This morning, I hiked to the top lookout of a local mountain park. There are many routes to that lookout, and I chose a challenging one. Well, challenging for me, at least. I have not been to this elevation, although I have been on many of the outlying trails.
There were twists and turns, and many places where I couldn’t see where the path led. There were steep portions of the trail, where my breathing became more labored and where I could feel the heat building in my legs and lungs as I walked. And there were spaces of rest and repose, allowing my breathing and body sensations to return to more normal levels.
There are groomed spots, and places where small rocks, pine cones, and even branches cross the path. I noticed animal tracks that had hardened in the earth, a gentle reminder of another presence in the days before when the path was moist. And although the animal was long past, its memory was preserved – at least for the time being – for those whose awareness was directed to the imprints.
And suddenly, there it was. A long staircase cut into a particularly steep portion of the path. A fleeting thought of “why, oh why did I choose this trail” flickered in my mind; followed closely by “just take one step at a time, you’ll get there”. And as I took each step, it occurred to me how this is a terrific metaphor for life. Traversing times where you are unsure where each step will take you, but trusting that step after step towards some new destination was necessary, or important, or inspired.
Or not. Complacency or standing still could have been chosen. Or retracing steps back to a familiar place, but missing all the wonder and beauty and surprise and anticipation of what lies beyond.
Even though many before had taken this path, their steps did not land in the exact places as mine. Their pace and stride and in fact the particulars of the trail itself were likely similar, but not the same. They may or may not have noticed the trees, other landscapes, or animal tracks that I did today. They may have noticed completely different – but equally beautiful – surroundings. Sadly, they may have not noticed the beauty at all. The journey may have been completely lost in anticipation of the goal to arrive at the lookout.
When I got to the top and took refreshing and deep breaths in gratitude and wonder and admiration for the majesty of the view, I noticed what I believe was my most profound lesson of all.
There, at the top of the Apex Summit, the focus of the journey, the highlight of the trail, I noticed there was so much more magic and beauty to discover.
And isn’t that how life is?
We are led to the awareness that even a magnificent summit can be a stepping stone.
There is always more… And it keeps me hopeful still.
In Vibrancy, Laurie Bartley, TTRP