October 2, 2016

The Truth of Taking Leaps—Rock Hopping as a Life Lesson.

rock path stepping child nature

The wooded landscape in my backyard is one of the greatest classrooms on earth, although the professors are a wee bit dense, ancient and unresponsive.

I live in an area that was once part of a glacial sheet slide some 12,000 years ago. I wouldn’t know for sure, I wasn’t there. However, this geographical supposition does explain the millions of grey stones spotting the forest floor and hillsides.

Unless split by some force of man or nature these rocks have been rounded smooth and their humped backs are mottled with pale green continents of lichen that may have been growing since before I was born.

Just to give you an idea of the population of these stony anomalies; I could spend the remaining days of my life marking each stone and never get through the couple square hectares stretching out in front of me.

Here is where things get freaky so proceed at your own risk.

I secretly think of these rock formations as gruff, yet magical hump-backed trolls who rise up while we sleep and set about making the trees grow or fall, painting leaves for Autumn, brushing the moss into emerald area rugs and tormenting the squirrels. And no, I’m not an indulger of mind-altering substances. This is all me.

Whether geological deposits left by a receding sheet of ice or mystical managers of the woods, these stones pushing out of the landscape like prehistoric braille have become an important, albeit peculiar part of my daily existence. I cannot explain my penchant for rocks any more than my bizarre obsession with moss. While reading Liz Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things I swear I cried, no, I sobbed because of the moss (you must read to understand).

One of my favourite pastimes in this wooded haven is rock hopping.

Recall the lava game from childhood. The thrill of jumping from one piece of furniture to another as the living room floor magically transforms into a bubbling, scalding sea of red molten. And you simply must get to the other side of the room or all is lost for humanity…or your mysteriously genital-free Ken and Barbie dolls.

As a woman who tries to pass herself off as a grown and reasonable person of life experience, the game has changed as life is wont to do. I no longer place myself under some imagined threat or peril. Instead, I enjoy the challenge of moving myself from point A to point B. Perhaps one trail to another, or this stand of Ponderosa pine to that thicket of Spruce. The challenge, of course, is whether I reach the chosen destination via my hump-backed friends.

As I hop and land, wobbly of foot and awaiting that busted ankle I would be shamefully forced to explain to the adults in my life, I find myself thinking of all the leaps there are to take in a life. Hundreds. Perhaps thousands. And in a myriad of directions. Some leaps are nothing greater than a casual step; easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy. Others are excruciating groin-screamers where I scrunch up my face and strain against gravity to cross the span that suddenly seems much much larger than the eye’s initial guess-timate.

As you might imagine, the path is never straight. The leaps are often challenging and some might say foolish for a woman of my age (sweet Jesus! I’ve reached that age?). There have been many a time when my fixation on finding the next step is so stiff that I find myself far east, west or even south my intended destination. How did I end up at the bottom of this steep hill or entangled in this dead tree?

What I know to be true of these leaps in life or in the woods—big or small—there is no going back. There is no throwing everything into reverse as we flail, all arms and legs and screwed up face. And it is through intention, energy, and forward propulsion that we get to the next and the next.

I have also come to understand that far more than half the battle is seeing, visualizing myself standing on the sturdy back of the next stone, the next awareness, the next clearer expression of myself. If I do not picture myself with feet planted and enjoying the new vista, in the best-case scenario I am likely to fall short and limp away with a bloodied nose or a severe subluxation of the pride.

And the worst-case scenario?

In my mind, it is to remain where I am. Not out of contentment, rather out of paralyzing timidity. Stranded on a stony island, frozen in a column of my own doubts, and calcified by imaginary limitations.

The geological display out my window has a great deal to teach about the truth of taking leaps. Whether it is a leap in consciousness, a hop from tightness to expansion, or an arm-flailing dive from good enough to jaw-dropping; it’s not easy. It’s always risky. There are those who will stay behind as you forge ahead and those whose echoing triumphant hoots pull you forward.

Perhaps the most wondrously butt-puckering elements of this rocky game are the infinite amount of paths awaiting our footprint and how no two rock-hoppers ever chart identical courses. We see and are inspired by differing vistas. We take distinctive risks and pull up short at various times. Our fears and victories and pathways as unique as the swirls of our fingerprints. However, the singular common thread which binds us one and all; choice.

To leap or not to leap.


Author: Melanie Maure

Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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