Yesterday, I went for a walk in the woods with a friend. Toward the beginning of my trek, I stepped in ankle-deep mud that threatened to keep my flip-flop for life. After rescuing my shoe, I decided to put both in my backpack and walk barefoot. At first I was upset because my shoe and my foot were both incredibly muddy, and regardless of my choice of footwear I had not intended for that to happen. As I walked however, the bottom of my foot was more or less cleaned by the ground I was walking on and the top eventually dried, ceasing to bother me. I had to let go of the need for my feet to remain clean, because there were more mud pits. There were puddles and grass that stuck to my feet as I walked. By the third mud pit I had rolled my pant legs up and embraced it, feeling the energy of the earth as I walked. This was my first lesson: everything always works out.
A little way down the trail I took a wrong turn and ended up at a swamp, meaning I should have turned right at the fork rather than left. As I was swarmed by mosquitoes and starting to feel like I should just head back to the truck, I was struck with a thought. If I had given up every time things got tough, I would get nowhere. I returned to the fork in the trail and took a right, continuing my adventure. This was my second lesson: defeat is not an option.
It wasn’t too long before a moose crossed my path. She was as wary of me as I was of her, so I sat down on the mossy incline to my right and waited patiently. We watched each other for a couple of minutes before she seemed to accept that I was not a threat. It took me a little longer to allow the general anxiety to subside, but I eventually continued on my way, taking note of the moose still in the area to my right. This was my third lesson: respect is more effective than fear.
As I walked, I became more comfortable with being barefoot. I trudged straight through the mud pits instead of attempting to avoid them. I walked through mud puddles and over spiders, trusting that if I gave them their space they would give me mine. I took note of squirrels in the trees, rabbit droppings on the trail, and bear tracks bigger than my feet. My friend and I struck a loud conversation as soon as I smelled the bear in the woods to our left. The bear left us alone, as he was probably just as interested in avoiding us as we were in avoiding him. This was my fourth lesson: what will be will be.
Eventually I reached my destination: a secret beach at the end of the trail. We set our pack and shoes on a rock and ate our sandwiches, then walked (still barefoot) down to the water where the tide had gone out far enough we were able to put our feet in the glacier mud. As I stood in the cold Alaskan ocean water I felt small and insignificant, which was a good thing. It reminded me that the world is such a big place, and I should simply enjoy it rather than trying to control every aspect of my life. I picked up a rock from the water and mentally put all my worries and anxiety into this solid thing. As I threw all my worry into the vast ocean before me, I learned my fifth lesson: It’s okay to let go.
My fifth lesson stuck with me as I was rock hunting along the beach. I found a beautiful piece of quartz that had been worn down by the ocean until it was a perfect heart shape. I considered keeping it, but if I did no one else would find it and be able to appreciate it. I held onto it for a moment as I built a stack of zen rocks. The heart rock was the final piece of my masterpiece. It was here I learned my final lesson: balance.
I remembered these lessons as my friend and I eventually left the hidden beach and journeyed back to the truck. The mosquitoes and mud pits were insignificant. The bear scents were noticed and we acted accordingly, but I was not worried. The moose was remembered, but long gone. I stepped on a sticker bush that had fallen onto the path, but I pulled it out and kept walking; what will be will be. I returned to the truck feeling refreshed and relaxed. Nature told me exactly what I needed to hear, and I silently thanked her as I prepared to return to civilization.