We all have paths that we blaze and that we follow. Educational paths, career paths, health paths, spiritual paths, life paths. You may set off down one, or expect to be on one in particular, but find yourself on a different road entirely. You may reach your various destinations quickly and easily or circuitously and with difficulty. Or you may end up at a completely different place than you had planned, as you reconsider your original destination along the way. You may choose a direction deliberately or by default. You may lead or follow others. You may set off on your own.
As I hike through life, I realize that like snowflakes, no two paths are the same. Even when you hike the same path you’ve hiked countless times before, although the trip may be similar, it is never identical to one prior.
Walking along a path through the woods, you step on different patterns of rocks along the way. New leaves fall with each breeze that blows. The wind changes direction. New plants grow. Newly fallen trees block the way. The chipmunks have scurried to a different spot. Your shoelaces are looser. Or tighter.
When someone is walking right next to you, he views the scene from an ever-so-slightly different angle. And he has his own expectations and past experiences which affect his view. While you hike with your son, he experiences hiking with his parent.
New passages emerge along the way, sometimes seemingly hindrances at first. A fallen tree in front of you can provide a bridge to a new point.
There are so many ways to deal with an obstacle in the path. Go over it. Go under it. Go around it. Go through it. Turn around and head back. Or forge an entirely new trail.
You may choose to follow a well-worn path, but your steps still fall uniquely along the way. You may be lucky enough to have someone next to you or a step or two ahead of you who will reach for your hand to help you up or down a difficult step. But you are the one taking that step.
And that step, like the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow, is singularly yours, whether you are walking alongside a river in a quiet section of the woods or along the sidewalk in Times Square.
I love hiking.