Just a Path

Hiking and walking in the woods have taught me a lot of things. It is also the time I am my most reflective and philosophical. I do my deepest thinking hiking alone or walking in the woods with my dogs.

Sometimes the trail is familiar. Sometimes I deliberately choose the tried and true familiar route. Often, I like to explore. Usually, when I explore, I have very little idea of where it is I’m going or how long it will take me. I have found some fantastic places as a result.

There are times when I realize it might be better to backtrack. Other times, I note in my head that an area is ripe for exploration, but this is not the day.

I’ll admit, I’ve been lost a few times. There are times when I stamp down the rising panic because I know that eventually I’ll reach some sort of destination, or maybe I’ll find someone helpful, or even locate a helpful marker of some sort. However, I also admit I’ve never fully panicked and that is because there is great fun and adventure in exploration if you open yourself up to it. I also have a fairly decent sense of direction and I hike with dogs that are very good about leading me places, including back home. Thank you Youke.

Despite my thirst for exploration and impetuosity, I also have a great deal of common sense. I usually know when I might be taking it a bit too far.

Hiking and walking in the woods have taught me that all paths move. The common outlook is that paths move forward. But one can also turn around and look back, or even trek back the same way they came. In fact, sometimes the most beautiful views are those behind you. Always take backwards glances. But don’t start walking backwards. That usually results in tripping or falling, and sometimes great injury.

And don’t forget to pick your head up and look around, and not just look at your feet or the path directly in front of you. The world is wild and beautiful. If you just plod along, you’re missing so much of your surroundings and beauty. You might also be missing a possibly dangerous encounter if you only plod along, head down, intent on getting “there” wherever there is.

Plodding along, head down, one foot in front of the other, also sometimes means missing those interesting side trails. I’ve found the most interesting things and seen the most beautiful views by stepping off onto a side trail. Even when they sometimes, in fact often, dead end suddenly.

I realize many like a trail that moves forward in a straightforward fashion. Sure, it may bend and twist, but you follow it. Then comes a fork and a decision must be made.

And let’s not forget loop trails. Seeing mountains and other things from different angles. A destination that takes you back from where you started.

There are those among us that merely want to conquer the trail ahead. A feather in the cap, a brag of accomplishment, and the faster it has been vanquished, the more the venture is applauded. I’ve been there and done those, but I enjoy the journeys where I can pace myself moderately and take a gander around so much more. This was something that getting older taught me.

If you haven’t figured out by now that a path is a metaphor for life’s journeys, now you know.

Today is December 31, 2020. I know that the vast majority are ready to bid the year a hearty farewell.But if you’re reading this, you’re alive. Some did not make it down to the path to the water’s edge and some did not, or could not, cross the river that was 2020. If you did, congratulations. We all got our feet wet, and I sincerely doubt that 2021 is going to be anything but a great deal of mud, but there’s still a path.

I intend to explore it and to wander where it may take me, even if I have to do a bit of bushwhacking.

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