It had nothing to do with my recent surgery and recovery. It had everything to do with where my eyes were focused.
Within thirty minutes of my release from the doctor’s care, I was hiking. Within two hours I had stumbled over a rock and fallen to the ground.
I went down hard because I was more concerned with protecting my camera than myself. I fell because I wasn’t paying attention to the rocky ground beneath my feet. Instead I was fascinated by the fauna, flittering moths, and towering evergreens.
Living in arid eastern Oregon, I often yearn for both tree and fern. Finding myself beneath the protective canopy, all of my senses were directed upward.
Hiking an even rockier trail this morning, I carefully watched my feet. Hearing rustling as I approached each clump of dead trees in the midst of abundant wildflowers, I securely planted my feet and paused to look up. Standing still, I caught a glimpse of the timid squirrels that rustled the underbrush.
Solidly ensconced in place (without fear of falling) the motion of at least half a dozen birds of prey garnered my attention. Admiring their wide wingspan that kept them afloat above the nearby canyon, I recalled their kindred I nearly missed seeing in Cottonwood Canyon recently.
Fresh from my fall, I was carefully watching my feet as I journeyed through Cottonwood Canyon until my hike-mate called out to me.
“What’s that?” she said.
I stopped, planted my feet firmly, and looked where she pointed. In a lone tree nestled up next to the John Day River was a large bird of prey. Theorizing it to be a hawk or perhaps golden eagle, we moved closer so that we might see its markings. Using the zoom on my camera at a distance of well over one-hundred feet, I confirmed it was indeed a big bird.
Later when I examined my images downloaded to my laptop, I was in awe of the regal friend we’d met on our hike.
My vigilance at keeping my head down on post-fall hikes almost cost me the opportunity to admire the bird of prey sitting on its tree throne. Today, it nearly cost me the joy of admiring the flight of its multiple kindred floating above me.
My fear of failure or of injuring myself is not without its usefulness. As we move near a high drop-off, on the trail or in life, self-preservation dictates caution. When the surface we traverse is particularly rocky, to focus on the rocks for a time helps us to continue our pilgrimage.
Following physical, emotional, or spiritual hurts, however, we sometimes become too vigilant. When we do, we harm ourselves. The elimination of risk (too much caution) distances us from personal growth and one another. When we fail to look up, we fail to live fully.
Today, I am thankful for squirrels who rustle the underbrush. In so doing, a sequence of thought was initiated within me by the one I refer to as God. The sacred oneness of creation that connects the rodent, the aviary, and the human, lovingly reminded me that caution and risk are companions on my life journey.
You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. –Paulo Coelho