Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Take a Hike

I had many reasons not to.  I was exhausted.  I had things to do – mow the grass, edge, weed, remove bird poo from our porch and sidewalk (bird’s nest – sheesh), shop for Mother’s Day, get kids to school, pick up kids from school, haircuts, laundry…just to name several.  Everything in my brain, and every ache on my body was telling me not to.  But, I did it anyway.  I took a hike.

One of my favorite spots to hike is up Pigeon Hill to the top of Li’l Kennesaw Mountain, and that is where the story begins.  It was a crisp spring morning, but just warm enough to throw on some shorts. I began the steep climb up the hill, a rather wide, gravelly jaunt in the shade just across Burnt Hickory Road. The first 50 yards were great, but I quickly began to feel the burn in my thighs and heaviness in my lungs.  I hadn’t even been out there two minutes.

I had the picture of cannons in my mind…cannons that marked the pinnacle of this particular journey. The ones located at the top of Li’l Kennesaw Mountain.  I looked up at the incline ahead of me, and immediately I began to make concessions.  “I’ll just go far enough where I can look out and see the land below.  I don’t have to make it to the cannons.” The cannons seemed so far away.

After just five minutes, I was questioning my will to press on.  I had done this trail in the fall a couple times, and I just didn’t recall it being so steep.  Every ten paces or so, I would look up and doubt myself. After what seemed like an eternity, I came to the end of the path and began the arduous climb up the rock.  This is not like REAL rock climbing, but in the most literal sense, I was climbing/walking up nothing but granite for several minutes. My feet pounded. My heart did the very same. And, before long, I reached the top of Pigeon Hill.

Shortly after reaching the top of Pigeon Hill, the path transitioned from rock to soil/pine straw, and back to rock again.  And, it narrowed considerably. As I pressed onward and upward, I noticed patches of Poison Oak reaching in, trying its best to nip at my ankles. I carefully placed each foot on the rocky path, carefully avoiding the pesky leaves.

Before long, I was having difficulty putting much weight on my left ankle.  Any step down/in that caused my toes to be higher than my heel resulted in extreme pain. So I began to climb more gingerly, putting the bulk of the strain on my right foot and ankle.

I realized that perhaps hiking today was not the wisest choice I could have made.   But, at this point, I was a mile up the mountain. What choice did I have now?

I made the decision that the only way I could continue was to keep my head down. Keeping my head down accomplished two things: first, it was the only way to avoid injury, given the terrain; second, if I kept my head down, I was less likely to be discouraged by what I saw ahead.

I began to focus almost exclusively on the music playing on the iPod, developing a rhythm with my steps. I soon reached the lookout point, and I knew I was fairly close to the top.  I pushed my body and my mind harder, inhaling deeper, more controlled breaths with each pace along the path. As I neared my destination, my pace quickened, and my spirit soared.  I was in the zone. 

I made my way through a final rocky clearing, then around one last bend…and there they were: the cannons.

Perhaps you are facing an uphill battle in your life.  You have legitimate reasons for delaying the journey. You ache, you are tired.  Every time you begin to face it, you are discouraged by what you see ahead.  You have convinced yourself that you will never get there.  So, you compromise.  You feel like you are pressed in.  Obstacles are strewn about, trying to trip you up, and cause your footing to slip. You feel alone. 

But, there is hope.  You can keep the vision you have for your life in your mind.  Play it over and over again.  Don’t look up at the obstacles ahead.  Keep your head down, and take it one step at a time.  It may require delicate steps and careful planning, and some voices of encouragement to help you find your rhythm.  But, in the end, if you persevere, there will be a clearing.  And, you will experience the exhilaration of knowing that the cannons are just ahead.