Today we did the advanced hike again, and it occurred to me that although I had been up this road last week, I was experiencing it as if for the first time, having new responses, making slightly different decisions about where to put my feet and how to get up the step inclines. I saw things I hadn’t noticed before, felt surer of my footing in some places but not others, took the time this time to taste the wild blackberries growing in the brush. I needed to navigate a little differently because it rained last night and a lot of the rocks were slippery…and again, it all seemed like a big, bright, flashing metaphor for life – specifically it reminded me of the lifecycle.
I realized that hiking the same trail over and over again once a week was like living through every day of every year again and again. The trail always has that particularly grueling 250-foot incline about half way up. We have to do taxes every year in April (give or take). On the trail, that same natural stairway made from dozens of boulders, each two and three feet high, comes just before that nice level path near the top. Every year we prepare for and celebrate the holidays, then coast (or collapse) a little immediately afterward.
But on the trail, no two trips are the same, and in life, no two years are the same. Each time we see something new (today we saw a zillion red esk newts, they were everywhere because of the rain the night before). Each time some things may be harder (some of the rocks and ground were really slippery, so I had to lean over and use my hands to climb in a few more places). Some things may be easier (my cardio-vascular endurance is definitely improving because I wasn’t huffing and puffing nearly as much – or was it just better conditions? This week’s weather was cooler and less humid than last week).
It made me feel very forgiving of myself, for the times in life when something I’ve done a million times before somehow seems more difficult. It made me think I can be generous and tolerant with myself in real life when facing a challenge. And it gave me the perspective to realize that in the future, just because something is difficult today, doesn’t mean it will always be difficult or be difficult next time. Life will twist and turn, like this trail. Some parts will be easier than others. But I’ll always make it to my destination if I simply keep putting one foot in front of another.