Kindly people who thought they knew just where I wanted to go had no hesitation in telling me exactly how to get there. Opinions, advice, and directions they offered, no matter how wrong or misguided.
A scruffy old soul I bumped into that morning saw I was traveling alone. He looked ahead where my feet were aimed and gave me his perspective.
“You’ll want to take the smoother road. It’ll get you there much quicker.”
Where? I don’t think he knew, and nor did I care. There’s always some there that people will tell you is better than here — “and here’s how to get there.” I thanked him and kept on my own winding way.
I was having a bite at an inn around noon, when the owner, who I didn’t know, came up and said, “You should talk to that man,” pointing to someone outside. “He can give you a ride into town. Save you time. That’s where you’re going, I’m sure.”
No, not into town, not anywhere near. It would save me no time to go there.
Farther along as I parted tall weeds that grabbed me with nettles and thorns, a farmer who led a stray cow let me know that I was on the wrong path.
“There’s nothing here for a traveler like you. Go back, go back, the road’s not this way. Can’t you read signs? Don’t you know where you are?” He shouted and pointed across the damp field.
But I didn’t seek signs or roads or lost cows. Those are for others to follow.
I thanked him and turned back to stumbling through weeds, then came upon a patch of wildflowers bright in the afternoon sun. Petals of yellow and orange they had, a touch of white in the middle, gently waving atop green stems, friendly but taken aback by my presence, laughing and curious and asking why I trod so far from well-trodden roads.
I explained how those roadways let no wild things grow to charm a traveler like me. I’d rather cross a muddy meadow, encountering blossoms by happy chance, than trudge along pavement with traffic’s dull flow. Serendipity favors the wildflower-seeker who wanders where wildflowers grow. So I told them, and left them still laughing while I continued on.
Then a fellow of unfunny jest took my arm and waggled a finger at me.
“Traveling’s the thing, if you do it right. You’ll need a good map, good shoes and a compass. Take lots of water and carry a stick. Watch out for wolves, they stalk you at dusk, or maybe at dawn. Be ready for both, I would say. You might feel lonely and maybe get lost, but chewing on beetroot will cure that.”
“You’ve traveled a lot?” I asked him politely, not caring to hear his reply.
“Never done it myself, of course not, no. But it seems to be easy enough. And I know these things, so I’m telling you plain. Helping you out, don’t you see?”
I didn’t challenge his wisdom; sometimes it’s best just to nod. There weren’t any wolves, I could tell him. Though twice I’ve been chased by bees.
That’s the risk in taking advice from those who know only their world. Or not even that — some talk just to talk, discoursing on all they don’t know. Just to be helpful, you see?
And all these good folks in their ways and their places, they thought that I wanted the same. Where I was going, they couldn’t be bothered to ask.
I was on my way to see you.