The trail is all mine, or so it seems. It’s a sunny day, a little chilly, but I’m still surprised by the empty parking lot. It’s not that cold.
I claim one of the six empty parking spaces. Seriously, where is everyone? Looking out over the water I’m tempted to crank up my tunes and enjoy the sunshine from the comfort of my car. If I had a cup of coffee this would be a no brainer.
Resisting temptation, I climb out, only to be greeted with a slap in the face by the wind. This is why the parking lot is empty. That sun is so deceiving.
Facing the mountains, I take a deep breath and claim victory in just showing up and soldiering on, but not without a compromise. I’ll do one lap. If the wind is unbearable I’ll go home.
Setting out on the eerily quiet trail, my thoughts take over. I worry that I’ve missed some important notification like PACK OF WILD WOLVES SPOTTED TEN MINUTES BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL. No such luck. I keep moving forward, still not entirely convinced.
Most days I embrace an empty trail, regarding it a gift from the universe as my own private space. But not today. My mind is racing, wondering why my heart, head and feet can’t cooperate and be at the same place at the same time. Stupid wind. This would be perfect if it wasn’t so windy. Or would it? If it wasn’t windy it would be crowded, no parking spots, super-hot...
Staring at the ground in front of me, I lift one foot and then the other. Trying to motivate myself, run to the next tree, find a pretty rock, just keep moving. Nothing is working, I am mad at the wind. Mad at myself. Where is everyone?
Then I see them, footprints on the trail, so clearly marked that I look around to make sure no one is nearby. Still alone (and still no wolves). Placing my foot in the footprints of a previous runner, I can’t help but feel like a kid following footprints in the sand at the beach.
The footprint is large enough that it leaves a soft outline around the edges of my foot. Grateful for an unexpected guide, I find comfort in following the steps, helping me move forward on the trail.
It doesn’t take long for my mind get back to worry. Now I’m concerned that the footprint path will disappear. I cross my fingers that it will lead me all the way around the lake.
My mind shifts back and forth between thoughts of my son going into high school and friends and family dealing with health challenges. Frustrated with the tangle of worries, I decide to give each footprint one of my troubles.
I look down at the footprint ahead of me, Logan’s transition into high school, I’m giving you my worries for today. I lift my other foot. Family and friends in need of relief, I’m giving you my worries for today. As I move forward with each step I release a worry into the footprints ahead of me.
One by one my mind begins to clear.
I come around the lake and run out of footprints. I’m inspired to go to another loop. I’m on my own now, time to give back to the trail and leave footprints for someone else.
I start thinking about those footprints that brought me around, that kept me focused and provided comfort. My footprints merged with those of a stranger, probably also in search of comfort of some sort.
I look around, so many footprints scattered about the trail -- worries and troubles released, happy times celebrated. The trail takes it all, high-fiving my shoe every time I place my foot on the ground: You’ve got this, keep going.
Going two more loops than I had planned, still amazed that I did not pass one person on the trail, I come back to the parking lot to find a woman sitting in her car. I bet she’s wondering should I stay in here and enjoy the warmth of the sun? She gets out, smiles at me, but still seems to be debating about the trail ahead.
I want to tell her it’s not as bad as it looks, you’ll find your way, go get your high-fives, and don’t worry there aren’t any wolves, but she’s here to figure that out for herself.
Instead, I just give her a nod. It’s all yours, friend
p.s. The response to my recent swimming post was unexpected and inspiring, so much so that it made me want to throw away my water wings! Thank you for all your thoughts and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling in the shallow end. I have started a secret Facebook group called Swim Sisters, which is for women who want to learn how to swim and overcome a fear of water. It is a place for us to connect, share and cheer each other on, one wave at a time. If you’d like to join it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Swim Sisters in the headline. Thanks!