Sometimes We Fall

Yesterday Dave and I spent three hours hiking at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, one of my favorite parks within a 30 minute drive from where we now live. Largely dirt paths through forested areas and, once we put some distance between ourselves and the trailhead, very quiet except for the birds in the trees and the ducks on the lake.

Walking over some wet leaves on the path, I tripped over a hidden tree root. Unable to catch my balance, I went sprawling on the ground, my right forearm and hip taking the brunt of the fall. The scrape on my forearm is not a pretty sight. We had water to clean the worst of the debris from the area, but no first aid supplies with us. (And, of course, I fell at the point furthest from the trail head, the point at which the way from which we came and the return route were about equidistant.) It only stung at first, but within a half mile the sting turned to stiffness and pain.

We can’t stop all our falls. It is true I might have been able to break the fall had I been using my walking poles, but maybe not: two of my three falls on the Camino occurred while I was walking with poles. It is true that mindfulness of our surroundings minimizes the likeliness that we will fall, but I was paying pretty careful attention to the path. Sometimes, no matter how careful and mindful we are, we will fall.

The only question is how do we respond to our falls, physical or otherwise. We can be annoyed with ourselves or the situation. We can feel sorry for ourselves. Or we can pick ourselves up, wipe ourselves off, and keep walking.

We enjoyed the rest of the hike yesterday.

It is true that some of our falls are a lot more serious than a stumble in the park, no matter how much pain that causes. But it is also true that it is always our choice how to respond to our falls.


God in The Mountains

The other day we hiked around Mount Jenner, in the Berchtesgaden area of Germany. It was a glorious clear, day – a perfect day for hiking.

At one point I looked up to see a mountain top with a cloud hanging over it. My first thought was Jesus on the moutaintop during the Transfiguration. My next was Moses on the mountaintop receiving the Ten Commmandments.

Whatever the image, it was awesome. Majestic. Wonderful.

As we walked, I commented to Dave that I recognized that there were some people who could look at what I saw during our hike and not see God. But me, it is not possible for me to see what I saw and not see God.

God in the mountain. God everwhere.


I Can’t Do That

Yesterday we were on the hiking trail in the Berchtesgaden area for nine hours. The hike ascended to a fairly high elevation pretty quickly and the views were spectaculular. (My internet connection here is pretty limited so I can’t easily post pictures.)

Early on in the hike, I looked to the top of the peak and thought to myself, “I can’t do this.” Almost immediately after the thought arose, I heard in my mind the voice of Jitamaro, who directed me in my long vipassana retreat in Thailand. Jitamaro was saying: “All such thoughts as ‘I can’t do this’ are illusions. Games the mind plays. It is your choice whether to follow the illusion or not.”

So I let the thought that I couldn’t do it go. And I did it.

I’m not saying the hike wasn’t difficult – it was. But I hiked up the mountain and down and enjoyed every minute of it. The day truly was an experience of God’s grandeur! And I am very grateful for it.

Trees: A Gift from God

I just got back from today’s hiking adventure: Lake Maria State Park. What a wonderful day!

I love trees. I especially love trees in the fall. Someone may quibble with me about whether the “peak” viewing of the changing leaves was last week or this week, but today was gorgeous. Shocking reds. Brilliant oranges. Golden yellows. Each color beautiful in and of itself, but together – breathtaking.

And that’s just the leaves. The trees themselves were majestic to behold. Even the fallen ones captivated me.

All day I kept thinking: Gift from God. All of this is gift from God. For us. And then, when we had gotten back to the trail center, we decided to do one last short trail – an interpretive trail that had an accompanying pamphlet explaining the sorts of things such pamphlets do.

The last item in the pamphlet was labeled, “How Valuable are Forests?” In answer, it quoted the following from an unknown author:

I am the heat of your hearth on cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun. My fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you travel on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, the shell of your coffin. I am the gift of God and the friend of man.

Thank you God, for the gift of trees.

Fall Hiking

I just returned from an eight mile hike with my husband in Afton State Park. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Clear blue skies and sunshine and comfortable cool walking temperature.

I write here with some frequency about hiking because, as my posts suggests, it is an activity during which I am acutely aware of the presence of God. The sun shining on my face, the trees majestically reaching upward, the birds singing – all feels and speaks of God.

Afton is a fairly large park (as may parks here in the midwest are), and at one point, I thought to myself, “I’m not exactly sure where I am.” And I felt God and I say at the same time together, “That doesn’t really matter, does it? We’re here together and that’s enough.” Indeed, it was.

I spent a lot of time smiling today. Hiking does that to me. Fills me with joy.

If you have been feeling down, my advice is simple: Get yourself out to a park. It doesn’t need to be one with twenty miles of hiking trails, like the one I was at today (although there is something nice about being in a place large enough so you don’t hear the sounds of any vehicles). But someplace where you can walk on some dirt paths between a canopy of trees and hear the birds. Be with nature. Be with God.

Forging Ahead

Yesterday morning Dave and I decided to go for a hike. Regular readers of this blog know how much I love hiking and I had great anticipation for this one.

After a pleasant walk around Lake Minnehaha creek, we headed for another park. First we couldn’t easily get to the park entrance. Then we had difficulty finding the trail head. Then it started raining. On the trail we hit a “trail closed ahead” sign, blocking the way we wanted to go. Shortly thereafter I couldn’t find a crossing that the trail map indicated should be where I was standing.

At more than one of these moments, I was a breath away from saying to Dave, with all frustration and annoyance, “___ it. Let’s just go home.

But I didn’t and we continued on. And the results was a lovely hike in gentle rain, in a lush and beautiful setting.

Had I given up on the day because things weren’t going according to my plan, I would have missed all of that glory, driving home in irritation rather than filled with the beauty of God’s creation. That would have been a shame.

God on the Loop

My idea of the ideal vacation was once wandering through museums in Italy (the visits punctuated with lots of good Italian meals and wine, of course) and perhaps there will come a time when that again is my ideal. These days, however, perhaps because I spend so much time – particularly during heavy writing periods – sitting in front of a computer, my idea of the perfect vacation is to do as much hiking as possible (with some breaks for hiking).

Yesterday was the first hike of our vacation, Acra Point Loop in the Catskills. (Yes, back in my home state of NY.) Dave thought it would make a nice easy hike for our first day. Not quite right: Almost as soon as we passed the trail head, there was a difficult to navigate path through rocks and deep tree roots. And, while the elevation was nowhere near some of the heights others might consider serious climbs, the six mile loop was a challenging enough first day hike for a 30 pound overweight mid-50s woman and her 69 year old husband.

A little huffing and puffing aside, it was a perfect day. No vehicular traffic and not another person on the entire trail. Just the sound of running water, trees rustling in the breeze, and the calls of birds and insects and others of God’s creatures. Sun and a cool breeze. Beautiful vistas at several lookout points.

For me, hiking is always a day of just hanging out with God. No agenda. No rush. Just time together feeling the earth beneath my feet and enjoying the beauty of creation.

Thanks for the hike, Lord. It was a good time.