The Old Man

The answers lie with the

Old Man who is only 

Pretending to be asleep.

Though you knock on the 

Thick wooden door, 

Arched with rounded top, 

Clunking the iron knocker 

Shaped like a lion, and rap

Incessantly on the window pane,

And can through that wavy window

See him lying on his side on his 

Hard wooden bench, fully dressed,

Semi-fetal position, his back to the

Room breathing heavily as if asleep

But he nevertheless hears your calls

And ignores you.

There is, however, a way in, though

The windows be locked and the door bolted.

On the stoop to the right of the door in the

Stone wall that forms the base of the arbor

Which covers the entry with twisted vines,

One large stone, if one looks closely, is

Loose, and if eased out 

(Not without considerable effort)

Reveals a hidden lever.

Being careful to brush away the spiders

You pull the lever which very reluctantly

Yields, groans, protests, then clicks into

Gear a mechanism that silently and slowly

Opens the door.

As you step into the room –there appears to be

Only one room – lit by flickering oil lamp and a

Few rays of sunlight that have long sought

Entrance with you, the old wooden floor

Creaks under your feet, but the old man

Does not stir until you muster your courage,

And shake his shoulder. It is when you do that

You discover his eyes are open and he has not been asleep,

Only disregarding your knocking. 

It is perhaps a test of persistence. 

His bones creak like the floor and he

Turns towards you and sits up, scratching

His white beard with knurled fingers

Stained from eons of work at the

Carpenter’s bench, Potter’s wheel, 

Artist’s palette, and especially, in the

Barn behind the cottage where cedar 

Trees are honed into the beams,

Ribs and spars of vessels to plough

The seven seas with their holds filled with 

Sacks of grain for mills to grind into

Sacred Bread of Life.

He is grumpy but not mean, softly

Barking, “What do you want?” and

“How did you get in here?”

Contrary to the voice and the questions, 

His old eyes sparkle with clarity and

Glow like a candle flame with understanding.

It is when you look into those eyes that you

Realize he already knows why you’re there and

What ineffable existential questions are burning in

Your soul and driving you to the edge of insanity.

He knows you feel like the hunted fox chased by

Hounds, like the frightened rabbit that only

Caught glimpse of the eagle after the dive was initiated.

Seated on the edge of the hard wooden plank of a bed,

You instinctively draw close. He lifts a worn hand and

Places it on your shoulder; and with that touch,

All your fears melt and all the unanswered questions

Converge into a pristine river.

Suddenly, the old house, the barn behind, the arbor, the

Arched door, flickering lamp, and wooden bench

Are gone.

You are standing in a flower-laden meadow on the

Bank of a pristine mountain river laughing its way

Over rocks, through oxbows, and over cataracts.

Brightly colored fish leap with energetic joy,

While, across the way, moose, elk, deer, 

Mountain goats, bears, antelope, bison, and 

Cougars graze together as friends. The

Meadow seems to contain every kind of 

Flowering plant – butterflies and bees, bluebirds and

Orioles flit about, hawks and eagles soar aloft.

And the Old Man stands with you, still clad in his

Green flannel shirt and leather chaps; his 

Arm around your shoulder and a contented

Smile on his wrinkled face.

He does not speak.

Willingly, you go.

Helping lift the old

Indian canoe 

(Carved from an oak centuries ago)

From the bushes into the river.

He sits in the stern, paddle in hand,

You in the bow, content with your

Guide, as, together, you traverse the

Gradually widening river over falls and rapids

And long stretches of gentle currents, past

Pastures of horses, towering redwoods,

Golden canyons, and fields of grain, past

Villages, children playing on the banks, and

Kindly farm women waving greeting

As if, they too, knew the Old Man.

After many months (or was it years?)

You beach the canoe in the delta.

The Old Man builds a fire and roasts

Fish and fresh bread for breakfast.

Satiated, you board a vessel with him,

Somehow knowing it is one he built in the

Barn behind the old house in the woods.

You are his only crew. Still, he does not speak, but

Nods approvingly as you hoist the main, fores’l, and jib

And again, as you cast off and trim the sails

While he, at the helm, guides the boat into

A steady 10-knot ocean breeze.

As if in a dream, the early morning fog

Enshrouds the schooner and you cannot even

See the mast tops. 

Did he not sleep at all?

Was he at the helm all night? 

And yet, no waning vigor!

Old eyes lids caked with salt,

Cracked lips parched, age spots on his hands,

He guides without a compass, through fog and

Tempest, choppy seas, howling storms,

Driving rain, and under soft sunny skies

Dotted with smiling puffs of clouds.

All is well.

You are safe.

Sailing for decades.

Faintly, off in the distance, you 

Hear the ethereal music of the spheres

Sun, moon, and stars seem to sing

On the horizon lies a 

Golden palace atop a

Pure white opal mountain

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on October 22, 2022, in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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