As my sneaker takes the first step onto the rocky trail, I hear a refrain of Frost poetry in my head:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I seem to think of this poem every time I take a hike. I don’t know the full poem by heart, just this final stanza. It’s haunting yet beautiful, something I always remember thinking Frost did well when I studied his poetry in college.
The woods can be hauntingly beautiful, too. Even with the scuttling of squirrels (and my dog trying to chase them), I can still hear the swoosh of the changing leaves as they fall from the trees, and I can still appreciate the silence the woods bring.
. . . . . .
Belle and I went on a hike today to get some fresh air. She was so excited to get back on a trail and in the woods, she was dragging me up the trail pretty much the entire time.
I always love getting out with her. She provides a level of comfort, reminding me I’m not alone, and giving me a way to focus my anxious energy. Even though she gets so excited to be on hikes that she practically pulls my arm out of its socket, I always end up laughing and just in an all-around better mood after these outings with her.
Hiking is something we did a lot of with my husband, so it’s only natural I miss him when we go on our excursions. But hiking has also been cathartic. It’s the time that, even though my mind is inundated with memories, I don’t assign a meaning to anything.
. . . . . .
Regardless of the panting (and sweating) I endured, I felt at peace. For the first time in a few days, my mind was blissfully blank. That’s one reason I love hikes. Interestingly enough, my anxiety doesn’t act up when I’m hiking, and my mind doesn’t continue to recount my depressive thoughts; I’m just in the moment, enjoying the scenery.
Aside from church, I always feel closest to God when outdoors, and I don’t think that’s by accident. When I deny myself outdoor time, I become miserable, and I always feel better once I’ve been able to get out. I don’t mean just taking a walk outside around the block, either. I mean actually getting out into those hauntingly beautiful woods and experiencing God’s natural creation.
At one point on our hike today, I took a moment to thank Him. I looked up at the light-strewn tree tops and thanked God for the ability to get out and enjoy His work, for the ability to walk the trail, and for the companionship of Belle. This is something I typically do in my mind, in my heart, but today I felt compelled to speak it. And as I spoke, I could have continued recounting my thanks and praying for the desires of my heart.
As I felt the gentle breeze brush my face, I suddenly felt calm, like everything would be okay. It felt like the wind was whispering, it’ll be okay…
Honestly, it felt like He was right there.
. . . . . . .
Each time I come across a fork in a hiking trail, I hear another verse of another Frost poem in my head:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by…
This particular poem ends with him saying taking the road less traveled has made all the difference. I think that’s true for anything in life. When we choose to stick to what we believe in, even when others are telling us it would be easier or better to give in, it makes all the difference in not only our lives but the lives of others.
I am reminded I am taking a road less traveled. Everything I have experienced so far are things others my age would probably not experience. Yet, I can’t help but feel I am experiencing them for a reason. Others may give up and even abandon their faith. While I do struggle to keep moving forward, I do not want to give up. I want to see the power of God through my prayers and in my life. And that’s the truth. I don’t know if it’s a selfish desire, but I also don’t know that desiring to see God work is necessarily selfish.
I’ll take these hikes as God’s reminder to appreciate His work, to thank Him even in the midst of woods that seem dark and deep because there’s still beauty there, to trust Him and take His path. Because that is truly the road less traveled.