My summer has finally arrived. After working a half day Friday and laying by the pool the other half, I feel like my break has really started. Then on Saturday my hiking buddy Jessica came up so we could hike our favorite trail…Raven Cliffs. We got an early start so as to beat the heat, bugs, and Saturday hikers. Stepping into the woods, I felt my shoulders relax and my soul breathe. Truly, the stress of the school year lifted off of me. Due to the recent rains, the creek was laughing more loudly than usual and the rushing water was calling me to come deeper into the forest. I took a deep breath to fill my lungs and also filled my nostrils with breakfast being cooked over a nearby campfire. The birds were just waking for the day and their morning songs seemed chipper, if a bit sleepy. The coolness in the air was a reminder that we were in the mountains, while the damp humidity introduced us to summer. Down in the moist valley, the trees were full to overflowing with green growth. Almost jungle like. Everywhere seemed to be teeming with life, and my heart rested as if I had just come home.
Footfalls and trekking poles were quiet enough to be lost in the sounds of the tumbling water, which was in stereo. The water-rush bounced around the hills and echoed off the trees, which kept the breeze going, adding to the sound. The lacy blossoms of Mountain Laurel were in full bloom, dotting the landscape with white clusters and covering the trail with petals in places so it appeared a wedding had taken place. The pace settled in and comfortable conversation commenced. It is such a lovely trail in that it follows the stream the whole way and so it is as if the water is a companion, joining in the discussion. We three friends have had dialog often over the years, and we know our ebbs and flows between interchange and silence, between airing our thoughts and letting them hang amongst the branches.
On this day, the trail was wetter than normal which requires more care when stepping and climbing over rocks and rivers. More rain means more mud, and more moss, and more slippery surfaces. In the places where the stream must be crossed there are rocks, but the path across them requires a choice. Which ones? What is solid and what is slick? What is wiggly and what is stuck firm? When approaching a place of multiple possible routes we determined it is simpler to go with the intuitive movement, than to hash out all the possible options in your head. The mind will spin and have your feet moving tentatively, which actually increases the chances of picking the wrong rock and ending up with wet feet or a wet behind. Jess said, “You have to trust your footing” and I knew there was a lesson in that phrase. It resonated with me because when I approach a place on a trail where footing is questionable, I have learned to recognize patterns in rocks and water. I also know that going across kind of on tippy toes is more effective than using my trekking poles. That is the opposite of how you would think it would be. You would think that planting poles and plotting out each placement of the feet would be less risky, but that is not so because your mind kicks in to analyze every possibility. Then it whirls with options, and fears, and dangers… and, and, and. Soon you are nearly paralyzed. To be sure footed, you have to pick your route carefully, but then go with it. Hesitation midway through will end in wet feet every time. More times than not you will find that “trusting your footing” will serve you well. You will be amazed at what you can do when you follow your instincts.
There is a lesson in this story. (of course 🙂 ) Life hands you many circumstances in which it is difficult to see a way across, or to know which way is the “right” way. In these times you have to trust your footing. There are solid rocks which will stand firm for you. They are your foundations. Your beliefs. Your God. He is not going anywhere, will not abandon you, and can be trusted to get you to where you are going. The other stones, or balance-beam-wide bridges, are your family, your relationships, all the things that are strong…that you know are trustworthy. But then there are the places where you just have to move on instinct…and go with your gut. It is intuitive. It is being moved by the spirit when you cannot know fully the outcome. It is faith…and trusting in your footing.