Ariel, The Fearless Man
We passed an old fellow on our trail walk today hobbling along slowly, leaning on his aluminum cane, but seeming to enjoy every uncertain step he took. I mentioned to Jan, as we passed him and said hello, that he seemed to be really enjoying himself despite his age, handicap, and difficulty walking. Not everyone we encounter on the trail is out for pleasure and enjoyment. Maybe half of the people we do encounter are out for exercise and either whiz speedily by, hunched over their bicycle, or else are dripping sweat from running. Many a grim and determined look appear on their faces. This is not a picture of enjoyment and pleasure but rather the look of extreme effort, will power in action, and grim determination. To each their own torture, but if that is exercise I want no part of it.
Jan and I usually sit at the half way point of our walks, and today we sat for an extended period of time, maybe for half an hour. The sun was warm and the scene was particularly beautiful with the autumn colors before us while leaves were tumbling down in a gentle breeze. We relaxed and merged a bit with the scene we were viewing. With some effort we began our walk back and again we encountered that old fellow with his aluminum cane. Feeling friendly and quite relaxed, we engaged him in conversation. Here was an old warrior. He told us about his combat experiences in the Korean War. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne, a very hardened combat unit. (His name is Ariel and I thought that more than appropriate for someone in an airborne unit.) He had spent 18 months in real combat, parachuting into hails of bullets and raining a few down on the enemy at the same time. He had taken a bullet in the belly and shrapnel to his arm. He had led over a hundred men into combat many times and took a bullet in the gut for his troubles and delivered quite a few to their targets besides. And even at what must be 80 years old or better he seemed more than ready to do combat again, if the need arose, and he showed me how he would wield his cane if the opportunity presented itself.
I told him he was a fearless man but also the happiest and most contented fellow we had met or seen that day. Maybe being fearless helps. Here was an octogenarian, missing a lung, missing part of his colon, leaning heavily on his cane and hobbling along this sunny autumn trail with a big, broad smile on his face. He had obviously seen it all and so much that was brutal and ugly in his life. But, on such a day as this, there was only enjoyment and pleasure for Ariel, the fearless man.