A Milestone

19 December 2017

I am spending days walking along the fence–hitting rocks, trampling grapes, emptying pockets, scratching my jacket. Here I am, the beholder of true limitation, neither small enough to sneak through, nor tall enough to step over. I can pick a stick and press it along the fence to make funny rattling noise while I move, be it east- or westward. I can put feet together and start jumping, leaving a heavy-dotted trace behind my back, be it south- or northward. I can look through the gaps in the fence or stare the opposite way and see no particular difference. I can sing in Russian, English or French–and no-one will applaud me or beg me to shut up. I can listen to my own steps, no matter how quiet they are. I can smile to my own thoughts, regardless of their significance. I can breath out air and quickly suck it back in, all the same air into the same breathing pulsating lungs.
I can stop by the beads that somehow got hooked by a twig and conclude that I have reached a milestone–another mile in my pleasing walk along the fence, another distraction along the well-paced path. I count the beads but mess up with numbers, I get angry but calm myself down, I try to keep moving but feel myself magnetized with the beads and can’t help it. I remember how a Tibetan monk taught me long ago about a magic number of 108. How they would circle 108 times around sacred Mount Kailash prostrating on the ground and standing back up with every step they make. Shall I continue my way along the fence in the same way? No. There is no way I can circle around the line, my path is one-dimensional.
No matter how many beads there are, this number must have a special meaning. Numbers have meanings, at least that’s what I heard. It could be the distance already traveled, or the number of miles yet to cover. It could be the year when the fence was erected. It could be the number of people who took this path before me, or the number of those who will follow. I might need to go to the next milestone and compare.. if the next milestone at all exists, or if I can at all reach it. I can take the beads off the fence and count them with my fingers–exactly the way the Tibetan monk taught me to do it. But are milestones ever to be displaced? I can try to guess but what if my guess is wrong?
What a fright, what a terrible fright! Could I ever imagine how terrifying it would be to be walking along a line, even if it is fenced. Multifold harder than going in circles.