WHY I WRITE
I CAN BE CONTENT TO BE ALONE, OR ALONE WITH MY PUPPY , BUT I AM NOT A LONER. However, I have found myself on several journeys within the past year when I was all alone, except for God. One of them was a bona fide trip into the real wilderness. But that is a story for another day.
I recently accompanied my daughter on a trip to the wild & wonderful state of West Virginia. Since she is a young married woman that lives four hours away from me, we do not get to spend a lot of quality one-on-one time together anymore. So when she found out she had to go to a seminar up there, she invited me to tag along for a road trip, and I gladly accepted. Although I was pretty exhausted from the long drive, I was eager to explore some of the local parks there. A gentlemen that I know who lives in the area had told me about a state forest where there was a look off that was easily accessible. He felt that it would be safe for me to venture there all alone. So on my first full day there in the southernmost northern state (which also happens to be the northernmost southern state) I ventured out & drove the 25 minutes from the hotel & admired that particular view. Even though a thunderstorm had just passed through, there were several people milling about. At one point, as I sat out on that point & just breathed in the wild beauty, a man with his two teenaged sons happened down. He started to tell me of a hiking trail about a mile down the road that held an even better view at its end. He said it was about a twenty minute walk from the trail head to the view, but before I could garner additional details, it began pouring rain, so the four of us gingerly made our way off of the now slippery rocks, & back to our respective vehicles.
The next day, while my daughter attended another seminar, I made the drive back to this state forest, & started down the trail, though I did not go to the park office & get a trail map. I debated carrying a bottle of water, but if the trail was only about twenty minutes long, I decided that I did not need one. So armed with only my camera, my cell phone (which had no service), & my tiny container of Mace, I headed down, down, down the slippery trail which was still wet from the rains of the previous day. In places it was even a bit treacherous, due to the proliferation of small rocks strewn about, & I had no sooner gotten to the first crossroads than I slipped, tumbled, & nearly fell into the mud! Not a soul in sight, or within earshot. Had I told my daughter where I was even going? I wondered this as I simultaneously gave thanks that I had not taken a bad fall there on the trail all alone, with no one anywhere in sight or within earshot.
Once I regained my composure, I stopped to take in the scenery. What an amazingly beautiful forest!! Tall trees towered over huge boulders, giant rhododendrons, and enormous ferns. Everything was so very green & lush!! I kept walking, snapping a few pictures along the way & was a wee bit startled to see Chip & Dale scamper across my path. Other than these capricious chipmunks, there were no signs of other life for what seemed like an eternity. I started worrying that perhaps this was not such a good idea, coming here all alone. Why were there no other people on this trail on a pretty weekend day?? Another chipmunk scooted across my path, reminding me that I am never truly alone, then another one. And then a pair of chipmunks ran a race on a log beside me. Then three of the little critters playing chase up ahead. I honestly saw so many of the little chipmunks accompany me on my journey down that trail that I lost count of them. They were a consolation & a reminder that God was with me.
It is easy to get anxious when we feel that we are all alone in life. And it is tempting to let our fears take root & destroy our resolve to stay the course. If we will but pay attention, we may receive a sign or a reminder that though we are physically all alone, God is ever present. That could be in the form of a bird, a Bible verse, a phone call, email or text from a friend, or a devotional or scripture reading. I was glad to see the little chipmunks frolicking about, but nonetheless, I was getting a little nervous as that twenty minute walk appeared to be turning into more of a 45 minute walk. What if some wayward traveler decided to try to rob or attacked me on this path? There was no one around whatsoever to come to my assistance. What if I fell and hurt myself not a soul around to come to my aid. What if …?
Just like in everyday life, we can let our fears paralyze us. So I resolved to continue on to my destination, & to silence the doubts running through my head by refusing to give them any credence. I persevered until finally, up ahead, I could see some blue sky peeking through the canopy of trees and leaves overhead. I knew I was almost to my destination!
As I climbed the last few feet down to the rocks I was told about, I first heard, then saw other people. Cautiously, I wondered who they were? As I placed my feet onto the actual landing place, I thought that it was a group of young people with two older people. Of course, I introduced myself. And they asked me if I would take a group photograph of all of them, which I did. They were a group of biology students from Pennsylvania who had come down with their instructors. We stood quietly in awe of stunning view of the mountains & the river gorge, & watched a raven circle slowly over the rock on which we were perched. Eventually I asked one of the young men to take my picture before I regaled them with a couple of my stories. Finally, they turned to leave and I elected to stay there and just soak in the magnificence of it all for a few more minutes. It was not long before an elderly couple made their way down to where I was. The man kept trying to coax his wife closer to the edge so that he could take her picture. She was obviously afraid of falling. That is a fear that I know all too well, as I had that exact same fear for most of my life, until I rappelled off the top of a twelve story building in order to raise money for charity. I shared my own fears with her, & in so doing, I was able to coax her closer to the edge, down to where I was standing, so that I could get a picture of the two of them together.
Watching the time and knowing I needed to get back to the hotel in order to shower before I pickEd up my daughter for dinner, I bid them goodbye. The lady, with concern on her face asked me if I was there all alone? I explained my situation. She begged me to please be safe. But she said to me, “Don’t you worry, though, we will be coming up behind you, bringing up the rear!” That was such a comforting thought! I knew that the group of students was up ahead, & now this sweet couple would be coming up behind me. So my trip back to the beginning of the trail was much more pleasant than when I had come down it, & all just because I knew that I was not alone on the journey. I knew that someone had come down before me, & I also knew that someone was coming up behind me.
And that is why I write. In sharing our journeys, we can help assure others that someone else has walked the same path as them, & that they have survived & grown stronger in so doing. By telling our stories, we are letting them know that they are not alone. By sharing with them the times that we found ourselves all alone with no one but God by our side, we allow them to realize that He is there beside them as well.
Some days I do not feel like writing. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. I do not feel like facing the inevitable criticism I will receive if someone does not agree with my words, or the outright attacks when someone misunderstands my intentions, yet still I write. I do not like to have to contend with people who have never even met me pre-judging me by just my feeble attempts at sharing my experiences, without ever having seen me face to face, but still I write. I do so because I have been on places along the pathway where there was no one but me & my God. I write because I want others to know that if I can, at my age, hike the wilderness trails alone & come out unscathed, that they can traverse their trails as well. I write because I know what it is like to be afraid to go out on the edge, but I also know what it is like to face that fear & do it anyway. I write because I know that God goes before me, & that He sends His angels to bring up the rear as I ascend back up from wherever He sends me to see His glory. He will do the same for you.
– Lou Lehman Sams