I stand on the crossroads of my life. I will not bore you with the details of where each path goes, however. It is not what I wish to say here. Instead, I wish to share with you the way I prepare myself for the choice and the path ahead, for wherever I turn it is going to be difficult.
I walk barefoot. I don’t remember the last time I put on shoes. I believe it was when I attended a wedding. Living a barefoot lifestyle is energizing all in itself. By the mere act of adopting it I have taught myself to not be ashamed of my choices, to assert myself and my own ways of thinking, and to stop and learn instead of blush in shame and hide in a hole when I find that my way of thinking is inadequate in certain situations. To walk barefoot among the shod makes me feel in control of myself and my life.
But this is not enough for my current predicament.
Back when I used to wear shoes every day, the way I’d recharge my batteries was by taking a long walk. I’d go and walk a huge distance, sometimes of over 20 km, in a single night. At first my mind would wander. Then it would stop wandering because it had wandered in every possible direction. And then I would focus. I’d forget where I was going and my legs would just take me places while my head was headed straight for a solution. Normally I’d come back home so tired I’d simply crash out, but I’d wake up with a solution to whatever was bugging me.
This time it’s different. I have paths to take and it’s clear where each path would take me. I can see clearly the consequences of each path, and although there is in places a possibility of severe consequences, there is nothing I couldn’t handle. I know it. But I know also that to walk the path I had already chosen, I need to get my mind off of things for just one moment.
It has been a long time since I wrote my last post, owing to the fact that I’d become a father and it’s been more work than I anticipated. But it wasn’t the fatherhood that was difficult. It was … many other things.
A firefly is a curious thing. It barely illuminates anything, yet it is such joy to see one in the midst of darkness. You can feel as if it would guide you through it, but really it just goes on its merry way. I saw at least three as I was taking off my clothes in the woods at dusk. It was to be a walk on the more secluded paths in the forests of my home village. I was hoping to exit the forest at the lake by nightfall, then proceed to the other side of the lake and towards a neighboring village, where I’d be putting my clothes back on before entering it. It would be about an hour of walking naked.
Nudity is also energizing, though not in the same way as being barefoot. Nudity in public is a taboo – one that, thankfully, some small groups of people do not share – so I don’t practice it, except in those small groups. Nudity is often related to the feelings of freedom and simplicity, but also to frailty. All creatures are born naked and few things are as fragile as new life. Yet I find strength within it, especially when faced with the elements.
And so I tuck the modest clothes I had chosen to wear into my satchel and I continue barefoot and naked – except for the satchel and my wedding ring – down the path into the ever darker forest. I see fireflies in the grass and in the bushes. Others are flying freely before they surely tumble down once I pass them by. It was quite dark when I exited the forest onto the first of three meadows I was to cross before I finally clear the woods. The path through the next patch of woods was muddy and slippery, but I managed to get through.
On the very exit of the woods, there were two huge puddles of water over the entire road. I don’t like walking barefoot over puddles in the woods. As nice as it feels, there’s always a chance for something nasty to be lodged in the mud, that could cut my feet, or worse. These places are basically breeding grounds for fungal spores, bacteria and such, so walking over them with a wound on my feet would be crazy.
So I tread carefully. Test the bottom with my foot before placing my weight on it, rinse and repeat with the other foot, until I’m out of the puddle. And voilla, I’m out of the woods. I pass the spooky old ruin of a house and turn left on the gravel road leading toward the lake.
Sometimes when I walk like this I like to put my things away in a safe place somewhere. That place I then call my “stash”. The problem with the stash – aside from the incredibly unlikely event of someone stumbling upon it in the middle of the night and taking my clothes and the key to my home – is that I need to get back to it to retrieve it. That’s fine if I plan to return the same way that I got there, but that wasn’t my plan today.
I don’t plan to ever return to my crossroad, but I do plan to return “home”, wherever it may be.
So, this time, I don’t stash and I keep my satchel on me at all times. Some time later I’m walking on a path I thought I knew, but which has changed significantly. Trees have grown considerably here since the last time I walked this way. It’s almost like a completely new place. And then the path turns uphill and at the top I can see the village.
I turn around and I see light in the woods. It’s my old friend’s father’s shack that’s lit, hidden nicely away from the rest of the world. We used to celebrate his birthdays there and I remember the last time I was there I left his shack, took my clothes off at the gate and continued home naked. I don’t go there now because even though I can see it, it’s quite a long way off, and in the wrong direction. That’s not where I go from my crossroad. I go towards my fireflies.
I approach the village naked. As close as I can without risking being seen. I don’t think anyone would raise ruckus over it as long as the children are not around (they should be sleeping anyway, it’s now past 11pm), but I really don’t need a distraction and an energy drain of this sort right now. I drop my satchel on the ground, take my clothes out and continue as if I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary.
I like being out of the ordinary. It’s daring and exciting and dangerous. Being ordinary is safe and boring and … well … ordinary. One can learn a lot by choosing to be unordinary, which he would otherwise not learn.
I now walk on the road I hadn’t walked in a long time. Five new homes have been built there since the time I last took the time to notice. I walk through the village and I’m back in the woods. Only this time on asphalt. As boring as asphalt feels to bare feet, it is a welcome relief from the difficult and – in the darkness – invisible terrain in the woods and around the lake.
Fireflies are there again. I hold one in the palm of my hand and I feel how fragile it is. I carry it for some time. It illuminates a small area around itself as I set it down gently. And I know that the path I have chosen on my crossroad is right, for all I need to do is follow my fireflies – my beloved wife, my wonderful son, and whoever is meeting us around the beginning of December this year. They are the joyful creatures that I like seeing in the darkness of the sea of all the wrong choices. I would just as well hold them in the palm of my hand to keep them from harm looming from the other paths of my crossroad.