Driving to town the other day, I ran into a patch of valley fog.
Suddenly, clear air and bright sky vanished. I was swaddled in translucent cheesecloth. The centreline’s yellow tape scrolled out ahead of me, measuring time and distance to nowhere. The paved road, grey and gritty close up, merged into mist, dissolving into invisibility.
I felt as if I was driving down a metaphor.
Because, only moments before, I had been pondering the process of ageing. Another colleague from former years had died. I was uncomfortably reminded that my years were numbered. I can’t know what the number is, but certainly, fewer than it was.
The road ahead is uncertain, unsure.
But my rearview mirror still works perfectly.
When I look backwards, I can see clearly the stepping stones – I called them jobs – which led progressively towards more responsibility, more challenge, more status.
Each one was my rock, my foundation, my world.
For a while. Then my wheels rolled on. I left behind that cocoon and the people in it.
The road was not always smooth. There were bumps and potholes, bogs and marshes, where my solid footing slid into mush and my wheels spun helplessly. Years where conflict and/or loss splattered my licence plate with mud, miring my identity.
But there were also lily pads that I danced across. Lotus blossoms beneath an archway of rainbows. Fragile, fleeting joys that lit up the night with fireworks.
Unfortunately, rearview hindsight doesn’t translate into clear view ahead.
I tried translating my thoughts into a poem. I hadn’t written a poem for months, and this metaphor seemed natural. But the words didn’t want to come. Like a frightened turtle, they kept their moving parts tucked inside a shell.
Then a friend and fellow writer, Jim Henderschedt, a retired Lutheran pastor in the U.S., forwarded a prayer by Thomas Merton. Merton is, of course, the American Trappist monk renowned for his writings about integrating eastern mysticism and Catholic spirituality.
I don’t adulate Merton, as some seem to. (Maybe I’m just envious.) But his prayer resonated with what I had been trying to express:
My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I cannot see the road ahead of me and I do not know for certain where it will end. Nor do I know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you. Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen
Maybe my mistake was trying to turn my metaphor into a poem. Maybe I should have tried for a prayer.
Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country: firstname.lastname@example.org