Since retirement, my husband Bill and I have lived in northern Wisconsin for the last nineteen years. Our house, situated next to a small lake, is surrounded by a forest of hardwood and pine. Numerous trails wind through the woods nearby and several of these paths start only a few yards from our door.
One evening, several years ago, dinner finished, dishes put away, Bill said, “Let’s go outside and take the path down to the lake. The night sky is going to be beautiful.” I hesitated, concerned about tripping and falling down, yet the stars and planets beckoned. I put on my well-worn hiking boots and headed for the door.
Once outside and away from the lights of the house, I stopped and said, “I can’t see the path. It’s too dark out here.” Bill took my hand and gently coaxed me forward. “Barbara, just feel the path. Don’t rush. Take one step at a time.”
I hung on to Bill’s arm while I swept the ground with my foot to make certain there were no obstacles in the way and took a cautious step. I swept the path again and moved forward. Understanding what to do, I let go of Bill and continued, one step at a time, feeling the ground for fallen branches, gnarly roots, rocks and chipmunk holes. When we reached the lake and stepped out of the trees and onto our pier, a starry sliver of universe greeted us. Arcturus, Cassiopeia, Vega, Venus, and the Big and Little Dippers sparkled in the sky. Feeling the path through my fear and hesitancy had rewarded me with heavenly delight.
Feeling the path isn’t limited to detecting hazards on the ground while walking in the dark. Sensing the path is a strategy for life. The landscape of our everyday existence keeps changing and each time we walk into the unknown, we must continue to find our way. We take risks. We choose a mate, a career, a place to live. Sometimes we are forced to change direction when we lose a job, receive a difficult health diagnosis or experience the loss of a loved one. Sometimes our surroundings change due to a disaster or a necessary move.
By the time I was thirteen, I’d lived in five different homes in three different states as my father felt his path and made choices with his career. I didn’t like his path and as a young teenager, I told him so. Saying good-bye to friends, familiar activities, and places I loved, upset me every time. Years later, I saw a gift in it. With each move, I gained confidence navigating new territory.
I keep moving, stepping out of my comfort zone, even if I'm afraid of getting hurt or failing. When I come upon an obstacle, I look for a safe way around it and if the obstacle becomes too great, I choose a different way.
We all get lost. We all fall down. Yet, we can pick ourselves up and learn from the experience.
I still make wrong turns and trip now and then. With continued practice, I’m getting better at feeling the path that is right for me. I pay attention to my surroundings and my fellow travelers. I slow down, I take my time. I listen with both mind and heart. I write, reflect and continue to learn. Publishing a blog is a new path for me.
Feel your path.