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When I was young and full of vim and vigor, I hiked the trails like a pro. I was strong, muscular, and trim and moved through the forest on the balls of my feet and not a leaf rustled in the underbrush. I had spent years perfecting my quiet stride. I have pictures of me walking right up to deer in the forest and a flying squirrel once landed beside me in the mountains of New Jersey where I spent five summers at a camp for disadvantaged children. It was the experience of a lifetime. I learned to cook there, build shelters out of saplings and binder’s twine, and I learned to name birds by their size, color, and bird song. I learned a lot about trees, how to build fires the old way with flint and steel. Those were some of the best times of my life. I never wore a hat, because I loved to feel the wind blow through my hair which was inky black. I chopped down trees with an ax and sawed them into pieces with a bow saw for the campfire. A five-mile hike was easy to do. The years passed and I became domesticated. I married in my late twenties and had children. I taught every thing I had learned at camp to my son and he now loves the land as much as I do. I went to school and earned  a master’s degree. I spent years working full-time helping people and I loved my job.

The years passed and I grew older, much older.My hair turned grey, my skin wrinkled, and my eyes were no longer as quick and sharp as they once were, my body no longer sleek or trim. My feet had a tendency to trip over every thing in front of me. But I still loved to hike. ( I am more cautious, more careful now in my approach to tackle new adventures. ) I  decided to go hiking again in a wild life refuge nearby. With great enthusiasm, I went shopping to dress myself for the trip.

I saw a hat that was on sale and decided it would help me avoid the hot sun. It looked like a jungle camouflage hat that someone would wear on safari. There were no mirrors around for me to look into. I couldn’t go wrong because of the hat sale and it was big enough to protect me from the elements. I drove home and headed for the mirror in the bedroom. I wanted to see how I would look to other hikers going down the long trail. One look was all I needed. The hat was enormous and it just increased my stature. It rode low over my forehead making me look dangerous. I reassured myself that I had made the right choice because maybe, it was a smart decision to look tough out there alone on the open trail. I draped a whistle around my neck. I looked great! I just needed to make sure I wouldn’t trip over my own feet and fall into the lake. I knew the choices I made would decide  whether my outdoor adventure would end up being a success or failure.

Yu/stan/kema

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