We have a poster hanging in our house of Thomas Cole’s “Journey of Life: Youth,” which shows a young person setting off in a boat, looking toward a beautiful castle in the sky. There’s so much between this youth and the castle–water, forests, plains, mountains–and as I looked at it, I recalled the words of Sam Walter Foss:
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
The road stretches on through the long afternoon
And passes away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
(Foss, “A House by the Side of the Road”)
In this month of gratitude, I am thankful for the many people who rejoice and weep with me through all the meadows of sunshine and wearisome mountains. So often, writing is depicted as a solitary venture, one in which the author holes up for months before emerging with an earth-shaking manuscript; but that’s not how it works. You can’t write in a void. You have to have experiences to draw on, personalities to reflect on, people to lean on.
One of the things I love the most about Foss’s poem is that it’s not about lifelong friends or soul mates. It’s about people passing by, crossing paths with him for a brief moment, travelers and strangers and people both good and bad. And yet he reaches out for them, appreciates the light that they bring to his life, seeks to help them in their journey.
And so today I am grateful for my fellow travelers who have touched my life even for a brief instant, who have paused on the path just long enough to share in the joy of our mutual journey towards our castles in the sky.