I have some ideas about travelers that I've been writing about for a while now. To me, a "traveler" isn't just someone who packs her car and hightails it out of town, burning the last fumes in the tank and playing a song that you swear you can almost remember. To me, a traveler feels more like an archetype; one that we all know and experience throughout our lives. Travelers are the ones who come, stay for a while, and then go.
Some of them are our lovers. They come around in their own time - no matter how much we wish they'd find us sooner - and their job, it seems, is to show us something about ourselves. They help us to open up, wider than we thought we could. But then, for one of the traveler's myriad mysterious reasons, they're gone. And there we are, left alone and trying to solve the mystery.
Some of them are our teachers. Perhaps it is us who comes into their lives, wide-eyed learners, hard-set in our own stony ways. Even when we think we're primed to learn (or so I have learned), that is when the Universe, our greatest teacher, smiles its slyest smile. The teacher, as a traveler, is here to help us break the walls that we didn't even know were there. But just as soon as we begin to poke holes in that tapestry that we've woven, the teacher on the other side has already moved on.
Some of them - my favorites - are the vagrants. (They're my favorites because, sure, they can just be vagrants. But they can also be our lovers and our teachers, too.) These are the ones who come to town on a grimy, noisy bus. Sometimes the bus runs exclusively on vegetable oil, and they all file out clutching their instrument cases. They're the ones who don't dress quite like we do. We notice this as we stand staring from the street corner, clutching our coffee mugs and grumbling about the ruckus. My point is, the vagrants are the ones with a story to tell, and it's the stories, the intrigue, that wrap us around their fingers. But in the morning, after the last song has been shared, the bus sputters sleepily out of town...
Travelers come in a myriad of forms. I've been a traveler. So have you. We've all been travelers at some point in our lives. But what happens to us when someone comes into our lives and goes? Most of us seem to have some unfinished material surrounding this common human experience. Sometimes the poignancy is too much to bear. Sometimes we harden into anger and lash out at the ghost of the traveler; she or he is already long gone, but in our rage, we beat our fists against the mist they left behind. Other times, we blame ourselves for the loss, falling tragically - and avoidably - into self-loathing or depression.
I've played all of these games, and to be honest, I'm tired of the same old predictable dramas that unfold. Isn't it time we do something different about it all?
To that end, I become curious about what would happen if, after the departure of a traveler, we opened our hearts to the fullness of the lesson? What if we USED that experience to soften our hearts instead of shutting them down? What if, instead of adopting a perspective of seclusion or rejection or victimization or isolation (all the children of a poverty mentality), we saw an opportunity to learn, to let go, to explore and eventually transform our own unfinished business? In short, what if a traveler can teach us to Wake Up?
There is a poem in Thirsty Camel called "All (who) Wander." (You'd find that it's quite a bit shorter than all you've just read here.) It takes its name from a well-known poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, specifically his famous line: "Not all who wander are lost." My poem is inspired by this idea, that wanderers, travelers, are so much more than we might first imagine. The story is all here, just my explorations, just my ideas.
Just my heart. The heart of a traveler.
Thanks for reading, everybody. I'll see you on down the road...