You were young when you first started down the tracks. They were long and narrow. As far as you could tell, they were never ending; two straight lines extending out in front of you, coalescing into a single point at the farthest reach of your vision. Protecting the tracks on either side was a great, green wall of wooly coniferous trees that stood more than forty feet high, which made you feel safe; which made you feel alone, but somehow out of harm’s way. You could hear the sounds of the forest echoing softly beyond the towering trees, but you couldn’t know for certain whether the howls and caws of the wild were meant to disturb you, or meant to embolden you. But without knowing what lay beyond the tall trees, you let fear creep up behind you and trail ever so silently in your wake.
On you walked, for days upon days, never ceasing, always sure of where you were going despite not knowing. There is only one place these tracks will lead. You don’t remember when you began walking. It really feels like all you’ve ever been doing. And the tracks, they stretch out far beyond your eyesight just as much behind you as in front. Not until you’d been walking for a long time—when the forest around you and the tracks out in front took on an achingly familiar aspect—did you begin to wonder what lay behind you. Had you forgotten? You don’t remember having started your march. All you’ve known is these tracks; this path, narrow, long, and straight; and walking.
You do remember some things. The trees that protect you used to be taller—at least ten, maybe fifteen, feet higher, making them even more looming, and the shadow they cast much darker than it is now. The iron nails that hold the ties in place used to stand out, especially at noon when the sun was high above and the polished heads would gleam and spatter bits of light into your eye. The tracks themselves are now more weathered and rusty, owing to the countless days and nights they’d spent under foot, waiting to be passed by. Those tracks behind you served you well, and you’re grateful. But you worry about those yet to be traversed because they are more worn and weak. Your only hope is to pray whoever laid the tracks constructed them well.
Still you’ve no choice but to trek onward, still staring into the distance at that single point which never quite ends. You’ve become quite used to your days on the tracks. They stretch on and you move forward, and the days pass and the seasons change and the trees on either side grow shorter and shorter the farther you walk. But then you see something new. Where the tracks once coalesced into a single point, now, you notice, they begin to bend. It is still several days ahead, but you can’t escape the sight lest you turn around and stare back behind you. Best not to do that now.
You march onward, and the bend creeps toward you. You’ve been walking for so long that you knew for sure you’d have reached the bend by now, but still it lurks, menacing and illusive. You wish that you could see beyond the bend in the tracks but the tall green wall still stands high enough to shield your view. The bend before you begins to weigh heavier on your mind. Thoughts of what may lay beyond hijack your mind, leaving nothing for the comfort you felt on the straight and narrow. But this wasn’t your choice, you cry out. You never wanted the tracks to bend. No one told you it would happen. And then the agony of not knowing became too great and you decided to turn back the way you came. But when you do, you see not the long and narrow tracks coalescing into that familiar point, but instead, you see what haunts you in front. The bend you’d been fearing had already come, and you see no more of where you’d been than of where you’re going. And panic begins to rush. You stop in the tracks. Do you continue forward into the unknown, or do you go back the way you came? Neither option is ideal. You consider a third option. Should you sit there where your steps have ceased and wait for someone to come along? Will someone come along? Even if they do, you realize these tracks are just as mush theirs as yours, and perhaps the pain of not knowing fills their gut just as much as it fills yours? What if they have stopped some days back? And you realize you can’t be sure you aren’t the only one on these tracks. These tracks are yours. They are long and winding, but they do not end here. They continue forever, until you decide to quit. There is no going back, you know. Those days are gone.
The trees are shrinking beside you as you continue on your way. The bend never ends. You considered waiting some days back, but if you walk, you decide, at least you know you’ll be going somewhere. Eventually the trees become waist high, and you see on the other side not wilderness, but another set of tracks. These ones are not yours but they are very close. You see someone who is not you carefully tip-toeing across the ties of his tracks. He sees you for the first time and he waves. You wave back. The bend continues, but you aren’t afraid. You realize the tracks may not always be straight, and that is a good thing, for if they were, they would never meet.
Keep walking forward.