Twice each day I walk the same downhill path to the barn for chores. Sometimes I’m half asleep, sometimes weary from working a long day at the clinic, most often in the dark, sometimes sliding on icy snow, sometimes slipping in mud from unending rain, sometimes wading through a sea of overgrown grass. The constant in this twice daily journey is the path itself and where it always takes me– no matter what time of year, the state of the weather, or how temporarily difficult to discern. My feet have learned the way by feel as much as by sight–the twist here, the dip there, the curve around the septic tank lid, the aromatic stretch through the stand of wild mint, all while trying to avoid stepping on the playful farm dogs or the swerving barn cat perpetually underfoot.
I prefer to take the demarcated path to the barn as it keeps me focused on the task ahead of me. If I happen to deviate, I will surely find weeds to pull, a woodpecker to admire, a cluster of cherries to eat, or a sweet pea blossom to smell. The distraction may bring me momentary pleasure but so much work remains yet to be done. I must find my way back to the path and stick to it.
As a teenager, I was a trailblazer, bushwhacking my way through brambles to see what might be on the other side, or to discover a new favorite place in the woods, or simply to prove I was stronger than the brush that yielded to me. In my middle age, I tend to stick to the familiar. I like knowing where my feet will land, what work my hands will touch, and where my head will rest. The adventure of the unknown, so attractive in my youth that it took me to remote Tanzania, is less appealing now. The visible path, even when difficult to follow due to cover of snow, sea of mud, or abundance of overgrowth, is reassurance that I have a purpose and a destination. I can see where I am going and I know where I’ve been.
We tread many paths during our time on this soil–some routine and mundane, leading to the barns and chores in our life, and others a matter of faith, trust, heart and spirit. As tempting as it is to deviate, the path is there for good reason. It doesn’t have to be a super highway, or lined with gold or even paved with good intentions. It is rarely straight. But it must be true, steadfastly leading us to where we are called and back again to where we belong.
It’s time to pull on my boots.