Home again

Author’s Note: This is the final installment of a six part story. If you would like to read the previous chapters before the finale, please visit: Chapter 1 – The keyChapter 2 – Plus oneChapter 3 – The seedChapter 4 – Step by step, and Chapter 5 – Hope.

lighthouse-portland-maineDamon had a suspicion the numbers he found scribbled in the margin of that book by T.S. Eliot would be the last ones he’d encounter on this memorable journey – because he recognized them. There were no other clues to be deciphered, just the coordinates that would lead him back to his home in a seaside town just outside of Portland, Maine.

As he exited the public library, the two facial expressions staring back at Damon from the base of the marble steps held a look teetering back and forth between enthusiasm and anxiety. One was human, the other canine. Jo, the co-owner of a restaurant in rural Virginia had her eyes locked on the exit door in anticipation. Gryffin, Damon’s loyal golden retriever, began to tug on the leash when he caught a glimpse of his owner. Jo allowed Gryffin to lead the way, although not entirely by choice. She began to stumble as Gryffin pulled her along towards Damon, the distance closing quickly.

As they reached audible range, Jo not wanting to wait any longer, called out to Damon, “Did you find it? What did it say?” Gryffin followed suit with an imploring bark. The semi-confused look on Damon’s face left her with a feeling of apprehension. Damon was still attempting to process what he was supposed to do next, other than return home. “Was there nothing there?” asked Jo hesitantly.

“No, no. There was definitely something there. I’m just not sure what to do next,” responded Damon.

“Well, lay it on me. We’ll all figure it out together,” urged Jo.

“There was another quote – in the book, that is. It was highlighted and in the margin were a set of coordinates that lead back to my new house,” offered Damon.

“What was the quote?” asked Jo.

“It was by T.S. Eliot – We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Damon recited the quote from memory. It had already been catalogued in his mental library.

“Well, am I missing something?” asked Jo. “It seems pretty obvious that you’re supposed to return home.”

“Yeah, I get that part,” responded Damon, “I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do when I get there.”

faith-take-the-first-step“Hey, remember that parchment that came with the acorn?” asked Jo. Damon reached into his pocket to grab hold of the acorn, making sure that it was still there. Jo continued, “There was an important word in that quote. Remember it? Faith. Let’s just have faith that we’ll figure it out once we get there.”

“So, you still want to continue on with us?” inquired Damon. “I wasn’t sure if you would just want to return to the restaurant. It’s only a couple hours away.” Damon couldn’t believe that he was even proposing something so far against what he actually desired, to have Jo accompany him on the final leg of this journey back to his hometown. He chided himself internally for allowing something so foolish to escape his lips.

“No way, compadre, you’re stuck with me now,” smiled Jo. “I was serious about new beginnings back on that mountaintop. My sister can take care of the restaurant. It was always her special project anyway. This is my new beginning. I’m not sure where it’s going to end up, but I do know the next stop on the journey.”

With the sun beginning to set on another day filled with fortuitous discoveries, the driving duties were transferred back to Jo. With a desire to close the gap slightly between their present position and final destination, the truck and its three occupants began to head north on the interstate. The conversation was quiet as the speakers streamed uninterrupted tunes from the satellite radio. After about three hours, somewhere near the New York border, Damon shook his head slightly as if to keep his eyelids from involuntarily shutting. Looking over at Jo, he could tell that she was beginning to show signs of exhaustion too. It had been a long day.

Damon reached over, turned down the volume, and proposed one final layover on their journey. “How about we find a place to get some rest? We can get on the road first thing in the morning and be back in Maine before noon.”

“Sure, that sounds good,” said Jo as she allowed a yawn to escape mid-sentence. As if the offer of rest had provided her second wind, Jo felt compelled to share something. “You know, these last couple days, they have been a lot of fun.”

“Yeah, same goes for me,” replied Damon. “I’m just not quite used to so much spontaneity in my life.”

“Funny,” chuckled Jo, “I think that’s one of the things that made it so enjoyable for me.”

“Maybe you’re right,” smirked Damon, “I never thought about it that way.” Finding a pet friendly hotel just off the interstate, the last thoughts Damon entertained before succumbing to sleep left him with a smile in his heart.

The following morning brought with it an intense feeling of anticipation – the three travelers just weren’t sure what they were anticipating yet. The remaining few hours of their journey passed quickly. Damon had beaten his estimate by a good hour as he rolled into his hometown a little before eleven o’clock.

As he coasted into the driveway and turned off the engine, Damon stared ahead at the front door in front of him, “Okay, now what?”

“Well, you could give me a tour, you know,” said Jo smiling.

“Sure, right, where are my manners?” replied Damon. Gryffin was at the front door waiting to enter with his tail wagging excitedly. Damon guided Jo through a brief tour of the old house, boxes still strewn around each of the rooms they walked through. “It’s not much yet, but it has a lot of potential,” offered Damon somewhat defensively.

As they entered the bathroom attached to his bedroom, a thought occurred to Damon. The coordinates led him to his house. That was obvious. There was another clue in that library, one that he didn’t consider too closely until now. He recalled the quote once again, whispering it to himself – We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Where we started – that phrase stuck with him. This was the exact location beneath the sink where everything began. This is where the brass key still hanging around his neck was found wrapped in twine.

wooden-floorboardHe stood there, motionless, for a few moments before he recalled the dull thud that sounded when the ball of wet twine made contact with the wooden floorboard beneath the pipe. Damon returned to that floorboard, got down on his hands and knees, and looked at it a bit more closely.

Jo, sensing that Damon was on to something but not wanting to disrupt the flow, bent over to look but remained silent. The nails securing this particular floorboard were missing. Reaching his fingers into the tiny gap between the wall and floorboard, he noticed that he was able to pry back the piece of wood quite easily. There was a sealed container built into the space beneath the floor. Placed inside it was another piece of parchment rolled up and tied with a red ribbon.

Rising back to his feet, Damon untied the ribbon and unrolled the sheet with Jo standing next to him. Together, they silently read the quote etched in the same perfect penmanship that they had come to know so well.

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. ~ Joseph Campbell

Damon just smiled. Of course. Had he known that the final piece of his journey was right under his nose when he discovered the brass key, he would have most likely jumped to the conclusion straightaway. And look what he would have missed out on – adventure, friendship, lessons in giving, receiving, and perhaps most importantly – love. Love of others and love of self.

“Wow,” offered Damon to Jo, “this certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.” And then he smiled and continued on, “But, you know what, I think that’s what makes it all that more special.”

“I guess I’m rubbing off on you,” smiled Jo as she bumped shoulders with Damon. “Hey, you know what,” said Jo with an intriguing twist in her voice, “I just thought of something. How do you spell your name?”

Damon wasn’t catching on quite yet, but he played along, “D-A-M-O-N,” replied Damon. “Why, what does that have to do with anything?” he continued.

“I was just thinking. Reverse the letters of your name, and what do they spell?” offered Jo.

“N-O-M-A-D. You’re a nomad, a wanderer. And what you have chosen to do over the past week has been exactly that – you have wandered from place to place for the sake of wandering, to explore, to be alive.”

Damon was beginning to appreciate this woman more and more with every passing minute. Maybe he was living life up until this point as his name – backwards. But he had more than a fleeting clue now. He had a revelation, and he certainly felt alive, more alive and vibrant than he had in his entire life.

flowers-of-tomorrowReaching into his pocket, he retrieved the acorn and placed it on his bathroom sink – a constant reminder to embrace new beginnings. “How about some lunch? I know this great seafood place just down the road. It sits right on the water.” Winking at Jo, Damon continued on, “I did promise, and I always do my best to keep promises.” An endearing grin spread across Jo’s face as she replied, “I’ll have to remember that.” As Damon took Jo’s hand in his own, another seed was planted in this wanderer’s life – one that he knew would flourish given time – and faith.

Author’s Note: This has been a wonderful adventure filled with discovery not only for Damon, Jo, and Gryffin – but also for the author. I hope that it has been as much fun and rewarding for you to read it as it has been for me to write it. I sincerely thank everyone who took the time to follow along on this journey over the past month and share their thoughts – it means more than you can possibly know. May the coming days, weeks, and years bring each of you wandering journeys filled with unbounded love and inspiration – a little faith goes a long way. ~Dave Cenker

13 thoughts on “Home again

  1. Writing to Freedom January 7, 2015 / 12:22 pm

    Lovely story and adventure that brings us back to the begining. 🙂 I loved your story Dave and hope to keep love and adventure alive in my life, nurtured by faith (the hardest part for me). Thanks for sharing your inspiring words and heart with us.

    • davecenker January 7, 2015 / 1:02 pm

      Thank you Brad, it has been a pleasure sharing this story when I have readers like you to share it with 🙂 Keep the love, keep the adventure, and keep the faith alive and well – I will do the same 😉

  2. heraldmarty January 9, 2015 / 2:43 pm

    Okay, I’m smiling and the romantic in me is a happy camper. Wonderful story Dave and such a perfect ending. 🙂

    • davecenker January 9, 2015 / 2:57 pm

      Thank you Marty, this has been a wonderful and insightful journey for me as a writer and as a reader. I am so happy that you enjoyed the ending – ironically, the ending serves quite well as a new beginning in the lives of the characters. I think I may need to take a little “break” from the emotion of this piece before I dive into my next one – as much out of necessity as desire. Thanks for following along on the journey – I really do sincerely appreciate it 🙂

  3. Jill Winski January 10, 2015 / 1:34 pm

    Dave, I really enjoyed this ending and it felt quite satisfying to me as a reader! Love the turnaround of Damon’s name to “nomad.” Congrats on a wonderful achievement with these pieces. Thanks for letting us follow along on this journey with these characters and with you!

    • davecenker January 12, 2015 / 9:27 am

      Thank you Jill, it has really been a pleasure to share this story with everyone (myself included) 🙂 It’s amazing how writer can become reader and uncover things previously unknown – yet another compelling reason to keep writing!

      I am so happy that you enjoyed the story and I sincerely thank you for following along on the journey and providing your thoughts along the way – it makes the sharing process all the more fun and rewarding! 🙂

  4. Eric Tonningsen January 12, 2015 / 12:19 am

    One of the reasons I, nine years ago, named my business JourneyWorks, Dave, is because I firmly believed (and still do) that it’s all about the journey. There are times when the journey takes work – a lot of work. 🙂 Other times it is as easy as being in flow. I also believe that many people are living their lives backwards. And I try to encourage them to realize what Damon has discovered in your inspiring story. It’s liberating to release and nurture the wanderlust in each of us — if we choose. This was a delightful ride. Thanks for creating the time to write and share it.

    • davecenker January 12, 2015 / 9:30 am

      Thank you Eric – for taking the time to read each piece of this story and sharing your thoughts, and for adding such an inspiring insight with this comment. The flavor of your comment exactly nails the overall message I would have liked to convey in my story.

      May your journey continue to be filled with inspiring discoveries 🙂

  5. Dalo 2013 January 18, 2015 / 12:03 pm

    Brilliant story, and a perfect final installment… A set of words that I think many people will reflect upon on reading is the statement “I’m just not quite used to so much spontaneity in my life.” And I would guess most of us feel the same, routine is nice to some extent but the words of Joseph Campbell are accurate…at some point we need to stretch ourselves and reach for things that can only be achieved by change/growth. Wonderful work Dave.

    • davecenker January 19, 2015 / 8:53 am

      Thank you Randy, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this entire story, first installment to last, and providing your insightful comments all along the way. The wonderful thing about writing is that sometimes the characters you develop as an author speak to you in unexpected (and highly influential ways).

      My own internal balance between routine and spontaneity could probably use a slight nudge towards the latter as well. Thank you again for your kind and generous comments and best wishes for many more moments of adventure, spontaneity, and discovery 😉

      • Dalo 2013 January 19, 2015 / 9:52 am

        Look forward to reading more Dave, and I think we all strive for excitement and change but need to brew life & happiness with routine as well… I think it is as you write, a good balance between the two. However, with that in mind, cheers to spontaneity!

  6. Aileen January 29, 2015 / 12:58 pm

    A great story with a terrific ending. I thought you brought the characters to life wonderfully, I was rooting for them all the way!

    • davecenker January 29, 2015 / 2:38 pm

      Thank you Aileen, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this entire story and share your thoughts. I have not written volumes of stories, but this one really struck a chord in my heart – and soul. I am so happy that others enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it 🙂

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