Went hiking with my husband. Early September, I remember. First day in weeks that it was cool enough to go. Loved it, cuz once we got into the woods, there was a small bit of breeze that always seems to want to be described as skin-kisses from the trees.
Started down the path and, a little while in, got to thinking about the act of walking. How I was taking each step one at a time and navigating the roots and stones and mud along the way. Focused only on each step and my feet, I was looking down. Not around. A poem came to mind, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson. Take a moment to read it, then I’ll tell you what I got to thinking about it. Go ahead, read the link. It’s short. I’ll wait. 😉
K. So there I am, stepping over rocks, trying to keep my balance and thinking how the poem depicts human nature. How we find ourselves doing something that doesn’t exactly work for us, yet we repeat it as if it may turn out differently if we just try it a second, a third or a fourteenth time. Fortunately in the poem, each time she walked down the sidewalk something changed. Her awareness shifted, she changed a behavior and ultimately changed her course. Which worked out great for her, in the poem. Thinking its not that easy for most of us most of the time.
What also struck me while I was walking was that the poem was about one person. No one else. Just the person walking down the street. Wondered where the other people were. Was anyone walking with her? Did she encounter anyone else on any of these walks? Could she have asked for help? Who knows…
Got interrupted. Became aware of someone coming back from their trek, walking towards us on the path. They were maybe in their early 20s, had a cap and a backpack on, and I thought they looked ‘experienced’ at this. They looked at me, our eyes met and they said, ‘Would you like a walking stick?’ and held out a 4-foot long branch to me.
Caught me off guard, to be honest. It was unexpected and the gesture surprised me. In that flash of a moment we connected. Kind eyes, warm smile, heartfelt offer. Found myself saying yes. Took the stick with gratitude and, for some reason, felt cared for. Honored somehow. This gentle soul saw me, acknowledged me and offered me something to help me on my hike. Wondered why. Who knows…
Went on our way, winding along the path as it widened and narrowed and climbed up steep terrain. After about an hour, got to the waterfall – our goal. Hubby went wandering off to get to know his new camera. I sat on a boulder and took in my surroundings. Cicadas were buzzing, crows were calling, and shadows and light were dancing among the leaves in the afternoon breezes.
Taking in the cool mist from the falls and thinking about my momentary friend and their walking stick. Suddenly realized that the branch – now my walking stick – had enhanced my hike. Had been able to enjoy more of everything when I was using the branch cuz I wasn’t as focused on my feet and on every careful step. This person enhanced my walk. Don’t know if they meant to or not, but they did.
Now I’m thinking about that walking stick as a metaphor for all of us to consider. How, when we are offered a surprise from a stranger with kind eyes and a warm smile, we can accept it without question. Because if we do, it might make our walk a bit easier. After all, who knows…?