Down a long and dusty road at dawn,
An old man, scalp shining in the morning sun,
Is walking, slow, but steady, toward me.
As we pass, he pauses and looks me up and down.
I stop as well and ask him at last, "Where goest thou, friend?"
He smiles and looks at me in a most unusual way,
As if I were a good friend he hadn't seen in a long time.
He then replies in a deep melodious voice,
That somehow reminds me of someone I once knew,
"I, brother, am bound for the same destination as you."
"How so?" say I, "I travel west while you go east."
"How think you that we could arrive at the same place?"
Privately, I wonder if, walking hatless in the sun,
He has cooked his poor brain through his hairless pate.
"Ah," he replies with glee, as if revealing,
The solution to some arduous puzzle to me alone,
"You have hit upon the eternal mystery of it.
That however a trail may turn,
Whichever direction you may go,
No matter what it is you carry along,
All roads lead up the mountain to the summit."
"You speak of death, my friend." I say quietly,
"For I can see, that, though I feel the chill of autumn,
Plainly, thou art in the depths of the winter of thy life."
"And is death, after all, not the destination,
That those who are mortal must come to, at last,
The culmination at which we all shall arrive,
No matter what our direction or path?"
"You've understood nothing." he says, speaking softly,
"Death has no meaning for such as are we.
The path that we follow leads here and hereafter,
Through the same rich valley that was promised of old."
"The glory," he says, "is not in arriving.
Heaven lies not at the end of your path.
Heaven's the journey! Just walk it, and see."
And, having said this, the old man continues,
Walking eastward, toward the rising sun.
And as he walks, he seems to have gained,
A somewhat more sprightly spring to his step.
And I, after a moment, again turn westward,
And, following my previous chosen path,
Yet, I join the old man on his journey.