He smiled when he got out of his car and saw there in the weeds the old pipe jutting from the hillside and draining the little spring.
The pipe rusted and bent, maybe even more than before, but this sight assured him that he was in the same place, exactly the same place, and that it promised the same old feeling. He walked along the bank, looking for some hint of the old path that led through the woods and brush down to the riverside and to the great rocks where he had long ago stretched out on warm, spring days, just like this one. In those days his life seemed to be full of noise. The kind of noise that comes from friction, from parts moving together that do not fit well. Then he knew not how he would ever fit in to this life. He saw those around him who were sure or pretended to be sure of their places, their goals, and he wondered, even then, whether they knew they were pretending. He did not know himself in any way that he could choose a course or convince himself that his investment should be made in one place then visible or another. He could not see that far. What he could see was that those around him who felt themselves sure of these very things were destined to crash. Were they aware of their own pretense ?
In those days he was not without aspiration, but it was in him an unnamed thing that did not respond to the suggestions of teachers or the demands of coaches. He could not articulate it himself and he certainly had never heard anyone else explain or define it. But he had found his way. In the years and through long empty seasons and finally some kindred spirits – a teacher here and there, even a preacher, and then, finally friends of his own age and then in books and songs he came to understand that so many of the battles that he had faced and apparently lost were actually his greatest victories. By not attaining those goals that others around him pushed and shoved and cheated their way toward he kept his life open to receive freedom and grace and finally love.
He found the old pathway and walked down it, thinking to himself what anyone who might see him there, dressed as he was, old as he was, would think. Would they think he was surveying the property for the development of a gas well or something? When he came out of the woods and saw the river again he was surprised at how small the rocks looked. He remembered them as gigantic and as the place where then he could lay his body down and let all of that noise drain away into that ancient, sun-warmed sandstone.