Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Bridge

by Joe Farley

“The whole world is a narrow bridge,
and the main thing is not to be
consumed with fear.”
Rebbe Nachuman of Bratslav

In our late teens or early twenties
my friends and I went hiking
in the woods near Mau Chunk,

We came upon a trestle bridge
that crossed a river a hundred feet
below where we stood.
We stared at the drop,
but decided to cross.

There were gaps between
the railroad ties,
empty air
stretching down
to the river below.

The tallest had no problem,
long strides
easily covering the distance.
The rest had a harder time
grappling with squat legs
and the fear of falling.

One trip,
one frightening moment
and the stragglers
to go another step
except backwards.

“There is no turning back”
said the one
who was farthest from
our starting point.

No one else agreed.
He wound up crossing alone.
We watched his figure
disappear on the far shore
and wondered
if we would see him again.

It took less than three days,
but he returned,
angry, not triumphant,
bitter at having to cross
the bridge twice
all on his own,
curbing the exhilaration
of his hike.

I have crossed
one bridge alone
to reach this shore
and must prepare
to cross another
without companions.

I feel the bitterness
that he felt
and the fear
I felt then
and he may have concealed.

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