It began with signs. Along the way, in the park, there were little pink and red flags tied to trees. Those flags were set deep into the thicket and seemed to have nothing to do with me as I walked my familiar trails in Woodway Park. They were off the beaten path. I liked my beaten and familiar path. I could walk it without thinking and take in the smell of pine, the energy of the ground and the song of the birds. My dogs knew the path too. They marked their territory, repeatedly, day after day, along its side. They were taunted by familiar squirrels and rabbits.
It began with signs that seemed to have nothing to do with us. But now that I look back on it, the signs were foreshadowing. Our path was familiar but now without its dangers. There were places where the beaten path had been worn slick. There were places where I had to duck because a once-glorious tree was now dead and leaning toward her felling. The path, as I look back on it, was not perfect but it was familiar and part of a habit that eroded the landscape. As I look back, I remember using the increasingly exposed roots along the ground for my personal leverage.
Then one day, the pathway was changed. Of course, it began with signs. But I was still surprised and ill prepared when there was a new path cut through Woodway Park. The pink and red flags once tied to trees were now staked into the ground. They were to guide me and others, highlighting a new path. My dogs’ ears went up. Their noses were busy to the ground. We were all managing away from the habitual, responding to the emergent. We were upon new ground that was stony and soft. We were upon new ground with freshly broken greens beneath our feet. The signs had been laid, the path was emerging. We were and are learning a new way in our small world.
Countless people have written about such paths. There have been frosty roads less traveled. Enslaving stony paths trodden by the scapegoated. We are now reckoning with paths laid for urban development. We human beings have a propensity to overcolonize our spaces. And Mother Nature is burning but she is not alone. RBG saw the natural world around her beyond the beaten path. She was active hanging the signs in a direction that promised to one day be a path. What was once a narrow path became wider. I’m grateful she saw so early. For my part, I have remembered those overly exposed roots feeding the canopy above, the wondrous way they anchor and draw together to prevent erosion. I think about my personal leverage and where to find it.
The human spirit can thrive in their adventure upon the emerging path whether we are hanging the signs, felling the trees or re-navigating our habits, one footstep at a time.
Rev. Leslie King is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Waco.
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