Part 24: The path least travelled (part 2)
2007-05-03 15:54:00 -
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You may have missed or forgotten last week’s story, but that is not important as you can join at any stage, since we are all at different points on our own individual journeys. 

To catch up: three friends – Preteritus, who cherishes the past; Nunco, who lives in the present; and Prostremo, who looks for the future – had set out from their local village in search of a treasure. We don’t yet know what the treasure is, and the journey describes how each of the three friends reacts to what they encounter both on the journey and in their heads.

As you go through your own life, you will find yourself thinking like one of the friends at one time or another. Are you getting any closer yet to realising which of the three you are most like? I am sure you must realise who appears to be the most balanced. Maybe you might like to be a bit more like him, but do you know how to get there? If you want to learn, please read on…

The three friends have come to a fork in the road. Both paths are unknown; one seems long and easy while the other seems more direct but difficult. Preteritus and Prostremo are in agreement to take the long and easy path, even though they do not know they are in agreement as they are too tied up in their own heads.

Without even speaking to his friends, Nunco starts to walk along the long, easy path. Given the current situation with his friends bickering, he wanted to at least get going now. His friends would soon realise that they were all in agreement and everyone could be happy for a while.

[There were many reasons for taking either path, and indeed you will face these decisions every day. The decision that Nunco took was based on where he was right then both in terms of place and time. 

Was the decision correct? Well we won’t know for a while, but the most important thing is the fact that he took a decision. Maybe you might have considered leaving your two friends behind… Let’s go back and understand what Nunco was thinking.]

Initially, Nunco had wanted to go along the short and challenging path; he felt that it might be a good shortcut through life, even though it might have had some risks. This is in effect the strategy of the gambler and indeed there is nothing wrong with that.

However Nunco realised that he really wanted to be with his friends – since they all started out together, why not see if they could enjoy the journey as much as possible?
As soon as Prostremo and Preteritus saw Nunco go past them, they fell into step, quickly realising that their friend had used their friendship to keep them united. 

“It’s really quite strange,” said Prostremo. “No matter how much we seem to disagree on how to look at things, we always end up beside Nunco.”

“I know,” replied Preteritus. “It’s as though he is the one that keeps us connected, and when we are with him everything seems so much easier.”

As they walked along the side of the lake, they all looked at the stillness of the water, it seemed to reflect their thoughts and each of them walked on in a sort of calm peace.

“How long have we been walking now?” Preteritus demanded after about two hours.

“And when will we get there?” Prostremo wanted to know.

“I agree with both of you, now seems like a good time to stop,” said Nunco. He did not want to hear another argument.

They broke out their sandwiches for their evening tea. They had about an hour to go before they reached the other side of the lake, according to Nunco’s calculations. But anything could happen – better to have a rest.

They had only taken a couple of bites when suddenly they heard the most ear-piercing shrill sound echoing out over the lake.

“Oh, what is that?” said Preteritus, worried yet again about having made a wrong decision. “I knew we should have gone the other way, do you think we should turn back?”
“Maybe it’s a sign, it could be something to do with the treasure, it does seem to be coming from in front of us, do you think we should just start running to see what it is?” blurted out Prostremo, trembling in anticipation.

“It’s only a curlew”, said Nunco. “It is neither a historian pointing out the error of your ways nor is it a harbinger of joy, signalling great wealth.”

As the three friends watched the bird swoop down over the edge of the lake, gliding gracefully over the marshland, they saw another speck in the distance, growing larger. As the other bird got closer to its mate, it too cried out, and the two birds disappeared from view.

“At least those two get on with life, just as we should get on now. I reckon we should reach a good place to camp in about an hour,” directed Nunco as he slipped his bag over his shoulders.

“It’s easy for the curlews,” said Preteritus as he struggled to get his heavy bag on. “At least they don’t have long memories and get plagued by all the things that they realise they should have done with their lives – or do they? Maybe they can remember the time they got away from the hawk and they are always looking over their shoulder or wings!”

“But they can’t see the possibilities, they have no idea of what could happen to them, maybe in the next life” mused Prostremo, who was going through a fad where he believed in reincarnation. “Maybe if they took care of themselves they could come back as humans and they would know where the treasure is, since they can probably see it from up in the sky.”

“Or maybe they are just happy as they are, gliding along with nature, no worries, and no fears – for them it is as it is and they just accept it,” Nunco thought out aloud. “Now will you two please get moving, or you will be getting a swift kick in a place which could seriously threaten your future mating prospects!”

As they walked along, starting to feel tired, they all looked towards a grassy hillock where they could rest for the night. It had been a long day, but a fulfilling one. There was no turning back now.

The sun was starting to drop down behind the hillock as they reached it. The wind was coming from the west, the direction they were going to head tomorrow. The setting sun cast the most incredible shadows over the lake. Red, orange and crimson coloured ripples soothed the weary travellers as they gazed upon the water.

Since the hill was about 50 metres from the edge and was directly between them and the prevailing wind, they found an even spot of ground between the lake and the hill, broke out their packs and prepared to pitch their tent.

It was nearly dark when they had the tent up and securely fastened. Prostremo gathered a few sticks from the edge of the forest that they would be going into tomorrow. Together Preteritus and Nunco used them to light a fire and they boiled some water to have a warm cup of soup before they retired for the night.

“It was a good day,” mused Preteritus. “I have to say I really enjoyed this, I felt for the first time close to nature and away from all of the usual shit I have to deal with every day.”

“I enjoyed my self a lot as well,” replied Prostremo. “As we were walking along watching the two curlews I even forgot all about the treasure and the air, it was so clean and crisp, and I really felt alive.”

“I really felt very close to my two best friends today,” said Nunco. “I was watching the two of you walking along, drinking in everything that nature had to offer us and yes, you seemed so close to each other as well.”

As they finished off their bedtime brew, Prostremo rummaged around his rucksack for the map. After a few minutes, becoming increasingly agitated, he told his two mates that he could not find it.

“We will have to turn back tomorrow,” said Preteritus. “Without the map we could get lost like the last team did.” 

“Oh no, I really wanted that treasure!” wailed Prostremo. “There are so many ways that I could change my life with it.”

“It’s okay guys, I have it here,” said Nunco, holding the map aloft. “Remember? I was looking at it on the other side of the lake.”

Visibly relaxed, Prostremo and Preteritus crawled into the tent. “I’ll be with you in a minute,” said Nunco.

As he sat outside, looking over the lake as it disappeared into complete darkness, Nunco thought about his two friends. He felt happy that they had seemed so content, and while he knew that the journey would get tougher, he knew something that would keep them together.

He crawled to his sleeping place in the tent with the others, and as he lay there, with his eyes closed, just before he dropped off to sleep, he realised…

To be continued next week

peter@3r.ie
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