Casting PebblesWritten by Teresa Clark
The day had clutched at my heart and convinced me if my daddy were leading a hike, it would be an adventure. We were a hiking family.
How Hard Could it Be?
“I can’t take one more step. I’ll melt first!”
I wasn’t quite sure how to react to my mother’s declaration. We were alone on the C&O Canal towpath trail, just outside of Harper’s Ferry, Maryland. Well not really alone, somewhere far ahead of us were my father and brothers, but they weren’t anywhere in sight and stopping wasn’t really an option.
The day had started off optimistically enough. When my Dad had announced his intent to take his sons on a ten-mile hike for a Scouting merit badge my mother assured him she and I would be coming along. How hard could it be? It wasn’t even that unusual. We’d hiked as a family for years. One of my fondest memories in my nine-year-old heart was the summer day we’d hiked into Old Pinawa in Manitoba, Canada. It’s in the “bush,” at the edge of the wilderness, and it’s completely normal to see deer and bear and much more. Towering pine and blueberries in the undergrowth is the norm. It was 10 kilometers and had been capped off by scurrying about the abandoned old town, rifling through yellowed documents in the open bank vault and discovering homes still fully furnished. The layers of dust covering everything was the only clue that its owners were gone. It appeared they’d simply gotten up one day and walked away. The day had clutched at my heart and convinced me if my daddy were leading a hike, it would be an adventure. We were a hiking family.
The C&O Canal trail was a completely different environment. Maryland summer heat was nothing like what we’d felt in Canada. Pinawa hits sub-zero temperatures in November and the mercury stays well below zero through April. Summer was never what you’d call oppressive. However, we were hiking in oppressive, drenching heat the day we hiked the C&O Canal. The trail was bordered thickly with all kinds of fern and hardwood trees, dripping with kudzu vine. In some places the trees covered the sky. Even now, when I look back, my memory of that part of the trail is dark. We saw Orioles, and butterflies, snapping turtles and frogs. We gathered sassafras and avoided poison ivy. We lost sight of my father and the boys.
The men of my family are end-destination hikers. The object of a hike is to get from point-a to point-b and anything that gets in the way of that objective is an un-necessary distraction. My mom is an enjoy-the-journey hiker. By all means stop, taste the honey-suckle, watch the frogs, listen to the bird-song. She is also an advocate of the age-old hiking rule, “Set your pace to the speed of your slowest hiker.” End-destination hikers do not appreciate or embrace such things. “I’ll see you at trail’s end,” is pretty much their motto. Or, in other words, “Every man for himself!”
Nobody Trips Over Mountains
It had been a nice day and the trail was certainly beautiful, but as time had passed my dad and brothers had long since left us behind, and now my mom was beat. Ten miles hadn’t seemed impossible. We’d easily hiked such distances in Canada. But going that far in 90-degree heat with 90% humidity was taking its toll. My mind raced. I couldn’t leave mom while I raced ahead to find my daddy. We had no way of notifying him of our situation. We really had no choice, but to keep going. But knowing how to keep going was the challenge at hand.
Sometimes inspiration comes after truly seeking it and sometimes it just comes. I kicked a pebble in frustration and it skittered down the trail before us.
“Mom, do you think you could walk just to that pebble!?”
“Well, sure honey, I can do that.”
That’s how we started our new routine. We weren’t on a ten-mile hike. We weren’t trying to catch up with my daddy any more. We were just walking to the next pebble. We took turns kicking it, casting it, skipping it, and throwing it. We’d run towards it, skip towards it, even move in slow motion towards it. The afternoon became a game and the end-destination became secondary. Sunlight broke through the tree canopy. My mom was no longer near tears or exhaustion. We were laughing and loving every moment of our day. It’s still one of my favorite mommy-daughter-moment memories. That day taught me if I were hiking with my mom it would be fun. We were a giggling mommy-daughter hiking phenomenon.
Someone once said, “Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.” We didn’t climb a mountain and we didn’t pass all the pebbles in our path. We befriended them! It was a pebble that led us forward. Every journey begins with a single step. Even ten miles is traversed via one simple step at a time. The next time you find yourself tripping over mountains, toss a pebble down the path and set your sights on that. Once you reach it, repeat. You’ll be over that mountain in no time.
What is a challenge you have faced and overcome once you broke it into smaller steps? What did you do to divide it into manageable pieces? What did you learn from the journey?
A national award-winning storyteller, historian and author, she is best known for her original works and recollections of life's experiences blended with history. Teresa has presented and performed throughout the United States. Of her, it has been said, "Charming, witty, soulful, and wise, her performances are filled with a compelling sense of wonder and an irresistable zest for life." Her story work involves performance, education, production, and advocacy. From the main stage to individual consultations in living rooms across America, she delights in the excavation and sharing of family story. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother to her favorite playmates and best friends.
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