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One Rock at a Time...

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

It had seemed like a good idea. “Come on a hike with us,” my new friends invited. “It’s just a thousand steps through the mountains.” 1000 steps. Just half a mile. I figured I could walk the trail back and forth several times and maybe even work off that French toast I had had for breakfast.

Note to self: The next time a posse of fitness buffs invites you to take a half mile hike, ask for more details. And now here I was, at times climbing on all fours, scaling 1000 steps of rock straight up 850 feet of vertical grade cut into the Pennsylvania mountainside.

“Wow!” shouted Ed, in the lead. “We just hit 200, only 800 more to go!” I looked up, craning my neck to see the limitless steps disappearing into the mist above, and instantly felt a wave of vertigo. “Don’t look up,” he warned too late, “you’ll lose your balance.”

It struck me then that this hike was the perfect metaphor for life.

None of us intentionally wants to create more stress for ourselves in life. But we do. How often do we lose our balance, overwhelmed and dizzied by the countless “rocks” or obstacles in our path?

I’ve read that the sherpas of Tibet are such good climbers because they keep their eyes focused on just a few feet ahead. When faced with a mountain of challenges in our lives, just like the sherpas, we don’t have to spin over every rock in our way. We don’t have to tackle everything at once. We don’t need to have it all figured out. All we really have to do is just concentrate on the few feet in front of us. We just have to take the challenge one step, one rock, at a time.

I thought about that as I searched for a foothold up the next few steps. The climber ahead of me, fit and athletic, marched up that mountain as if to conquer it, barely stopping at the few horizontal paths that punctuated the incline of rock like a grassy oasis. “Go ahead” I yelled up. “I want to stop for a moment.” Granted, I needed to catch my breath but, also, Oh my gosh the views! The endless mosaic of blues and greens that shaped the valley between the mountains. The hawks soaring above us. The sounds of a nearby waterfall that fed the forest.

I used to believe that the hurdles or “rocks” in life, were something I just needed to get over so I could pick my life back up again on the other side.

But these challenges, these rocks that we encounter in life ARE life.

There is beauty to savor in the rocks, there is grace in the gray, if we only stop to notice it.

  • What if, instead of thinking of the rocks and obstacles in our lives as something we need to “get over”or push through, we embraced the challenges?

  • What if we let ourselves fully experience them, knowing they are part of our journey, and will make us stronger in the end?

  • And what if we allowed ourselves to tackle just one rock at a time, knowing we have the strength and stamina to endure?

I pondered this as I took my time on the descent. It had begun to rain, amping up our heart rates at the increased risk of slipping, and forcing us to slow our pace. But slowing down, searching for a secure spot to place our steps, also gave us the opportunity to notice the beauty in the rocks - the crevices, and textures, and colors. My get-to-the-top friend slowed down too, pausing to breathe in the clean mountain air, pointing out cardinals and colorful lizards slipping between the rocks. We lifted our faces, letting the cool rain on this hot July day refresh and invigorate us. “Take your time,” we reminded the die-hard climbers waiting to pass us to hike up the wet rocks. “Take your time,” they reminded us back.

And as our feet hit the solid, safe, leaf-covered earth at the bottom of the incline, we all breathed a deep sigh - of relief, of calm, of satisfied accomplishment.

Sometimes the big rocks in life become our biggest celebrations.

Know someone who could use a lift? Feel free to share.

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