I’ve just spent a week at an old manor house on the banks of the St Lawrence River.
This is usually my summer playground; this is the first time I’ve come in the winter. The apple trees are bare; the green fields and trails I’ve come to know and love are covered by a thick white blanket of snow. The woods around the house look like Narnia when Lucy first came through the wardrobe. In fact, by one of the paths there’s even a lamp post.
The first afternoon I went out for a walk, I stuck to the paths which the caretaker had cleared with his tractor. I wanted to see the water, but didn’t dare to try and find my way to the riverbank, up and down hillsides knee-deep in snow, so had to content myself with a distant view.
But on the second day, the sun came out, and I noticed that someone else had been intrepid enough to break her own path down the hillside.
Now I know what it means to literally walk in someone’s footsteps. I followed the trail along the stream, but eventually found that instead of going up through the sumac grove and down to the dock where we go to sunbathe and swim in the summer, it went back around to the house.
But by this time I had realized something. The snow was deep, but it was not impassable. Knowing that someone else had already come this way made me confident enough to strike out on my own.
A tough job becomes enjoyable, even exhilarating, once you put your heart into it. And when I made it to the dock, I was rewarded by the cold, clean wind blowing off the water, a thin skein of wild geese flying like an arrow through the sky, icicles festooning the river reeds, and huge slabs of ice floating by in the water just below my boots. Hard to believe right now that in a few months all this white and gray will burst forth once again in glorious green, that I will stand with bare feet on these same wooden boards that will bake and sizzle again in summer heat.
“The world has to be crossed. But there are no roads made for you. You yourselves will make the way through the mountains, beating it out with your own footsteps.” (The Way #928)
So often in this adventure of life, we can paralyze ourselves with imagined dangers, fear of the unknown, or just plain love of comfort. The good news is that we are not alone. If we just look hard enough, we’ll find another person who can show us, if only by their own silent example, how to beat out our own path to reach something truly worthwhile. All we need to do is have enough faith and daring to start out in their footsteps.