I invite you to step off the beaten path. Step off the comfortable road. Dive into a new place, a new horizon, an uncharted part of your woods. Don’t be afraid. Follow your heart into new places. The rewards will be more than you ever imagined….
Today I started down the road, aiming for the Eagle Pond. This is a usual hike, and you’ll probably see pictures sometime during the year. It’s a beautiful pond over which eagles survey the landscape. You’ll like it.
However, today I was thinking about my children as I walked. They’re both off on new adventures today. One has boarded a bus for a fifty hour ride to southern Mexico where he’ll attend the wedding of friends during his Christmas break from the University of California in San Diego. Our daughter prepares to leave for Wisconsin, then Chicago, and finally plans to unlock the door to her new apartment in Manhattan later this week. They’re both venturing into the unknown. They’re both stepping off the beaten trail to explore new places, new landscapes, new ideas.
With the thought of their adventures in mind, suddenly I detoured from the road into the woods. No Eagle Pond today! Instead it had to be something new. I have rarely, if ever, walked in this particular tract of the forest. Surprise and wonder are bound to appear when we venture into new areas. Even if it’s a log perched at an unfamiliar angle, a tree bent down with heavy snow, or a prehistoric-looking pileated woodpecker noisily poking its four inch beak against a rotten poplar….the breath comes a little quicker and livelier as it takes in the newness of the experience.
During wilderness survival class several years ago, we learned about the psychology of familiar trails. Deer follow easy familiar paths. If you’re starving in the woods, find the animal trails. Set your traps beside them. You’re bound to find some meat. Why? Because animals follow familiar trails in the same manner as humans. We get comfortable trekking in familiar grooves, on familiar roads, on secure trails.
One of the biggest challenges for many humans is to leave the familiar path and venture into the unknown. Sure, it can be scary. But it’s bound to deter boredom, lethargy, sadness, apathy. Creativity and joy lies hidden beside unfamiliar streams. I am so excited about the kids’ adventures, to discover what they learn in the newness of their travels.
In the newness we stretch ourselves. We may look silly at times. But I think it’s worth it. On that note, here’s a silly photo. Who knows where that foot will go next?