November 4, 2016

Vagabond Traveler: The Curse…

Category: News — admin @ 6:22 pm

photo-2-small.JPG

For by your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.

—Matthew 12:37
_____________________

The winds of autumn swept the land. You could feel the season from the way it bit you, and from the smell in the air. And on this day, it was late afternoon. The road was deserted, the road that snaked in and out of the forest, then out again into the badlands. If you looked to the east, along with the slanting rays of the setting sun, you could just make out a small figure in the distance. The figure loomed larger as the moments passed. And if you stood there, looking, you would realize. That dim figure was a man, striding along. A traveler, passing through on a journey.

He walked alone. And you saw, when he walked up close. He was tall. The thing that defined him was his long black coat. Strapped across his waist, it hung down past his knees. The high collar almost obscured the traveler’s face. Almost. But still, you could see his features glinting in the mix of sunlight and shadows. A handsome, high-boned face. Bearded. You could not see his eyes, because his wide-brimmed leather hat was pulled down low. But you could sense it. His eyes were seeing you.

He’d been around. You could tell, by the way he walked. And by the way he was armed. He had two weapons. Well, at least two that you could see. Who knows what was hidden under that long black coat? And the weapons you could see were these. Strapped across his back was a well-worn leather scabbard. Protruding from that scabbard, ready to the traveler’s hand, across his right shoulder, was a great two-handed broadsword.

And that broadsword was probably the main reason you’d think twice, before accosting the traveler. Not that the sword was the only thing he carried. Far from it. It was just the most intimidating. A loaded leather backpack was strapped across his back. Below that, a bedroll. And a canteen attached to his belt, carrying precious water. A few other pouches hung loosely, here and there, from the traveler’s lanky frame. His most ready weapon was always in his right hand. A sturdy oaken walking staff. And you could tell, by looking at that staff, and looking at the way it was carried, all comfortable, like an extension of the traveler’s arm. That staff had cracked more than a few skulls, had opened more than a few doors, out there, somewhere along the way.

Other than that, the traveler wasn’t all that intimidating, really. Just a guy, walking along. His face looked a little worn and tired. There was a scar of some kind, slashing across his right cheek. His long gray hair spilled down from the edge of his broad-brimmed hat, and splayed across his shoulders. On this day, in this place, this would be what you saw along that road. Such a traveler as that.

The day was ending. The shadows slipped ever longer, ever closer. The traveler approached a stream off to the side of the road. He scanned the area for a good place to camp for the night. He found it, a flat high spot hidden among the bushes. Out of sight. He unlimbered his packs, and laid down his staff. But not his sword. Then he walked about, picking up small branches for a fire. He gathered enough for the night, and lit a fire as the darkness settled around him.

Always alert, always wary, he kept scanning the edges of the night. He sniffed the air, too, now and again. The monster was out there, that he knew. He’d been stalked now, off and on. for a long time. Months. No, years. There had been face to face confrontations, and a number of hand to hand battles. The traveler’s broadsword had bitten deep. The monster had been wounded. But not killed. And it would never stop stalking its prey until it was confronted and turned back. Either because it got slain, or because it fled. This much the traveler knew.

He settled in beside his small crackling fire. From a pouch in his backpack, he took a few pieces of hardtack, and a few slices of dried, salty meat. He ate, and washed down the meager meal with gulps of water from his canteen. After eating, he sat there motionless, legs folded crosswise, head bowed, as if in deep meditation. Then he stirred. Restoked the fire, then stretched out on his bedroll, the great broadsword close to hand. The monster attacked only at night. And a fire burning close was the only thing that deterred it. The fire burned, now. But still, it was best to be prepared. Keep your sword close. The traveler drifted into fitful slumber.

The cold hours passed. And he awoke with a start. The dark, dead night was all around him. He glanced to where the fire was. A few dying embers flickered. He jolted to full alert. The monster was close, out there. He could smell it, he could feel it, he could sense it. Quietly, he reached over to the little pile of sticks he had collected the evening before. He set a few pieces on the embers, then stirred the coals with another stick. A weak flame flickered, then flared to life.

As the fire intensified, the traveler looked out to where he could sense the monster. And he saw it. A pair of greenish eyes, glowing in the darkness. He flinched. But then, with the ease born of many such confrontations, he reached for his broadsword on the ground beside him. And then he did a strange thing. He pierced the ground with the sword, so that it stood between him and the glowing eyes, in the shape of a cross.

And then the traveler spoke. Go away, vile beast, he said in a firm voice. I command you to leave this place, under the sign of this cross. Leave, and be damned. The greenish eyes glowed more intensely for a moment. It seemed like the monster might attack. But then, the glowing eyes drew back and grew dim, then disappeared.

The traveler stoked the fire with more sticks, so it burned brighter, hotter. Then he stretched out again on his bedroll. The sword-cross loomed above him like a protective shield. And soon he drifted off to sleep again.

The next morning, the traveler was up and about with the dawn. He washed up, there in the stream, then ate a quick breakfast of hardtack and dried meat. And water from his canteen. A traveler’s diet is pretty bland, he thought to himself. By tonight, he figured, he would be in the city. The city. A strange place he had always shied away from. But now he was walking there because his choices were getting ever more limited. He had figured it out, not long ago. There was a man in that city who could guide him to a place where he would be free from the monster that pursued him. He hated the city, and all the teaming masses of people there. But he hated the monster more, and he resented the unrelenting energy it took to constantly face and battle the thing he feared.

And so there was a choice, he knew. Walk into that city, walk into that crowded, teeming place, and seek advice from his friend, there. Or stay out here in the wilderness, and fight the monster again and again, in a never-ending running battle. Until he killed the monster, or it killed him.

He was tired of all that the monster kept demanding. Ever more concessions, ever more encroachment. Darkness. The battles could only happen in darkness, because that’s when the monster chose to show up. And the monster had taken to showing up way too often, lately. The traveler was tired of it all, the constant pursuit, the constant threats, tired of weary battle after weary battle after the sun had set.

He had figured to get away from it all a few months back, the traveler did. And he walked to the sea, and camped there on the shore. He planned to stay there for a week or so, to get himself cleaned out inside. The sea, the incessant roaring waves, always spoke to him, always calmed his soul. He looked forward to breathing deep the salt air, and for healing for his wounds. He looked forward to long sunny days, and peaceful, sleepy nights. And he settled in by the shore, to welcome it all in.

And that first night, the monster showed up out of nowhere. It had stalked him, even to this place. Emboldened and hungry, it moved in and attacked. Even the campfire could not deter it. It just came lashing in. And the traveler was forced to draw his sword, and fight. He had little energy. But he kept fighting on, all night, slashing and getting slashed. The monster fled with the light of each new day as it came. And that was the traveler’s only reprieve, that whole week. He huddled in a corner every day, trying to rest up for the battle he knew the monster would bring to him that night. He soaked it all the way in down deep, the despair and fear and shame. It was a terrible, terrible place to be.

After a week, the traveler finally stood, and battled his way out of that place. And he took off, across the vast expanse of wilderness to the city on the other side. This time, his face was set. This time, he would stay the course until he got to where he needed to go. This time, he would do what it took to cast the monster out.

And on this day, late in the afternoon, he saw the city beckoning in the distance.

As dusk settled and darkness closed in around him, he walked through the city gates. A short time later, the traveler was relaxing and eating real food and drinking real drink in the house of his friend.

***************************

I’ve written it before, right along as it happened. Last spring, there was a lot of turmoil going on inside me from a single source. And I decided to go see Sam, my old counselor friend, for the first time in years and years. In May, I walked into his office. And in that first session, I told him what was going on, and what I needed to get cleaned out inside me. I want to be free, I said. I got some serious writing coming on, and my heart needs to be free to get it spoken right. I will do what it takes to get there.

I went back and saw Sam once a month, since then. And every month, we broke through to new and better places. I figured it was going to take a couple of years to get to where I needed to go. Well, with Sam pointing out the way, things moved along a lot faster than I thought would be possible. I walked toward some hard things and faced them, and spoke light from the darkness. It’s amazing, what happens when you do that, how you can break free from the chains that bind you.

But somehow, the monster always returned, always came roaring back. And it wasn’t until I got back from the beach a few months ago, that I finally figured out what the problem was. Why the monster kept stalking me, kept coming back, kept showing up at night. The turmoil that was going on inside me, it was based on a curse I had spoken in rage more than two years ago. And that curse was the last thing I spoke at the person who had enraged me. Words. Simple words. Spoken from my heart. Words of rage and cursing.

And Sam patiently kept talking to me. He never told me what to think. Never said, “this is where you are going wrong.” Instead, he quietly asked questions, made me speak of where I was and how I felt and why I thought it was the way it was.

And it gradually came to me. Words. I’d heard it in sermons all my life. Words define who you are. If you speak cursing, that curse will stay and affect you. If you speak blessing, those words will stay with you as well. But still. I fought it hard. I flinched and hedged and squirmed and dodged. No, no. I don’t want to reach out with new words. But my wise friend in the city never let it go. “You claim to want to be free,” he said. “You know what needs to be done. It can be done in your own time. Later, rather than sooner, if that’s how it will work for you. But it must be done.”

And so I did it. Reached out, with words of restoration. Reached out, with words of healing. And I felt it, almost immediately. The power of those new words. The first time the monster came up at me after that, I held up those words like a shield. No. Those old words now have no more power. I rebuke you, vile monster. I claim these new words as my own. Those words stand between me and the old curse like a wall. The old words are dead. They will never return.

And I was totally amazed at how it all worked. I mean, you hear this stuff in sermons all the time. It’s standard preacher fare. But until you go out and actually test the promise for yourself, you really got no idea of what it feels like when it turns out to be all it claimed to be. And now, before me, a new road rises.

One morning last week, I went to see Sam for the sixth time in as many months. We talked about things, and I told him of this new place. And I told him, too. When I first walked in here, I told you I want to be free. Today, this morning, I can tell you that I am where I wanted to be back then. I think we’re done here, at least for now.

Sam agreed. “Your heart is where it needs to be,” he said. “I bless you on your journey. Come back and see me when you need to. You’ll know, if that time comes again.”

We stood there, just inside the door of his office. Then we shook hands. Then we hugged. Thank you, I said. My friend. Thank you for showing me the way.

And then I turned and left him.
**************

On the morning of his departure, the traveler walked out of the city gates as the sun rose in the east. He had rested well during his stay at his friend’s home. Now, his backpack bulged with fresh supplies. His broadsword blade gleamed, wickedly honed to a razor edge. He walked along with fresh energy, his oaken staff stumping along. Down the winding road, back out to the wilderness. Back to where he belonged.

The morning passed as he walked along, whistling a merry little tune. And by noon, he had reached the edge of true wilderness. Miles and miles from the city. To his left, a great gloomy forest, so thick you walked in darkness whenever you walked there. To the right, way, way out on the horizon, desolate wastelands. Sparse. Dry. Where not much could grow.

The traveler walked along as the road snaked into the dark woods. Surrounded by great trees on both sides now, the sun’s rays barely broke through to where he was. And suddenly he halted, abruptly. Threw back his head, and sniffed the air. His right hand instinctively reached over his shoulder for the hilt of his broadsword.

The monster. It was out there, close, lurking. He could smell the stench of the beast. And then the traveler did something very strange. He turned and walked directly into the thick woods, right toward the place where the smell was strongest. Through the underbrush he crashed, broadsword in hand. Walking slowly, deliberately, steadily.

And now it was the monster’s turn to flinch. What in the world was going on, here? The man was coming at him, sword in hand. Not rushing. Just walking. And the man was not afraid. The monster could smell fear in people. He had stalked the traveler mercilessly for years. And always, he could sense it, the fear and rage and shame. Not now, though. The monster turned and slunk off, deeper, ever deeper, into the darkness of the forest.

The hunter had turned into the hunted. The afternoon wore on, the early shadows moved in, and still the traveler pursued the beast. In a small clearing, then, as the sun was sinking in the west, the monster turned to confront the man.

The traveler stepped into the clearing. And there, a few hundred feet away, the monster crouched. I’m not sure how to describe a monster. It looked kind of like a dragon, I guess, except it was incapable of breathing fire. And it was wingless. Otherwise, it was scaly, clawed, with a long snaking tail. Ugly as death, it crouched there, baring deadly yellowed fangs.

The traveler walked slowly to the center of the clearing. There, he stopped. The monster crouched and snarled. And then the traveler bent, and placed his sword on the ground. And his staff. Unarmed now, he stood, facing the monster.

And then the traveler spoke. You have pursued me, stalked me these past two years and more. His voice was calm, steady. We have fought each other, hand to hand. I have cut you hard, and you have wounded me. There were times I sank so low that I wanted to die. Twice, my heart nearly gave out. And once, I walked right up to the gates of death. Even then, when I came back to travel again, you couldn’t wait to stalk and attack me. It’s been a running battle ever since. And you came closest to winning, down by the sea. Almost, you had me, there. The traveler paused. The monster still crouched, still snarled. But it made no move to approach or attack the unarmed man before it.

You are a vile beast, the traveler said. But you know what? You are what you are, and your nature is what it is. It was my own fault, that you ever had any power to make me fear you. I spoke a curse, a few years ago. And because of that, because of the darkness of those words, my defenses were weak. So weak that a monster like you could make me flee. Make me run. The traveler paused again. The monster listened.

I have spoken new words now, the traveler said. New words that offered restoration and healing. How they were received does not matter. What matters is that I spoke them from my heart, and meant them. Those words have blocked the curse that haunted me, they now stand between you and me like a wall. You have no power over me, and I no longer fear you.

And now, I speak to you one last time. I’m telling you. Be gone, vile beast. And know this. I swear to you. If I ever catch you lurking on my trail again, I will hunt you down and kill you with my sword. I’m not talking about other monsters in your family. I know some of them will pop up, down the road. They always do. That’s just how life is. And I’ll deal with them when they get here. I’m talking about you, and this specific curse. This specific time and place. These specific circumstances. I am done. I will hunt you down and kill you if you ever threaten me again. Understand that. Now, go.

They faced each other across the clearing for a few more moments. The hunter and the hunted. A man and his nemesis. And then the monster turned and disappeared into the underbrush. Bushes and branches crackled underfoot as it blindly fled.

Alone now in the gathering dusk, the traveler turned and picked up his sword and staff. He looked around. This clearing would make a fine camping spot. A rough camp. He was tired. He would sleep well. He spread out his bedroll, then took food from his backpack and ate. And then he settled in to sleep, pulling his bedroll tight around him. The night air was a little chilly.

But not chilly enough to light a fire.
*****************

Alrighty, then. And now we are here, in this place and time. I’ve shied away from saying much about the upcoming election, at least on this blog, I have. On Facebook, well, all’s fair in all-out war.

I have cheered for Donald Trump from the second he stepped up to announce he was running. I cheer for him today. Since that day, he has single-handedly exposed the vile and evil establishment for what it is. Never in all the course of the history of this country has the ruling class been so united to demonize one man. They have been exposed now. Never again will these “beautiful people” be able to claim they’re looking out for anyone but themselves. The funny thing is, they could not knock The Donald down. He’s still standing, and he’s dishing it right back at them, when they demonize him. I love it.

This country is done. I will tell you, if no one else will. It’s done. It’s an overstretched empire, addicted to endless murderous wars, and it is doomed to collapse upon itself. This is the judgment of history. And history will not be kind to the American empire.

It will be what it is, I guess, next Tuesday. From the beginning, I have publicly proclaimed that Trump is gonna crush Hillary like a bug. And now, here, on this spot, I’ll stand by my proclamations.

I hope Trump wins. We all better hope that. The country is doomed, either way. Trump will keep it going for a few more years. If the corrupt harpy Hillary wins, I’m going underground, at least when it comes to politics. Her grating voice alone is fingernails across the chalkboard. I cannot bear to hear her speak. She is a vile and despicable person, a monster breathing lies. If she is elected king, she will unleash a curse upon this land and over all the world. Mark these words, for they are true.

So. Go, Trump.

And finally, how about that World Series? Unbelievable, is what it was. The two teams that had not won since before I was born. Well, the Cubs had not won since before my father was born. Not since before the Titanic sank. Let that sink into your brain for a few moments.

I had no dog in the hunt for either team. Still, I leaned to cheering for the Cubs. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the lovable losers. And my brother Titus has always cheered for teams in Chicago. The Bears, the Blackhawks, and the Cubs.

There were times when I almost could not watch. Still, I hung out at Vinola’s at least twice, with friends. A loud merry time was had by all. And when the Cubs battled back from a 3-1 deficit, everyone could feel something special was coming down in Game Seven.

I sat at home and watched. Didn’t figure I would last until the end, and I almost didn’t. Rumors had been flying on Facebook that the Second Coming of Christ would occur when the teams were tied in the ninth inning of Game Seven. And by the time the Cubs blew their lead and the score was tied after nine innings, I would not have been the least bit surprised had the heavens split open and had the Lord returned with a great shout.

Instead, the Lord sent a rain delay. Exhausted, I went to bed. Of course, sleep would not come. So I got back up after half an hour or so. The Cubs had scored two more, and were leading into the bottom of the tenth.

It could not have been a closer game. When the final out came, the Cubs were standing. Eight to seven, was the score. Along with millions of others, I sat there and absorbed this historic moment. The goat curse was gone, rebuked forever. The lovable losers were World Champions. They are World Champions. You gotta love a story that ends like that.

Share