Approx. read time: 4:00 min.
I am not like my friend Dolores.
Twenty years ago Dolores was my hiking buddy. We hiked wherever there was a hill, a butte, a mountain range.
Sometimes she would take the lead. Sometimes I would. We’d take in the spectacular riches of Creation as we hiked along.
But tree roots along the path had a way of rising up and finding Dolores.
“Root alert!” I’d holler back to her, in hopes that she wouldn’t trip.
Often as not she would trip, sending her careening in one direction or another, sometimes toward the downward side of the mountain.
She’d regain her composure, and her walking stick, and we would double over in laughter.
Who needs entertainment when you can hike with Dolores?
I called her Dolores-Trips-A-Lot. She called me Mary-Sharon-Laughs-A-Lot.
Those days came to an end. Dolores moved to the far away Flat Lands in the middle of the country.
I remember another hiking buddy, Marianne.
Marianne was a Real Hiker, and her stamina put me to shame.
When I moved to Eugene she was among the first to befriend me. Maybe because she noticed my hiking boots.
I was barely unpacked when she suggested we go “for a walk.”
OK, I’m thinking. Sure! A walk!
Marianne’s idea of “a walk” was a rigorous hike along the trail that skirts the north side of Spencer Butte, and then a climb straight up the southward trail to the 2,000 foot summit.
She wanted to give me a good view of the town.
I got my workouts, for sure, hiking with Marianne. She eventually moved north. So I lost another hiking buddy.
Mostly, now—well, always—I hike alone. It’s peaceful. I can go at my own pace. I can stop in wonder, pause for a photo, or take on an incline with vigor.
And I discover now that my hiking buddies come in other shapes and sizes.
Like Brother Mountain Garter Snake with the delicate vivid green stripe along his spine, who often greets me near the west trailhead along the McKenzie River Trail.
Maybe half a mile later little Sister Mountain Garter Snake crosses my path, too.
These are kindly snakes, I’m pretty sure, not really wanting to be in my way. They scoot in little serpentine coils and disappear, without a sound, into the thick understory.
Today, as I begin my hike along the Ridgeline Trail, the morning is cool, and mostly overcast with a thin marine cover. I pass the occasional hiker, the occasional dog-walker, the occasional runner.
And now, what is this that I espy on the trail? Ancient Brown Snail, with a luxurious red-brown camper affixed on back.
What to do? this Ancient Snail must be asking, smack dab in the middle of the hiking path and consigned to move at, well, a snail’s pace.
It’s OK, Ancient One, I say, as I get down on one knee, camera in hand, to get a close-up shot. It’s OK.
Ancient Brown Snail tilts the head, working those two little antennae, to see what all the fuss is about.
If I were not paying attention I could have accidentally impaled Ancient Snail with my walking stick. Or felt the crunch of a shell beneath a boot.
But, thankfully, I didn’t.
These trails, I discover, are not about deathly mishaps but about peaceable accompaniment, about companionship, planned or unexpected, along the journey.
I sometimes wonder, if I unexpectedly came upon Brother Cougar, or Mother Bear, would we also share an encounter of peace?
Peace, I discover, is the hidden companion on these trails, and the hidden companion everywhere else I go.
Peace, not only within me, but radiating, I discover, through all Creation.
I call this peace the Spirit of the risen Christ.
Where do you discover peace? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
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Photo credit: Mary Sharon Moore, Brother Snail on Ridgeline Trail, 2020