The warm May sun beat down on me as I worked on the sketch. There was activity on the river. A touring ship filled with sightseers was sailing by. People waved to me. The tourists probably couldn’t see I was sketching the scenery. Some waved to me. Young boys were rowing boats near the shoreline. They waved to me.
I was finding out that my sketchbook and my guitar were passports of friendship for me as I traveled. The guitar seemed to say, “We have something in common –music.” And the sketchbook said, “You like my village, or churches, or bridges enough that you choose to sketch it.” That was pretty good. It was like having these two companions along with me too. I didn’t look like a vagrant or a highway robber or something to someone.
Now that’s a nice thing. So if you’re planning on taking a vagabond trip, there’s two secrets for you. Take a guitar and a sketchbook along, even if you don’t know how to use them!
The highway down the
hill from my knoll was buzzing with tiny European cars breezing along
with open windows loaded with picnickers. As they zipped by some of the
passengers could see me atop the knoll. Some waved to me.
There would be no
disturbing knocks at the door of my life. That mirror on the edge of my
shoulder examining my every moment, was missing, something had shattered
it. This was great. Those warnings from my friends in Wuerzburg were just
fading words. I had cancelled my career and headed off with the wind.
How often would I have known this feeling if I had followed the career path I was slotted into. Probably never. But if I continued on my y trip, would I experience it again? I wondered. What was I really seeking? What was I to learn? An exciting new world belonged to me!
I gazed out over the
river again in kind of a daydream and before I knew it, long shadows began
stretching across the landscape. I snapped out of my dreamworld and began
my routine task of preparing my bedroll. Then I climbed up on the large
boulder next to my tent and let the sun disappear in the northwest. Somewhere
up that direction, I would be tomorrow.
I recollected back on the fun-loving people of Rudesheim, taking walks and sipping wine. I longed to have them accept me and be part of their friendship and gaiety and joy. But no matter how hard I attempted to get to know them, I felt they would never accept me. The journey I had chosen to take, made me feel like a peeping-Tom. I was not a reporter, or a census taker or something like that. I was a peeping Tom. I knew they would never accept me.
This was bewildering.
If I was taking this trip to get know people, get to know the world, get
to know myself, how could I break through this barrier? I was completely
lacking in the ability to approach them. Yes, my guitar and my sketchbook
helped, but it was only a foot-in-the-door.
Or maybe it wasn’t loneliness I was experiencing, but fear. Fear that someone one would come along and beat me up and steal my belongings. After all, West Germany was still recovering from the war. Young people envied Americans and that would be justification for stealing from me. Or maybe I would be tossed in jail as a vagrant.
No that wasn’t
it. Not fear. Maybe because I was in West Germany and there were U.S.
military police everywhere. I was protected, but what would it be elsewhere
in other countries on the road ahead?
And this was the great pressure I felt daily as I traveled on, seeing the world as a masquerade.
Lieutenant Kohler back in Wuerzburg was right. My decision to travel was a big one but even more difficult was facing the world of strangeness that faced me each new day. He intimated that I would be an intruder. I would be inviting myself to look into people’s lives without a license to do so.
No one had harmed
me physically so far. I wasn’t chased out of any towns or villages.
I wasn’t jeered at or stoned. So far everyone one was civil.
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on the right to “Stories”.
You can find all of the previous chapters there.