There’s a children’s story I vaguely remember that has the lines through the forest and over the hill to grandmas house. Age is a helluva thing and I’ve forgotten which story it came from but that’s how I felt walking through the forest alive with autumn as I attempted to hike the 181 steps to the lower Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills.
I wont make it. My ankle has other plans. My hiking party is carrying on without me and I don't mind at all. I have never been one to bow to peer pressure. Plus, these woods are safe - I believe. The bears are getting ready for hibernation and are busy gorging themselves on better fare. If I had a choice between me and fresh King Salmon, I too would choose Salmon!
I perch on a cold shale rock with nothing but the sound of wind rustling through trees and the huffing and puffing of hikers as they struggle past. It's the perfect environment for writing.
A young lady with a baby in a carrier on her back walks by me. 181 steps still to descend. She has no idea where life will take her or how many more steps she has to take to see the queen. Remember that game?
A handsome guy waves to me as he walks by, his wife taking each step carefully guided by a makeshift walking stick. He stops long enough to ask me what I'm writing and then tells me me to write that he’s a handsome guy.
"Did you give up young lady?" A man less than half my age quips as he bounds by as if he just went to the store for milk.
“I sure did!” I responded. “I know my limitations!”
I'm thinking of how much this hike is like my life. At this age it’s easy to say I’m approaching the autumn of my life.
It’s a blessing to be old enough to know who I am; courageous enough to accept who I am and wise enough to love me for me. The me I am today is a sum of all my parts, all my experiences, my joys and tears, my losses and my triumphs. I acknowledge their role in molding me into the woman others have come to regard as mother, friend, mentor, confidante, teacher and more. My journey to grandma's house has been very eventful to this point.
I have been lost in the forest many times, climbed over innumerable hills, walked through many deep dark gorges and stood atop bright sun filled mountains on my way to grandma’s house. I have fought dragons, runaway from trolls and escape many wolves. But I have also ridden on the backs of unicorns, followed rainbows to pots of gold and held bright orange starfish in the palm of my hands.
So, here I am now. Half way to a view I’m told is worth it and deciding I’ve had enough. I'm not making one more step. This view from the Observation Deck will simply have to do.
I’m actually pretty happy just sitting in the woods on a crisp fall day hearing my own thoughts and writing them down. The journey is part of the destination for me and just being surrounded by so much nature is sufficient.
I’m told I need to make more films. I’m not sure about that. I’m pretty fulfilled with what I’ve already accomplished. Write more books. Well I’ll see - again what I’ve done will suffice for now though I do feel like there may be more books left in me. Children's books, I believe. My journey is ongoing and thankfully, my road is crooked and unpredictable.
I do not despise the uncertainty of my journey; its in my nature to be adventurous and I have a fear of sameness. Yes, there are many paths I wish I hadn’t taken. There are many horrors I wish I hadn’t faced. But I did and I came out alive with all my faculties in place. I guess what I’m saying is I'll keep on pushing through, over the hill and through the woods and hopefully I can encourage you to do the same. The troll under the bridge and the monster in the closet are less scary when you can view them in the rear view mirror. But you can only do that by walking ahead.
Grab your makeshift rod and press through BUT also trust yourself to know when it's time to stop. In my case, I have already walked at least 100 steps to get to this point where I have now decided to stop and simply sit on a rock. Another 181 steps would be way too many for me. Double that when you consider the climb back up! I'm comfortable here. Happy with this decision.
Stopping isn't always quitting! Sometimes it is but not always. Sometimes it's the wisest thing to do. Trust yourself. Sometimes its just a pause to catch your breath and take in the truth of your circumstances. Other times its necessary for re-evaluation. No-one knows your abilities, your limitations, your strengths and your motivations as well as you do.
Incidentally, as I write my last few words, the young lady with the baby just whizzes past me without even taking a deep breath. Age is a helluva thing!
"Did you go all the way down?" I ask with a disbelieving tone.
"We sure did!" she says. "It's so amazing!"
She may one day look back and remember the woman in the autumn of her life sitting on a rock in the middle of the colorful filled forest who was smart enough to know when to stop.
Judith Falloon-Reid is an Author, Filmmaker, Poet, Media Personality & Inspirational Speaker.
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