The Trail Is Just a Suggestion

(From Within My Illusions)

 Hector and I met at a coffee shop.
He was working and I was ordering, 
and a friendship formed
over an unusual conversation
about the color pink.

The first time Hector and I hiked together,
I blocked off what I thought
was the appropriate amount of time 
for the distance we would travel, 
given a moderate-to-brisk pace
and the uncertainty of having two dogs with us.

You see, I grew up in suburban Los Angeles, 
in a culture where the goal of a hike
was to burn as many calories as possible 
in the shortest time.

But Hector wasn’t there to make good time 
or cover a certain amount of ground.
He was there to explore 
a new friendship,
an unfamiliar path,
a beautiful day in the woods.

An interesting leaf would catch Hector’s eye, 
and he would run over to investigate.
He’d stop to admire the curves 
of a rotted-out tree stump.
He leaned over to feel the moss 
that was forming on stones.

At one point, we reached a place
that was impassable— 
a tree had fallen during a heavy storm,
and there was no way around it.

“I guess we need to turn around
and go back the same way we came,”
was my obvious solution.

But Hector had a different notion. 
“Or,” he countered,
“we could slide down this little hill
into the creek and walk through the water
a little ways until we catch up with the trail.”

I looked at the “little hill” he was referring to, 
and then at Hector, and then back at the hill

“Uh, you can slide down the hill, 
but I don’t think I can,” I told him.

“Sure you can,” he said as he held out his hand 
to let me know that he would help me.

Moments later,
walking through hip-deep water, 
I laughed at myself and the moment
and the great lesson Hector had taught me.