What was on the other side of this innocent looking path? A treacherous ravine? A bear cave? A pack of coyotes? A nest of rattle snakes? A wretched tangle of thorny brambles and poison ivy? A crazed killer? (We all know they like to hide out in the woods to snag their human prey.) Would this seemingly serene, easy terrain suddenly become more difficult? Would I have to stumble over fallen rocks, dead trees, mud, tall prickly weeds?
Or did the path abruptly end? Would I have to turn around and hike all the way back? Did I have enough water? Would it get dark before I could find my way out? Would I become lost in this solitary woods? Would this sweet little path become my undoing? Should I simply turn around and not even bother to follow the path?
Thinking back to my hesitation as I stood at the trailhead of this quiet path in the woods, I am reminded that we all have decisions to make about which paths to follow in our lives. Many people settle for the easy road. Or at least the course they think will be the smoothest. While others prefer the way that offers more of a challenge. Not knowing where it will lead makes it even more enticing. More of an adventure. Some folks insist on knowing everything about the path before they embark upon it. Still others enjoy the thrill of traveling where they have never been...dangers, pitfalls and all.
I suppose most of us traverse through life following a variety of paths. Sometimes we'll opt for the dull and unexciting but safe and secure way. Other times we'll feel enterprising and pursue a more daring route. A lot of people trudge through life like sheep following others on well-populated paths. Those who are bolder, prefer to explore the path not so heavily trodden. It's scary. It's often lonely. It's filled with surprises. Sometimes they're called foolhardy and rash. Sometimes the path will end unexpectedly. But that doesn't stop the risk-takers. They thrive on new and exciting challenges. Forging down the path least taken affords the seeker an opportunity for more personal reward and self-fulfillment.
Some of us amble our way contentedly through life while others charge headlong with the fury and passion of a lovesick rhinoceros. How we explore life is different for all of us. As for me...did I follow the path in the woods? Of course. And I promptly came upon a large rattle snake slithering across the trail. I quickly backed away, not knowing if more were in the bushes. I patiently waited while the big guy crossed the road and then I continued on my way, carefully watching my steps. But in the woods...you should always watch your steps carefully...that's just a given. Eventually the neat little path gave way to a rutted, rock-strewn, muddy and very narrow trail. Finally, the path ended. And I found myself gazing upon a small but absolutely beautiful waterfall, sparkling in a beam of sunlight like jewels in a brilliant rainbow of color. Amazing. The path had led me to the secret of the woods. It was worth the hike.
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