Monday, August 22, 2011

The Riddle

What goes on four legs in the morning
on two legs at noon
and on three legs in the evening?

 That's the Riddle of the Sphinx, of course, and Oedipus solved it correctly, causing the Sphinx to destroy herself. It's a good metaphor for a man's life: crawling on all four as an infant, standing on two legs as an adult, and adding a cane as he reaches old age.
 I think of that riddle often as I walk in the neighbor's lane, the sun newly risen and low in the sky, casting my shadow out before me, doubling my height. I, of course, am already walking on three legs but I take the cane not so much for steadiness but for protection.
 As I was walking out of the lane the other day, Sam and Millie rolled down the window of their car and asked me why I was carrying a stick. "Are you fighting off wild animals?" they asked. "Beware of the wild buffalo," snickered Sam.

 This morning the sky is washed clear by yesterday's cold front. The blue atmosphere sparkles anew. The air tastes clean. The slight breeze, still washing across me from the northwest, whisks the heat away from my body. I arrive home still pleasantly cool.
 How many times have I walked this lane in my quarter century here? More than I can imagine. How many pair of shoes have I needlessly worn out treading this same gravel? Is there a single new sight for me to see?
 I walk this lane only superficially for the exercise but more for the experience. I watch the milkweed bloom and mature, now prickly pods hanging at odd angles on the stem. I watch ironweed erupt with a royal splash. I smile as Queen Anne's Lace expands its wedding-veil flowers.And in a month I'll watch the first frost take them all down overnight.
 When the first snowflakes fall, I'll still be walking this lane, perhaps ever-depending on that third leg a little more. But as long as the sun shines behind me, lights that delicious path ahead, I'll be looking at the old sights over and over again, forever new.