WILSON: You can’t get there from here

Back when times were much simpler — long before traffic jams, expressways and LED traffic alert signs — getting from one place to another was not all that simple. Before we had GPS guided navigation systems, we had printed road maps. Before readily available, reasonably accurate and impossible to fold back up road maps, we had people like Jacob Johansson.

He knew every road, lane, trail and path in three counties. He knew all of the fine folks living on every farm and homestead, fishing on every lake and worshipping in every church. In those days, this was very valuable knowledge, and should travelers need guidance on their way through these parts, Jacob Johansson was the guy to ask. However, be prepared to pay a steep price for the information — Jacob knew a lot, but he could talk a lot more.

“Ya’ start from where ya’ are, and head out from there (Jacob reasoned no one wanted to start from where they weren’t). There’s a fork in the road quite a ways up. Normally, you’d want to just go through that when you get to it (just how does one go through a fork?). But, if you get to the fork, you’ve gone too far, so don’t go through it.”

Jacob’s directions included as much information as possible — and much more than necessary. “On the right, just past the old Adler place (five families have lived in the ‘Old Adler Place,’ including a distant cousin of Jacob’s) you’ll see a big rock shaped like a bear. Some folks say it looks like a beaver, but beavers ain’t that big (his directions, also, came complete with editorial commentary). Go right on past the road after the rock, because it only goes back to the quarry, and that’s not where ya’ want to go (not only did he know where you wanted to go, he knew where you didn’t want to go).”

In spite of his vast knowledge of regional socio-geographical information, Jacob’s real interest wasn’t in how to get somewhere, so much as what one might find along the way. He made it a point to never travel the same route twice, journeying one way to go somewhere and traveling another way on the return back home. To Jacob, it was the joy of the journey, not the anticipation of the destination.

As he made his way along the byways and backroads, Jacob paid close attention to his surroundings. He knew the subtle nuances of his environs, and made mental notes of what was where, and why it was there. He knew when things were as they always had been and when inevitable changes had occurred. The more roads he traveled, the more about life he learned. The more he learned about life, the more of life’s highways he wanted to take.

Archimedes determined that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However, Jacob Johansson didn’t see things that way. Sometimes, you just can’t get there from here — you have to go someplace else, first.

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