On a frozen day in December, Eudora Welty, in her story A Worn Path, introduces us to an old black woman named Phoenix Jackson. She begins a long and arduous journey through the woods and over the hills on her way into town. She talks to herself and the animals along the way. She pauses to rest on a log and imagines a little boy handing her a slice of marble cake. She encounters other obstacles along the way before reaching the clinic where the attendant thinks, ?A charity case, I suppose.? The journey is toilsome for Phoenix but she has come for some ?soothing medicine? for her grandson?s throat. As we follow along, we witness her tremendous endurance, her persistence and belief that the human spirit will triumph against all odds and the true meaning of a grandmother?s unconditional love.
We often take familiar journeys that cast us numerous distractions. Just when we think we are headed in the right direction, another obstacle slithers out from under the shrubbery. Old Phoenix said, ?Out of my way, all of you foxes, owls, beetles and coons?I?ve got a long way to go.? She could not change the past and the unfortunate incident that happened to her grandson but she believed that she could change her response to the past, by her endurance. She daydreamed, wished on, and pursued her goal with wonder and good humor.
As adults, we somehow lose the persistence, and dogged determination to accomplish our goals. We tend to give up so easily when we have difficulty, or when we encounter the stumbling blocks that pave the road to success. It is because we fail to recognize that persistence is the result of a continuous dedication to persevering until we succeed. As the man in the field points his gun directly at Phoenix and asks, ?Doesn?t the gun scare you?, she simply answers ?No sir, I seen plenty go off closer by?? She knows her perseverance must be greater than or equal to the demands of the situation. She shows us through her courage, that our purpose should always ignite our spirit.
For Phoenix, the love for her grandson is what sustained her journey. Unconditional love is the commitment and personal sacrifice one is willing to make for another person. In the end, as she took the two nickels out of her pocket and laid them side by side her last thought before her long journey home was to ?buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper.?
The author teaches us through old Phoenix Jackson that our labors should be inspired by love, our persistence and endurance inspired by hope. Each of us may face the prospect of the burdens of others in our lives. We can withdraw deep into the woods where it is safe and familiar or venture on the well-worn path into town for the remedy.