The Harder Path

By Cindy Koch

Its taken me some time to come back to real life. Only less than a month ago, my only concern was how much trail mix was left in my little baggie before 3pm. My husband and I were hiking back in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and there wasn’t exactly a grocery store around every corner. We carried all of our meals, tent, clothes on our back for 24 days as we hiked the John Muir Trail. About halfway through our trip, after days of 8 hour hiking sessions, food because a simple yet vital piece of our day. But at 3pm we could open up the bear canaster and find a protein bar. Just enough to get us through until dinner.

The scenery was too much to remember, I have already forgotten more beauty than I may ever see again. The trail was challenging and yet peaceful. I was exhausted and refreshed. But the time away was harder than I thought it would be.

The first week I was overwhelmed with thoughts of home. The kids, the activities, what I forgot to do, how I could improve when I returned, projects to begin when this was over. I still remembered the comfortable bed I was missing and the beloved routines now in hibernation. My legs ached from the daily stress of hiking, my right foot became sore from a previous injury. The trail increased in difficulty as we hiked away from Yosemite, black clouds threatened thunderstorms in those early afternoons, and I wondered if I was cut out for this life.

But we hiked on. And the farther we walked, the more those pressing concerns of home faded into the mountain air. There we wondered how long it would take us to get to the top of that pass. There we silently set up camp, playing games of cribbage to pass the time. There our decisions were between Beef Stroganoff and Chili Mac. Our world became very simple and clear. Still hard day-to-day, but quiet and clear.

About 3 weeks ago, we finished the trail and hiked back into our lives. I have to admit; “normal” life has been harder than I thought. Sure, showers, laundry, and refrigerators are awesome. But maybe I expected to bring some of that quiet clear mountain air back home with me. Maybe I anticipated a change in my life at home to be as simple as the trail. But I’ve noticed a terrible problem here at home that I can’t seem to fix.

Appointments, improvements, people, phones, voices, videos, activities, automobiles, expectations, this path is so much louder. It’s harder to focus on the trail set before me. It’s harder to hear the loving voice of my husband. It’s harder to know what my purpose is or where my goal lies. It was exhausting and difficult out in the wilderness, but it was quiet. It is much easier and more comfortable back at home, but the noise that surrounds me is deafening.

It’s no wonder that true words: life and death, temporal and eternal, get lost on this loud path. I’m not surprised that most of us tune everything out, including the Gospel. Words were precious on our hike, important information about our survival or heartfelt conversations only my husband and myself could hear. But back to “normal” is walking on a harder path: constantly trying to filter the useless damaging words from those that actually matter.