Thankfully hiking season has started in Colorado. This past winter felt longer than usual, and last summer seemed so very short even though I tried desperately to hold on to the warmth by filling my weekends with warrior activities, convincing myself, sort of, that I was fierce in the face of grief.
One Sunday I put on my new toe socks, grabbed my day pack and, I thought, everything I needed for a long hike and drove up to a mountain park. Once there, I reached over for my hiking shoes and...wait for it...found my flip-flops. Not my hiking sandals, but my flip-flops. Not a problem I thought. I always have running shoes in the car. Oh, I forgot, they were wet from a short walk with the dog in wet grass and were drying out at home.
This meant the only shoes I had were a pair of flip-flops. I thought about just driving home and going for a long walk on the bike path near the house, but this was not what a weekend warrior would do. So putting my flip-flops on over my toe socks, I grabbed my daypack and slowly started down the trail.
This was a mountain trail, not particularly steep, but with plenty of rocks and places to slip. So I walked quite a bit slower than normal and set my feet down with clear intentionality. And then the magic started to happen.
The first people I met were hiking in walking sandals and stopped to talk when their dog fell in love with me. We laughed about forgetting shoes, and they shared that they had done that several times. Ditto the trail runners and the women on mountain bikes. They all noticed my feet and shared stories of forgotten shoes and other essential implements.
I kept walking and decided to reframe my "forgetting" as a gift from spirit. After a mile, I realized how quiet my mind was. A Jewish chant "silence is praise for you" filled my mind and I chanted as I walked. I felt safe in the wilderness as I allowed spirit to be my protection, not my hiking gear.
Somewhere along the way I wondered why I rarely felt this centered, and immediately flashed on my multi-tasking life. My mind is so full of information and must-do lists, that if G-d happened to call me with vital information, I would probably have to put the call on hold. My slow walking was opening space within me for the presence spirit’s still small voice.
After about three miles the trail was flooded, so I turned back and slowly, deliberately, retraced my steps. On the return trip I met people fully equipped for hikes across high Sierra passes with poles, heavy duty shoes and safari hats. They marched passed me without glancing at my feet. I wondered about our learned need for stuff, including high-end everything to protect us from the wildness of life. Maybe all we do need is a bit of faith. Maybe more is less and less really creates more?
At the end of the trail I passed a group of heavily equipped hikers who flinched at my flimsily clad feet. One shocked young man said “You must be a very experienced hiker. What do you know that I don't know?" I laughed and told him that this was an accident that would not be repeated, but it was true that sometimes less is joyfully more.
Later than evening I realized that I had never stubbed my toe, had a rock in my "shoe", tripped, or felt any pain from lack of support. In fact, I felt fully supported and joyful.
Dr. Elisa Robyn, a modern-day Renaissance educator and leader, is the author of The Way of the Well, a spiritual romance, and Pirate Wisdom, lessons in leadership. Her eclectic career positions include geologist, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Futurist, and Innovative Mojo Coach. Currently, Elisa is an executive director at Regis University. She holds a Masters degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her most current writings can be found at https://www.ElisaRobyn.com