Sometimes the path is clear and sometimes it seems like a dead end littered with bunches of rocks, fallen branches and nowhere to go. I love to walk around my in-laws house outside Conifer. There are no trails, just Colorado mountain ‘wilderness’ that flows over and around the mountain. When I walk, however, I find that I need to change my approach and mindset that I use back in the city as I drive my car or ride my bike. In the city there are clear roads and paths to follow, mapped out and created by others to create a safe and orderly way for all of us to get around. In fact, if one does not stay on these roads and paths there could be trouble – whether it be cranky neighbors or uniform clad officers lining up to take me away. Down the mountain I need to focus on staying on path and trusting those who planned and made the roads and paths that they will take me where I intend to be.
Walking around up the mountain – in the ‘wilderness’ – is a different story. There is no path. At first glance when walking it appears as if there is no way to walk and no intended place to walk towards. I find that in this setting I need to look more deeply, more closely at the no-path before. When I do, I notice that the two rocks ahead leave a nice sized space for me to walk through … I detect a bit of a winding grade – hospitably carpeted by pine needles — to get me around the next bend … I discover a tree holding its branch out to give me just the balance I need to ascend the small crest in the hill. Before I know it, there is a path and it takes me forward to the next place on my journey.
It sounds like an overstatement of the patently obvious, but I would not find these paths among the wilderness if I was not here. Putting myself in this place and taking the time to explore I use some ‘muscles’ that I do not normally use on the bike paths of Stapleton. I find that having these ‘muscles’ toned and in good shape serves me well when I find myself in other ‘wilderness’ settings – both of the physical and spiritual nature.
The ultimate mythic ‘wilderness’ experience takes place in the pages of Torah. The Israelites spent generations in Egypt – on a very distinct and rigid path. Imagine the path finding muscles they developed during their wanderings in the wilderness … a hint of the muscle building we are about these days of Teshuvah.
If there is one thing that is certain for all of us – beyond the cliche of death and taxes – is that we all will find ourselves in new and unfamiliar emotional and spiritual places. Taking time to leave the usual path and road we take each day, each week, each month to understand such ‘wilderness’ … offers us a precious chance exercise those muscles that will help us see paths where there appear to be none.