalk my apartment for another day awaiting phone calls and emails, and so I set out on a saunter.
Soon, I approached the signal towers on either side of the tracks. This was as far as I had ever gone in previous walks. The sound of traffic crossing the Smithton Bridge had receded, and I hesitated for just a moment before proceeding.
Another few minutes and another animal remnant. This time, only the hoof and bottom half of a deer’s leg lie between the northbound and southbound rails. That’s it – no other bones or any other reminder of the substantial body that once was. Death lay ahead…and dismemberment. A superstitious person might need no other signs.
The tracks had rounded another bend. Ahead lay some pieces of wood strewn around the tracks. Approaching closer, I recognized what remained of a century-old telephone pole – just a little of the cross piece and one glass insulator. I was now cut off from all communication with my past, figuratively and literally.
Another bend and I saw three houses nearing on the river side of the tracks. The smell of burning wood drifted toward me and I saw a man clearing away some dead branches and brush in a smoldering barrel. He raised his hand in greeting and I returned the gesture. I had emerged through the warnings. Was I now being welcomed into some precognitive peek?
After the train went by, I turned and walked up the road. I soon came to a junction. I knew the road to the right led to Fitz Henry and a dead end. The road to the left led up a steep hill. I turned toward the open road.
By the time I reached the top of the tiny mountain, my joints ached. A constant wind now blew against my face, invigorating me again. No thought remained of needing my jacket again, as the sky supporting only one tiny wisp of cloud in the distance.
I knew that the old Port Royal School House sat ahead on this road. I had researched this structure last year for the 150th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton. Here, in 1860, the 11 charter members of the Universalist Church of Port Royal agreed on a covenant, creating the community that survives to this day. I could not help but wonder if school children from Port Royal actually walked to this school house. The thought put those clichéd parental stories of childhood struggle and hardship in a whole new perspective.
Also coming into perspective, still miles from home on this gorgeous day, was a calm. My mind calmed. For the first time in perhaps weeks, I wasn’t worrying about things over which I had no control. I wasn’t trying to control things I couldn’t control. Ironically, I’ve become addicted to an online game called Rebuild. The game recreates survivors of the apocalypse trying to rebuild a city still infested with zombies, disease, and shortages of food and housing. It now occurred to me that I had spent the last five years rebuilding – my job, my home, my marriage, my mind, and my soul – so that I could set forth on this future as a minister. In recent months, I kept thinking about all this effort and all that I have done and accomplished to poise myself at this gateway. Now, I thought, maybe the time has come to stop focusing on the rebuilding and start living in the new life I had built.
I walked by the old school house building and thought about those 11 people back in 1860. The formed a church that still meets today. But, little did they know that the nation would soon enter into an ugly Civil War. They could not foresee the rocky future of the little congregation, constantly struggling against all odds to stay afloat. I imagined the unbridled joy of those men and women starting something special, something that has endured.
I kept on, reaching the truck stop at the intersection Interstate I-70. Ironically, the store lay in disarray due to major renovations (OK, I get it!). I bought a Naked smoothie and a diet Mountain Dew. I drank the smoothie too fast, but my poor out-of-shape body needed the 22 strawberries and 1.5 bananas. I cracked open the pop and headed home. The remaining mile down Dutch Hollow was all downhill – a stretch I have driven at least 100 times.
Whatever happens in the next few days, the world will continue. I may be a little richer or poorer, a little more or less secure. But, I will endure and I will do whatever I need to do and go wherever I need to go to continue my ministry.