Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Last night Richard mentioned that the torch relay would be passing through Nanning today. For a brief minute, I considered taking the ten o'clock train up there to see what I could see. But last minute plans don't always work that well, and I had not really researched where to stay. Also, I wanted to be back for church tomorrow. So I gave it a miss. This evening I asked Richard if he had seen the torch. He said he saw lots of people and lots of cops, but no torch. Not sure why. Maybe they stuck it in a van for security reasons or something. You know, torch relays have become a little more complicated in recent years.

Hard to believe it is already forty-four years ago that I saw my first Olympic torch. I was ten years old. The Summer Olympics of 1964 were held in Tokyo, and the torch relay route ran within walking distance of our school in Northern Japan. The '64 Olympics were held in October, so I would think it must have been early in the fall that the torch passed through town. We took a break from classes and walked to the parade site. I'm sure there must have been some cops there, but I don't remember seeing them. I remember the students, though. Thousands of them. Dark blue and white everywhere in sight. We waited for what seemed like a long time, but was probably not. Young people everywhere, talking of course, but otherwise amazingly well behaved. You know how it is in those situations..you get caught up in the whole experience, and slowly your focus begins to shift from the event you're supposed to be waiting for, to the waiting itself.

But suddenly, it happened. I could hear it before I could see it, not because it was so noisy, but because the reaction of the crowd moved toward me like a tidal wave. I don't mean wild cheering. Actually, I can't remember if people were cheering. I sure wasn't. I guess I was just sorta awed by the uniqueness of it all. But awe has a sound to it, even if that sound is silence. And then she came into view. A young woman, holding a flaming torch. I remember her being very muscular. I don't mean in an ugly, body-building sort of way, but she was obviously chosen for strength and endurance. She was a powerful young woman. She was running easily, not sweating. Her expression was not one of grim determination, but a look of quiet, definite resolve. She didn't stop, and seemed not to know the crowd was there, although I'm sure she was quite conscious of our presence. It was all over so quickly, but the impression was not easily lost.

I think if I had had enough information to know exactly where the torch was going to pass, I might have been inclined to take the trip to Nanning, because it is a compelling picture of triumph not easily replicated. But to go all that way just to see an entourage move through a crowd and hear someone else tell me what was happening...no. I would rather sit here in the breeze by the sea, and live, with my thoughts, in a time and place that seems now so much simpler.

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