One of the advantages of living in the West is the accessibility of beautiful slices of nature. You needn’t go far to find something interesting, something pretty or something fun. And so it is with us here, just a few blocks from home is the head of an interesting little trail that parallels a creek as it splashes and swirls down a little canyon. The perfect place for a walk (or a Thanksgiving morning “hike” with the grandchildren!)
And so with the sun beginning to slip in the sky creating that special time of day I call the “Golden Hour”, I set out for a little stroll. The late October air was cool and the pathway perfumed with the fragrance of sage and wet, fallen leaves. The trail is a bit rocky in places but never too narrow and never too steep. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, it was “just right”.
I was enjoying the gurgling sound of the brook and the golden wash of color in the trees and brush as I ascended the trail. There were rock faces on the other side of the canyon where you could stop and try and see whose face and identity nature was trying to portray. I thought I saw the face of Abraham Lincoln, but on closer examination, it seemed to be more that of a vulture. There were falling and fallen trees, bushes low to the ground that looked like they could bear blueberries and mossy rocks all up and down the canyon. With the sun setting, I felt like a child told he could gather anything he wanted with a 2 minute limit in a candy shop. Where to start? Too much to see, too much to feel, too much to enjoy in this confectionary of nature!
The trail is made more interesting by the necessity of crossing the creek several times. Definitely not the Missouri or Mississippi, nevertheless, little Holbrook Creek has plenty of water going plenty fast to get one uncomfortably damp on a chilly fall afternoon. So one steps carefully and appreciates the crossing where the rocks are large and dry and not too far apart. And a big “Thanks” to the lad whose Eagle Scout Project left a nice wooden footbridge over one of the more treacherous crossings.
I hadn’t thought much about the last crossing. As I studied the size and location of the stepping stone rocks strewn across the creek, the route seemed fairly clear…although not a “slam dunk”. I was reasonably proud of my athleticism in getting across safe and sound and continued up the path.
A glance at the watch and the disappearance of any rays of direct sunshine reminded me that it was very close to being as far walking back to the trail head as it was hiking to this point. “Better head back.” Good, mature advice from what the movie theatres and amusement parks consider to be a “senior citizen.” And so back I started. “Down” is easier than “Up” in most cases, and so it was as I started back down the way I had come. But oops! Here is an interesting dilemma…that last crossing of the creek that was possible on the way up now looked different on the way down. The “stepping stone” rocks now slanted in the opposite direction leaving only the smallest ridge on which to balance once my corpulence was put into motion (there is no stopping mid-way in these situations…once the play is called and the ball is snapped, there’s no looking back…it’s step, step, step, step, step and hopefully landing on the other side without slipping into that very cold, cold water). As I tried to visualize this crossing, I kept seeing myself slipping on wet rocks, twisting ankles, breaking legs and training for the senior Para Olympics. In addition, there was the vision of walking the rest of way wet and cold only to emerge at the parking lot (where doubtless there would be someone we know) and having to answer the question, “What happened?”
No, there was danger in this course and with the light now growing dim, a sense of urgency to get on down the canyon added to my concern. I possessed just enough of sense to realize that this way may not work. And so I did what we all do in these situations. Realizing that the limited intelligence that got me into this fix was not sufficient to get me out of it, I prayed. “Please, Heavenly Father, show me the way.” Same stream, same rocks and same fallen trees, but now another pattern of “stepping stones” presented itself. There it was. Another way!
A deep breath and another prayer and I was stepping lively over the rocks and logs that proved a more sure course across the creek. “Thank you,” was the prayer of gratitude I uttered from the other side where I was safe, sound and dry.
As I continued down the path, the lessons of what I had just experienced seemed so clear. First, do we recognize the possible dangers or ineffectiveness of a present course? If things aren’t working as they should, if we’re not enjoying the joy, peace and satisfaction that come from pursuing a right course, do we have the sense to realize that there may be a better way?
Second, how often do we acknowledge that there is a source of help, one that can provide inspiration to know what to do differently and the strength to do it?
I’m so glad I didn’t slip and fall into that creek. What an unnecessary outcome that would have been to be wet and miserable…or worse, to have been wet, injured and really miserable. I pray for eyes to be opened to see the consequences of continuing on a wrong path and the inspiration to be shown a better course. “Lord, show me the way!”