Back before Every Human Being became a vandal, they used to put really cool signs along forest trails, carved out of wood, saying politically incorrect things like "Dead Indian Highway" and stuff. Now, since we've all realized how cool those signs look in our cabin-themed dining rooms and shot full of bullet holes, they have been replaced with carsonite posts dug into the ground, covered with cheap designation stickers, directing and delineating and defining.
Today, day 9 on this really boring and fire-less fire, we got to go running out into the woods after another non-fire around a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, criss-crossed by various other local trails, with new carsonite signs and some remnants of the throwbacks.
I stood staring down one of the trails, imagining what places it might lead to. What adventures and waterfalls and caves and pristine mountain lakes it might know. What bears and chipmunks have crossed it.
Trails are funny things. Until you've been down them, you don't know where they go. And if you ask Some People, once you've been down one, you've been down them all. Kind of like most of life. Some of us have the curiosity to chase down one more trail because it MIGHT end differently than the last three. Or we might decide that one trail was more than enough and we've had our fill of adventures and waterfalls and caves and lakes and bee stings and blisters and poison oak and ingrown toenails and slivers. And we might never hike again. Or maybe we'll steal the signs and hang them in our dining rooms as a momento of That One Trail. Or a reminder of our poor choice of terrain.
I think love is like a trail. And every love is different. But maybe has some of the same scenery. Or maybe it feels the same because we aren't looking hard enough. We're staring at our scuffed up boots and thinking about our blisters. And we're missing the laughing creek next to us. And the Tallest Sugar Pine Ever. And the skunk watching us from under the huckleberry bush.
Maybe some trails are so harsh that we can't ever endure another one. Maybe some trails kill us. Kill our joy. Kill our curiosity. Kill our love.
Because really love isn't a thing that we get from somebody. It's something we carry with us. It the thing WE give to somebody else, or withhold. It's the arrow that points us down the trail. It's the curiosity that keeps us hiking. That keeps our mind off the blisters and the sunburn. Love is the energy that motivates us. No body, no trail can take it from us, unless we let them. Because the adventure is ours. Maybe we choose to share it with the wrong person, maybe it gets a little beat up. But if you dig deep enough you can always uncover it again. Very few people who have the opportunity to hike forest trails for recreation have endured enough real trauma to paralyze them completely. Most of us have scars. But almost all of us have everything we need built in to us to stare down the next trail and WANT to go. Because our love, our passion, our ARROW is ours. Not the ones we share it with - they can twist it, try to break it, but we can fix it. Put the sign back where it goes and lace up the boots one more time. Hike off the muscle cramps. Push through the fatigue. Follow your arrow wherever it goes.