The road seemed to go on forever. Sojourner laid his pack and hat aside as he sank down on weary knees, then rested back against the tree trunk in the blessed shade. The day was a scorcher. He was hot, tired, and in woeful need of a drink. He would rest just a minute, then trudge on. The map showing water was not far ahead, he knew his thirst would soon be quenched. For now his body just needed a break. He had been trekking on a new path, this winding trail long and hard, and just the kind of challenge he needed: enough physical exertion he had to set aside his worries and stay focused on his path; and enough easy spots to allow rest along the way.
A carpenter at heart he had been working diligently, honing wood into fine cabinets and shelves, woodworking a hobby turned trade. Now in his elder years he had begun to slow a bit, noticing his body refused to keep up with his mind, an aggravating reality of aging, yet a persistent one. Today’s hike was purely for pleasure. He needed to let the wind blow through his thoughts, look at another view besides the interior of his wood shop, stop thinking about the world’s problems. He had spent many years hiking and camping in the woods; this was solace for his soul.
After a brief repose, canteen definitely empty, he traveled further down the trail to the promised water station. Relieved to find water actually there he filled up, himself and his canteen. Water, such a basic need of life. He was thankful for it. There was but a mile or so to go to the junction of the trailhead and dirt access road where his wife would pick him up, his hike now near complete. Or was it? Late afternoon, he had been walking since early morning, 8:00 AM or so.
Listening to her GPS instructions, Sojourner’s wife drove their SUV through the mountain passes towards the pick-up point. In her retirement she enjoyed creative pursuits, as did her husband, both of them lamenting at times how quickly the years had flown. They each recognized the vast areas of learning that still lay before them, that they envisioned pursuing but for the restriction of time they had yet on this planet. It was bittersweet. They had learned much through their life times, but there was still so much more!
After turning off the access road into a wide designated area, Sojourner’s wife found the perfect place to park, facing the trailhead so she could watch for her husband. About 45 minutes early, she pulled out her book. Even in the shade with the windows down a bit to let the breeze blow through, the air felt sticky. It had been an unusually hot summer, this day not much cooler even at this higher elevation. Opening her book was an invitation to slip away from the present, imagine days of earlier times. Before long the cadence of reading, along with the heat, lulled her to sleep. Soon she was snoring softly within her locked car.
There she was! Waiting just as planned! Sojourner wearily walked towards the parked car, and saw his wife’s head slumped against the window. Instantly his heart rate increased as a plethora of thoughts assailed him. Was she hurt, ill, dead, just sleeping? Scanning the area while slowly walking to the driver’s door, and seeing nothing amiss, he tapped on the window while calling her name. “Wha . . . What? Sojourner!” she exclaimed with a start, frantic eyes turned towards him. “You scared me half to death!” “Well, you kinda scared me half to death, too, darlin’,” he drawled, as she flung open the door and grabbed him in a hug.
After loading his pack into the back, Sojourner plopped into the passenger seat, happy to let his wife do the driving. Enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery and a small cooler full of cold lemonade and hearty sandwiches, they talked about his day’s experiences on the trail; the thoughts he had about life as he hiked alone with no one but God and nature; the refreshing he felt at just being in the woods again, smelling the pine, listening to the breeze blow through the trees. It brought back so many happy memories; gave him time to deeply reflect. Sojourner knew the ways of trails. No matter where in the journey one found oneself, the trail wound on and on. When nearing the end of one path, another would appear to set foot upon, and so the journey continued.
His thoughts traveled to many happy places as they drove down the mountain. Then remembering the fear and sadness he felt when he saw his wife slumped in the car, and the sudden flash of how quickly one’s life could change, he just had to say to her, “Don’t you dare think of buggin’ out of this world anytime soon. We’re on this trail together, and we’ve only just begun!” In their seventies both knew every day they were one day closer to the end of their earthly journeys, God only knowing how many years yet they had. Both felt so young “on the inside.” Surely this temporal plane was not the end of this amazing experience of being alive! “You know, Sojourner,” his wife commented. “You’re right. When you think of how young we are in light of eternity, we’ve definitely only just begun!”