Four hikers in the distance. I moved in with my zoom lens for a closer look. Four hikers. Within ten minutes we would meet on the trail. Halfway between there and here. I wondered about their story; who they were, how they knew each other, why they were here. They were winding their way to us and we to them. We'd pass one another, exchange greetings and then, probably forever, never meet again. The mystery would remain unresolved. A brief engagement, a simple moment. Then the four hikers would be gone.
They say that you are forever changed by each encounter. There is an exchange of energy, and an transfer of matter. No matter how brief the interaction, we are changed by everyone we meet. The hikers would influence our existence in some small way. Four hikers and a chance meeting.
My dad was an incurable people watcher. He could sit on a park bench, or a stool in a bar, and watch people come and go all day. It was the greatest gift that he gave me—the ability to sit and watch the world go by. He found endless delight in the flowing exchange of life. Within in hour in any place, he'd know the life story of just about everyone around him. People would stop and tell him their tale. And he'd sit and watch and listen, say hello and goodbye, and get a life story in-between.
If my dad were still alive, and with us on that trail, on that day, the story of the four hikers would be more complete, more entertaining, more whole. I am shyer than was my dad, I will observe as did he, but I won't interact with the ease that was his trademark. So the hikers passed.
“Hello,” I said.
“Good day!” they responded.
I stood aside as they passed. I then hiked the trail where they once were. Looking back within minutes, I saw that the hikers had once more grown small in the distance. Then they went around the bend and were gone forever.