My feet have taken me to many amazing places. My very first journey began the summer I was two and a half when I was in the front yard of the house we had just moved to. Across the road was a gate to a pasture of my grandparent’s farm. Their house, nearly half a mile away, was easily visible. I would stand looking at their house, wishing I was there.
I had two special friends in that house. One was my grandmother, the other was my father’s grandfather. I was the delight of his life. I was the first of my generation and evidence the family would continue.
“Where’s my boy?!” He would demand. Even when he was hospitalized, when I was an infant, he would demand to see me. Later, his doctor said seeing me helped him recover as much as the medicine. I was his hope for the future. I simply knew he was happy to see me and his was the “wonderful place.”
My grandmother was special too. Her affection for me was obvious and I never doubted it. When I went away to attend college, I learned it was her affection that had helped me survive my abusive childhood. I knew she loved me.
That summer day, I stood looking at her house and noticed the pasture gate was open. I was able to walk through easily, as long as I kept my distance from the barbed wire. I knew the barbs were treacherous. It was a long walk through the large pasture, but my feet carried me all the way.
Then, through the barnyard with fresh manure into the barn, over an unstable section of fence, then up into the loading chute, my only way out of the barn. I had to jump down from there onto the ground, but my feet landed me safely, then on to the house. It never occurred to me that Granma might not be home.
My feet took me up the few steps from the back door into the kitchen where I began to look for cookies. My grandmother was surprised at my entrance. She had heard no vehicle, nor had she ever expected me to arrive on my own. She soon got used to me showing up though, sometimes even bringing a toy I had been playing with at home.
For the next fifteen years, I would frequently walk to Granma’s. No one realized I was really running away from home.
Though I didn’t walk to town to attend college, my feet took me to class and anywhere else I needed to go, I had no other choice. While a college student, an airplane took me to Israel where my feet took me up and down the side of Mount Carmel through the terraced gardens at the Bahá’í World Center. There, I visited historic sites and prayed at holy places. There, also, for the first time, I found myself worthy in the sight of God.
My feet also took me walking through the surrounding gardens to two continental Bahá’í Houses of Worship, first the one for North America, the second, for Europe. The first, in Wilmette, Ill., just north of Chicago, the second, in Langenhain, Germany, when I went to visit family.
The first, I had seen, but not recognized, in family movies my mother had taken during a trip of farm wives to Chicago to visit stockyards and other such places of interest to farmers. It was a cold and rainy day, so they didn’t linger in the gardens. She remembered, though, when I told her of my trip.
In Germany, in the visitor’s center, I was curious if the bookshop had any books with some of my writing in them. When I found some, the clerk was amazed. Instantly, I became a visiting international author. She wanted my photograph which she posted on the internet. I’d never been welcomed in such a way before. As a child, I had been castigated for my clumsiness and stupidity simply because I was a little boy forced to do adult work. Here, I was suddenly a celebrity! When I left, my mind was reeling at the difference as my feet carried me away.
As a child, when I would walk through a pasture, I would sometimes imagine I was an adventurer in a new foreign land. I had no idea my feet would eventually take me on such adventures in distant foreign lands.