on water and walking
I realized, while hiking to Mosquito Falls (blessedly a misnomer—the mosquito part, that is), that Dan and I tend to take a lot of pretty ordinary walks. Rarely do our walks take us anywhere breathtaking or magnificent, in the grand, panoramic sort of way. We walk around the block. We hike the perimeter of the lake his parents live on, watching the pair of sand cranes pick their way through the reeds.
Even when traveling, we tend to choose fairly pedestrian hikes. Last week, while camping in the UP near Pictured Rocks (not a misnomer—quite picturesque, those rocks), we decided on a moderate hike to Mosquito Falls. It was listed among worthwhile waterfalls to visit, but it wasn’t the biggest or the most voluminous or the highest. The hike didn’t include any sweeping vistas. We were mostly bounded by trees, cool and mossy, with loam and stones underfoot.
As we walked (hike is even too grand a word for what we did), I pondered the soul-discipline that is the ordinary walk. Maybe, in the same way that summer camp spiritual highs aren’t all that useful in the end, hikes that culminate in spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime views don’t shape our souls the way daily walks do. For the better part of the past year, Dan and I took our walks on cracked sidewalks under trees with limbs hacked in half to make room for the power lines that ran past houses whose inhabitants didn’t bother to garden or even, on occasion, mow. And yet it was on that sidewalk that we held hands (we were supposed to be training for a run) and laughed in amazement at the tiny little line we’d seen that morning that meant we’d be parents.
I also realized, once we arrived at the falls, that waterfalls are places worth seeing because of the disturbances there. The boulders beneath the surface, the trees that have fallen—these disrupt the flow and create beauty. Who would’ve thought! Perfectly still water is boring. But water that is agitated, rippled by wind and troubled by stones—that water draws us.
There’s a metaphor sitting right on the surface, waiting for me to pick it up and take it to heart.