Early one sunny morning, I drove north on california HWY 79 reputed for its mountain-terrain serpentine nature. As I rounded one of the many curves and there was a man, walking, slowly, purposefully but with a male version of a Mona Lisa smile on his face, eyes in a narrow squint against the golden glare, seemingly lost in his deep thoughts. He was somewhat slumped, hunching over a bit but not surprising as he bore the weight of a blue/green mass of fabric spread across his upper body. I would call it a bed roll, but it probably encased his worldly possessions . He moved along pensively, carefully, along the opposite edge of the road. The encounter was brief, as I passed him by. Being curious, I tried to take notice of his features, his clothing and facial expression while staying focussed on the quirks of staying on the curving road.
I pondered his situation for awhile, how long and how far had he traveled? Did he have a destination? Is he a stranger to this area or is this area familiar to him, a hangout? Where is he from, how long has he been a “hobo” traversing pathways in remote terrain in mountains and plains, along beach shores, cities, towns, suburbs, farm lands, forests? Where does he spend most of his time. Does he find food, does he sleep anywhere he may be at dusk. Where is he going, is he alone in the world? I soon reached my destination and became focussed on many other things, not giving him any more thought.
Come late afternoon I drove south on HWY 79 returning home. Surprisingly, I spotted him one more time, again on the opposite side of the road, walking northward, towards the town of Temecula. He maintained the same pace and attitude, but lost the squint and glare. Hopefully he had a destination that would give him some shelter from the frigid mountain temperatures with some nourishment to keep him going. What is in that bedroll? He reminding me of the mighty Atlas holding the world, in this case his own private wooly world. Again, upon reaching home and our rig, I became engrossed in other matters at hand, lucky to be warm, with good company, able to anticipate food in plenty, sharing talk and our day’s adventures with my husband. There was no more time to conjecture about the man that night.
Two days later, I returned to town, for an appointment and several errands to pursue. As I turned into a large parking lot (featuring a Sprout’s Market, several restaurants, shops and a Walmart-a site for dumpster diving perhaps), I’ll be darned if I did not see him walking toward me, with his usual burden, his gentle pace and his colorful and heavy wool bedroll. This time, I could take in more of his features, get a closer look. I formed a new concept of a the man–a man with wings, an angel of sorts. What would he possibly make of that vision if he knew?
|A very rough sketch of my angel man
Would I have another sighting or are 3 sightings the magic number. Perhaps he is always on the move, never staying put, always moving on. How much of the area, the state, the country, the hemisphere has he covered? Has he climbed high mountains, through dense forests, marshy, soggy farm fields, places of danger, snake filled lands, encountered wild animals, gone places into which most of us would not venture, unknown territory. Do people talk to him, help him, become rude, nasty or belligerent? Does he beg for food or money or just keep his eyes straight ahead does he have living family members, know anyone here or there?
He was clothed in well worn brown pants, plain shoes, not sneakers, not sandals, not hiking boots, but well worn, somewhat shapeless shoes, moccasin-like. The expression on his face, remained rather sweet in a way, not sour, angry and somewhat aware not a vacant stare or tuned out. Does his face truly express his thoughts, his mood? If so, what was he thinking, feeling, hoping or expecting. All of us have had encounters with homeless people through the years. It feels good when I can help someone with an offering of food, or occasionally buying food for them, reaching out to them, saddened by their fate, but helpless to relieve their burden. Who knows if I will ever see him again?
I have learned of a project started in some cities and towns where neighbors have built storage boxes in strategic areas to be stocked with food, clothing, shoes, blankets, toiletries and more. The homeless learn that the items are theirs for the taking to use and share with others and to spread the word. How I long to be part of that project, but we live on the move, unable to fully participate. Perhaps, someday, down the road I take, an opportunity will arise so that I can give more than an occasional take-home box of food (always stocked with utensils and napkins or apples and a couple of PBJ sandwiches carried in my tote bag), a kind word or two and a smile. I can choose to contribute to legitimate homeless programs and shelters More than that is not now in my power.