Over the past year my wife and I have spent considerable time cutting in walking trails through the forested land that we are fortunate enough to ‘own’ (as if the earth can actually be owned by someone). But the sections we worked were those that, by virtue of their natural flow, kind of designed themselves. We just had to follow their lead and do the clearing. Of course there was some decision making in the process because there were many junctures where the trail could have gone this way or that, or the other way even. Although most of the options appeared to be good, ultimately, we had to decide on the direction. When those trails were finished we could walk them, pleased with, and somewhat proud of, the outcome because it truly was a partnership with nature. Nature, in a sense, quietly guided our willing hands.
But there is an area of our property that is so thickly forested that I have not even had the inclination to explore it.
We took on the laborious task of creating trails through the thick undergrowth of its secluded beauty, and opening that part of the land for our enjoyment. We are, at the same time, creating better access, and easier passage, for the different animals that traverse the property. It’s different than the previous section that we worked. There is no path of least resistance, there is no natural flow of the topography. We pretty much have had to navigate our way on instinct, but instinct gained by the experience of creating the former trails. Even at that, our best guesswork has been playing an important part in the process.
With the kind of density we’ve been cutting through it has often been difficult to see more than a few feet ahead of us, and consequently almost impossible to know if we’re taking the trail in the best direction, even a good direction for that matter, one that will eventually connect with the other paths we made. Every step of the way has been challenging, but rewarding, as we break into a small clearing, or make a turn that feels like it is in harmony with the land. Starting out it had all been pretty harrowing, and somewhat overwhelming, but retracing our steps on a new path, with increasing distance, back to the starting point has enabled us to realize the beauty of our accomplishment. The walk feels natural, the path does feel like it conforms to the lay of the land, almost as if it were set into the forest from above, as if it were created by someone who could see where he wanted to go, and not by someone simply navigating blindly, or relying only on instinct and experience.
At the outset it would have been easy to face this particular section of forest and conclude that it would be too difficult to tackle, too encompassing of a task, too time consuming, with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome. It would have been easy to forego the challenge and just enjoy the trails we were already using.
And it would have denied us the enjoyment of this part of our land.
Life brings with it a certain natural flow. Like the first section of forest we worked, life kind of designs itself at times, and in ways that requires very little of us but to follow its lead. And we do so, at least most of us, willingly, and without concern. We ‘fall’ into jobs, relationships, communities etc. Life and opportunities present themselves along the way, but it is up to us to choose the ‘what’ the ‘where’, the ‘when’, and the ‘how’. That is kind of our partnership with life. That is our privilege.
But, as you know, it is not always quite that smooth.
Sometimes the future looks very complicated, it feels unpredictable, confusing, and tangled. We fear it at times, are intimidated by it, and we put off approaching it as if it were that thick forest with dense undergrowth, an as yet unknown part of our lives that might be easier left undisturbed. It feels like it would be futile to engage with it, too much work, or too much of a mystery, a particularly daunting endeavor were we to enter its beckoning landscape. We are often left paralyzed, unable to take a step forward.
But in considering the future, and what it might ask of us, we must understand that there is no qualification necessary for motivation, or for intent. There is no skill required for desire, or for courage. These are internal qualities we can call on to the same degree that we have cultivated them in the past. They are qualities we can wrap in faith to move us in, and through, an otherwise unapproachable future.
Life calls each of us to carve out our own path at times.
I am enjoying our new hiking trails.
What once seemed like an impossible task has now become a source of great pleasure for my wife and I.
It began with our first step into the forest.