For me, they represented a contemplative stroll through Ozark Forest and a challenge to my irrational fear of getting lost, the latter deepening as I aged. I envied friends who sensed God’s love while hiking in the woods.
I passed Station I: Judgement. The trail ran alongside a gorge, a creek meandering at the bottom. II: Carries. I followed the gentle slope downhill. III: Falls Down. I bored the location of an uprooted tree into my memory, hoping it would help me find the way back––as if crosses planted three yards apart were insufficient signposts. The trail bottomed out where the creek trickled over it. VII: Falls Again.
I started toward a bench just ahead, when my knees began to tremble. I wasn’t even lost, but my knees didn’t care. I'd hit an invisible wall at the edge of my comfort zone. Anxiety would turn to panic. It always did. To hell with contemplative strolling. In my haste to retreat, I nearly crashed into Station X: Gamble.
I risked three more steps. The bench within reach, yet my terrified feet refused to close the gap.
Ashamed, I raced back toward the monastery. Irrational fear, Dawn. You should have stuck it out. Rested, panting, at Sation V, which I hadn’t noticed on the way down: Compassion. I traced each letter with my fingertip, the painted wood cool and smooth to the touch.
Tomorrow I’ll walk a little further.