Trusting the Trail Markers in Times of Change
I knew that trusting the trail markers would get me to one of my favorite benches. Only as I approached it, it felt like it had been moved. Something felt off. This land on Honeywood Ridge had a story for me to experience.
With spring here and the snow is (mostly) gone, options for trail availability have opened up, even on the 56-km section that cuts through my area. The bench sits on a portion that runs generally north-south, crossing open farmland, cutting through wooded areas, and winding around rocky hillocks. Deep snow, open fields, and wind make access challenging during the winter and I’d only made it once at the end of the season. Even then, I’d chosen the most easy-to-navigate path from the north. Now that the trails were bare, I decided to approach from a southern access point.
Following the Trail Markers
After a 700m ascent along an unmaintained road allowance, I turned right, climbed the stile and entered the mixed deciduous forest. Many beech trees live here, their tall stately trunks with smooth bark, reminiscent of an elephant leg. The young, in particular, retain their dead leaves well into the next spring until they’re pushed off by new growth. It makes them easy to identify in the understory. Light breezes elicit playful rustles.
Green hadn’t begun to show and the trail was covered with last year’s composting leaves. Even though I loved winter walking, I welcome spring trails! Now that the blanket of snow has evaporated, it feels so good to walk on the earth, inhale the mustiness from fallen logs, and touch the mosses. The sense of imminent new life waits just beyond the next step. The meandering path follows the wooded valley, snow still sleeping in the shadows, up to a meadow where I’d eventually come to the bench.
Disorientation in Times of Change
Beech trees have taken on trail duty—blazes mark the trodden path. A fallen tree half way up, split so a quarter pie-shaped section was missing, made a perfect bench where I could rest half way up. I tossed my backpack at one end to use as a headrest and stretched out, curious to see what cloud shapes were crossing the sky today. It wasn’t far to the top from there. When I crested the hill, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Off in the distance was a bench looking just like the one I was heading for. I wasn’t expecting it so soon or in that location or orientation.
At first, I thought there were could be two benches along that section of trail and checked the landmarks, but no, that was the bench. What confused me was that the trail approached in a direct line from the south. Sitting on the bench back in the winter, I felt like I was facing east and that the trail also continued east. In fact, the bench faced south east and the path led south. Now I had to reorientate myself. Fences, forests, and farmland all had to reset ninety degrees on my internal compass.
I’d also walked this entire trail in late summer when trees were in full foliage and fields had not yet been harvested. Winter conditions, even though I had a full field of vision, had thrown off my internal bearings. The trail is well marked and there was never a danger of getting lost. I only felt lost.
Realigning in Times of Change
No one, myself included, has escaped prolonged upheaval, change, and uncertainty in their lives in the past year. External conditions cause confusion, throw us off course, and alter our sense of direction. Sometimes what we need to do is wait, take a few deep breaths, let things settle, and approach things from a different direction. It’s amazing how clear out path can become.
The trail is always marked, even when it’s hard to see. That we can trust in. We don’t know where help in sorting things out will come from. It always materializes, albeit not always in the form we expect. Sometimes, it’s the beech trees. Other times we have to wait for the snow to melt. It could mean looking at things from a different perspective.
Letting go and trusting the trail markers in the midst of change can be scary. But like the leaves on a beech tree, rest assured that letting go of what no longer serves us makes way for new growth. Life is always working for us.