“We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.”
– Martin Luther King
Here is a story and article written for this blog by a fellow story teller, Howard Drakes:
It was dark when they arrived. The only light in these rolling hills, covered in seas of sugar cane, came from this lone house. The dogs announced this strange presence, but not in a welcoming way.
A ragtag bunch stood before a small gate. Tired. Weary from a long day. Unsure. Looking for a place to stay.
Two had been together for a few days now. The taller was used to walking, many thousand kilometres had passed this way. With a heavy backpack, the other was lost in life, but his curiosity would not go away. The last had joined this journey by chance that afternoon. His intentions, it would seem, were around escape, survival, and new horizons.
Two had thought that one would be the key to unlock the required support. The fates had chosen to write their collective story another way.
A man, suspicious, appeared as a shadow from inside the light. A story was told once again. But in this place, this night, the chance for connection had begun to fade.
Three walked off into the unknown, soon to be followed by a pair of headlights. It led them passed a complex of inviting buildings. Down, they descended to a tidal river, a long beach, and a distant town sparkling bright.
While one tested the moving water, the shadow-man emerged from a four wheeled machine. Free now from security beams and bathed in a full moon’s light, he was transformed. Human again.
Story is invoked once more.
“I spent many years in East Africa, I know the Maasai. I wish you the best on your travels.”
Invitation. Understanding. Connection. Farewell.
And so, like a flower, life unfolds to reveal itself. Exactly when or how, this is beyond any ability to know.
But story’s spirit was and always is, and forever shall it grow.
Walking is primarily concerned with movement, but it is also about story. A journey’s beginning is built on story. Each pair of legs carries its history, a library of tales that bring it to the point of departure. The first step is confirmation of commitment to the writing of this new story, to exploring the others that it will uncover and inspire. Each freshly planted footprint is another paragraph in a living, unfolding narrative. And when tired legs arrive, stories are exchanged, even forgotten, and new ones made.
Past, present, future, become interconnected threads of a living journal in which what was, what is, and what will be play on one another. Walking, fuelled by the choices of yesterday, happens today, to create tomorrow. Story begins, finds the middle, and closes at the end.
Walking, like storytelling, is about invitation – a call to go on a journey. There is vulnerability in venturing into the unknown, not knowing if what lies around the next corner is a pleasant welcome or suspicion, fear, and even rejection – not all journeys find a willing home. But thoughts about the unknown must be balanced by belief, trust, and commitment – to the spark of the journey and to walking towards its desired end.
The literal journey is walking, story the figurative one.
Story, like walking, is as old as humankind. First it was oral, until it became written. It was written until it became audible. It was audible until it became visual. Today, being digital, story can be any and everything. It has the power of any time and every space. Whereas before we walked to experience the world, today we can touch all that was and is, while writing what will be, on the wings of story.
A wise man, whose rich and numerous years have authored countless colourful tales, offered this: “Everyone’s life is a book. Mine might be a thousand pages, yours only one hundred, but each and every life is a story that can fill a book.”
And so story becomes the bridge. Communication. It allows us to cross things that separate. Understanding. To meet with unknown worlds and experiences. Connection. To listen, to share, to know. Exchange…
This story was written in footsteps made and left in Zululand. For two months Howard and Miyere ole Miyandazi walked from Durban to Mbazwana, a town not far from the border. Each day was determined only by the intention to walk, to arrive somewhere and meet people, to connect. In the process, many new stories were made and, as life would have it, a bigger one was captured. The tale of a journey from Nairobi to Cape Town on foot, of walking without paper passport or money, maps or planned routes, a mission to find if the kind human still exited in humankind. Read more…