November 8, 2010

Lessons from the Trail

Far off on the horizon the bank of storm clouds make their way steadily to the shore.  There are eyes watching their progression, making note of the surroundings.  Crashing waves, rocky sand underfoot...the sound of dripping from pine needles and the leaves still attached despite the lateness of the year.  The wind caresses the souls brave enough to take it all in, quietly now, but threatening to build.

Turning away from the shore and stepping onto the soft needle-littered trail is a familiar sensation.  The smell of the forest so refreshing and comforting somehow.  The journey starts out lightheartedly, not knowing what lies ahead; it's probably better that way, for if it were known what was to be faced, most would not venture out at all.

The first leg of the journey reveals it's niceties; viewpoints of crashing waves, an island lighthouse long since put to retirement, the horizon line blurred with those lurking storm clouds.  Safely on the trail, the journey continues, beckoning with thoughts of further pleasures.  The trail starts to climb a bit, along with heart rates.  The journey is requiring more effort than at first.  Steadfast and determined, the steps continue.

Obstacles start to reveal themselves slowly, one by one.  Slippery, deep mud bogs down the progress.  Avoidance seems the only reasonable option, so side-steps are navigated, carefully tiptoeing through the foliage at the side of the path.  Successful, though with traces showing on treads, it continues.  Next, fallen trees block the way causing careful determination of the best way to traverse the obstacle.  Over the top, or crawl underneath?  Both ways result in mucky remains to be carried along; the challenge taken on differently by each traveler, bearing unique mud scrapes and moss pieces on each.  A challenge, yes, but not enough to discourage continuing.

More uphill.  Now the wind is picking up, and the mist is starting to creep in among the tree trunks.  The appearance is magical, casting the trees in varying degrees of concealment.  The rain is not far behind, as the sound of the crashing waves far below reminds us of the wildness of coastline.  One foot in front of the other, still determined to continue.  Heavy breath fills lungs, hunger eats at insides and muscles start to burn enough to cause layers to be shucked and carried.  Bulky bags and backpacks that were easily shouldered earlier become heavier with each step.  Sweat forms as this hard work propels them along the journey.

Trees, tall and straight, sway in the wind.  Their tops are pushed by the wind, but there is protection under the canopy of branches.  The roots buried deep into the soft earth, they are stable and steadfast.  They moan and creak as they dance in the wind.  Still further uphill, a shot of color makes itself known; wildflowers gracing the side of the trail.  Beauty can still be found on the journey, even when it's hard.  The travelers continue stepping, sweating, breathing...enduring.  Will they reach their goal?

Thoughts of inadequacy start to encroach,  "I just can't do this."  The air fills with encouragement and mental fortitude is called upon.  More steps, another rest.  Switchback, climb further, always on the incline.  At times the trail breaks forth out of the dark protection and the travelers get buffeted by the stiff wind; refreshing and startling all at once.  What is it about this journey, a simple trail, that is revealing deep scars, hurts and anguish long buried?  It all comes forth in a rush of hot tears and anger.  Having to admit physical weakness is a hard reality to accept.  Stick together, just stick together.

Eventually, the trail levels out.  Doubt nags, is this even the right way?  Deeper and deeper into the forest, away from the cliffs and waves, the wind is now howling and swirling the mist around the tops of the trees.  The noise is incredible.

Stop. Re-check the directions and try to think clearly.  They have been climbing uphill for a long time, it would seem.  Clues aren't matching, doubt takes a firm hold and it is decided.  They must turn back.  They cannot even see the goal anymore, and in the storm, well...perhaps it is most wise to return to the safety of the known.  They turn back.

Along the way, side trips are ventured to gain bearings.  And even in defeat, the travelers are graced with the appearance of two beautiful creatures, natives, staring at them as intruders.  As the deer bound away, the travelers realize the beauty all around them and gain strength from the blessing of being where they are, right at that moment.

The reverse is always shorter than the journey into the unknown.  Quickly, their steps bring them back through familiar territory, even though the storm has now brought drops of rain through the upper branches.  Obstacles are revisited once again, leaving scrapes and bruises.  The wind follows all the way down, down, down, back to the enticing views that first greeted them.  Except now the view wasn't so enticing, it was wild.  Rain coming in a sideways formation, waves of rain that mimicked the waves of the gray pounding ocean smashing onto the black crags of rock far below.  The travelers stood on the edge and felt the wind.  Standing strong and almost defiant, while the wind pushed ever harder, pelting faces with rain in sheets.

They did not reach the goal, painfully forced to admit defeat and failure.  Further information revealed they had come so close...had given up too soon.  Was it the storm that hindered them, causing doubt to take hold, making it desirable to be out of the elements?  Or was it lack of character and weakness?

The road of life twists and turns
and no two directions are ever the same. 
Yet our lessons come from the journey, 
not the destination.

~Don Williams, Jr.



photo credit:  BlackvelvetRav

2 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

Beautifully done, my dear friend. That was quite a journey... I'm still pondering the what the goal was, or if there was one aside from the journey itself.

I do know this, that it's not weakness or lack of character - there comes a time when it's just time to turn around and stop the struggling and go get something to eat.

Thank you... you know. :o)

Kimberly said...

Wow, what a powerful & thought provoking lesson. I couldn't read fast enough. You've created a wonderfully detailed & vivid picture that brings the reader on the trail too. Brilliant work, my friend. :)
I pray that all your readers get a similar reaction to your lesson on life's journey.