I feel compelled to post something very personal, which I don’t often do, although perhaps I should. Maybe it would be cathartic. I haven’t spoke much publicly about losing my cousin Jonathan because it is still so fresh in our family after…I guess it’s nearly eight years now, and that’s not what I’m going to talk about today either.
Today is his birthday. I’m going to talk about him. Upon hearing about him, some might have called him lost, a wanderer, a drifter. That wasn’t it, though. He was a traveler, a sojourner, transient in the way of migratory birds or butterflies. He was a troubled teen, like so many. But, unlike so many, he found his own way, and he was lucky to have a family that took it all in stride. I didn’t see him much, as he went where the wind blew him, where the mountains called him, but he had become sort of a superhero to me. He was someone who was living his truth, doing what he loved, and making his way. I lost track of how many places he visited and lived: Wyoming, Antarctica, New Zealand, Peru…I think. He traveled the entire Appalachian trail. I can barely imagine the recondite knowledge he must have gained of nature, the world, and life itself, and I wish I could have just one more conversation with him so that I would know. He traveled, he worked, he climbed mountains. He died the way he lived, with true passion. I’m not sure anyone can ask for more than that.
Sometimes we would be driving somewhere out of town and we would see a man with a backpack and a shaggy beard and think, “hey, maybe that was Jonathan on one of his journeys,” because it could’ve been. To tell you the truth…I sometimes still do.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
— Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road