Lessons from the Trail

Lessons from the trail: that dude on the bike

Fotor_144077863385631I’m walking down the trail yesterday with my baby in a stroller and my dog darting about.  My trail is asphalt, but there is a great surrounding riparian area where my dog loves to explore. She chases birds, sniffs for treasures, drinks from puddles. I imagine her trail-time is much like mine: she feels free and at ease with her instincts.

So, at one point this cyclist comes roaring around a curve, and almost runs over my dog. Not really slowing down, the cyclist shouted at me over his shoulder: “Please keep your dog on a leash so she won’t run in front of the bikers.”

What he had no way of knowing is that like the guy suggested and the law commands, I used to keep my dog on the leash.  However, I found that the outstretched leash was a big problem for the cyclists. They would have to come to a complete stop behind oblivious me in my headphones, my wide stroller, the leash of death off to my left, and my dog trying to sniff the other side of the trail.

So, over a period of about three years I’ve learned to just let the dog run, and hope for the best. Whenever there is another dog approaching I quickly apply the leash.  Lately though I’ve been searching for the right solution as there are a lot more cyclists during the earlier time that I’ve been using the trail. Sometimes Olive has obliviously jet out in front of them and I realize that’s a problem.

For the rest of my walk, I was considering this cyclist. I started out angry with the overpowering thought of, “how dare he?” “What makes him think he’s the king of the trail?” I silently deliberated on how aggressive he would have been had my dog been on a leash and he didn’t just have to slow down but stop altogether. I thought about all who share the trail and wondered if in ignorance I hadn’t been being considerate enough. Eventually my heart softened and I allowed the idea that perhaps I was the arrogant one and he was right to reprimand me.

Fast forward 6 hours to my daughter’s high-school soccer game.  The opposing school’s soccer field is less than ideally situated. The sun blares down on it and on one whole sideline there is nowhere for spectators to sit at all.  The school always posts signage telling the opposing team to sit west of the 50 in hot and sunny and the home team to sit east of the 50 where it is partially shaded. However above the sideline up a small hill is an adjacent park almost totally shaded by towering trees. Having hauled four of my children, a picnic dinner, and five camping chairs from the distant parking lot, and worrying over the baby getting too much sun exposure, we situated ourselves in the shade of the park. We expected to be there for two whole games (about four hours) as my daughter is rostered on Varsity but usually only plays on JV. Technically we were over the line in the opposing side’s territory, but we were so far back I hardly thought it mattered.

Fast forward to fifteen minutes into the second half of the varsity game. My friend Jen had showed up just after I did and was sitting next to me with her kids. West of her about 5 feet was an elderly gentleman in his chair. At some point, a gentlemen stood talking to friends directly in front of the elderly man at a coupling of chairs closer to the field at the top of the hill. The elderly man kindly raised his voice, “Down in front, sir.”  The dude turned around and glared at the man and then turned back to the game. The elderly man did not relent. Again, “Down in front, sir.” At this point the man turned around and with the angriest face and beaming eyes said, “I’m having a conversation.” The old man: “I’m trying to watch the game.” The ball-capped late-40 angry dude:  “Well, why can’t you stand?” The old dude:  “Because I am sitting.”  The ball cap man was ticked off and seemed to think that the old guy was being completely unreasonable. He failed to see the “share the trail” mentality.

In defense of the old man, twice I said loud enough for the man to hear, “It’s just soccer etiquette, sir.”  It didn’t take long for him to turn on me. He walked in my direction and screamed, “Why do you think you have anything to say to me?” If you know me, you know I rarely back down. I said, “Because you were just really rude to this man, and I was defending him in the soccer etiquette.” Boy, did that make him even more mad. He still kept coming at me physically and vocally. “You want to talk about soccer etiquette, do you? What team are you from?” I honestly answered the name splattered across my t-shirt. He said, “You aren’t even supposed to be sitting here.” I silently realized four things: 1- This guy liked to deflect his bad behavior on to others 2- he was probably the one who always posted the less-than-inviting signs, 3- he was in a foul mood because our team was spanking his, and 4- there was a reason his team played so physically and aggressive.

Unsettled that my husband wasn’t there to gently lay his magic hand of mouth-control on my forearm, I quickly mulled over my options. One of which was him baling me out of jail at a later time. Lucky for my husband, I had small children to tend to and didn’t completely trust myself, so I knew I needed to stop him from coming at me. Loudly I declared, “Listen sir, I am crazy. Certifiably crazy. Papers and medication and everything. You really don’t want to mess with me. I am probably the last person here you want to pick a fight with.” He instantly retreated from me as if I would whip out a gun at any second and subsequently was finally out of the view of the old man. My friend Jen busted a gut. I busted a gut. The old man looked satisfied. Although with a lot less confidence, the mean guy was still mouthing off from a distance, I shut him out by suggesting that maybe he should get some medication too. We never heard any more from him.

Jen said, “What kind of man treats an old man and two mothers like that?” I answer her here, “the kind that thinks he doesn’t have to share the trail.”

The old guy turned to us and said, I’m actually here to watch his team, but I wasn’t about to say it.”


Lessons from the trail: the dog, the cats, and the leash.

IMG_20141107_104326I couldn’t help but sing aloud, “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again,” as I drove up the street towards my beloved Murdock Canal Trail. You see, about 10 months ago I found myself really struggling with my running regimen. I felt like my bladder was just going to drop right out of my body. Shortly before I started struggling I found out that I was expecting baby Max and shortly after giving up during that first (and last) gruesome mile and turning back around to limp my sad self home, I ended up in the E.R. I had a prolapsed uterus and my doctor forbade me from running. Even walking long distances would not allowed for the duration of my pregnancy.

As many of you know, my trail-time is one of my most favorite things. I love being out in nature. I love the sunshine. I love the rain. I even love the snow. As I watch closely for all the little details in the world around me, I simultaneously dump all my cares out of my overloaded brain. One by one they are left on the gravel as I trample them under my feet headed for a lighter future. My trail-time not only makes me feel great physically, but without it I start to fall apart a little mentally.

So, earlier this week, when I was finally able to get back on the trail I was beyond ecstatic. Even with taking Max along in the stroller I was finally able to get the therapeutic benefit that I have been missing tremendously. [If you don’t understand what I am talking about, I double-dog dare you to find a quiet trail near you and spend time walking on it every day – make sure you let me know how it changes you because I promise it will.]

Okay, okay, on with the story as part of my series “lessons from the trail”. I feel like Henry David Thoreau in Walden when I write these stories. Nature is a powerful philosopher. So, on Monday, there I was, back on the trail again. I was multi-tasking at its finest, pushing Max in the stroller, supervising the dog on and off of the leash, listening to my tunes, and observing the world around me.

Why do I put the dog on AND off the leash you ask? I’m so glad you did ask, that’s what my story is all about. You see, our dog, Olive, is naughty. I have her partially trained, but she refuses to be fully broken. She reminds me of….well….me. Olive will run after whatever catches her attention and completely ignore my incessant calls. She especially loves birds and cats…probably much like all the other dogs. Another thing about Olive is that she only gets along with about 50% of other dogs that we encounter. If she doesn’t like the other dogs, she will go after them until she has their full submission to her dominance.

This doesn’t work out so well when the other dogs have the same personality. So, given her disobedience (not to mention the leash laws) I should really never let her off the leash, but, you see, she, like me, loves to roam free in the mountains. So, when no one is around I let her run and explore as long as she doesn’t go too far off the trail. As soon as I spot someone off in the distance (and before Olive has a chance to attack their dogs) I hurry and put her back on the leash until the others are safely past us. I also put her on the leash when small children are approaching or if I notice anything else that will cause her to run off like a doggy lunatic.

And there it was…something that would make Olive crazy…about 100 feet ahead of us, a cat was sunning right in the middle of the path. I hurried and grabbed Olive (who does well to get on the leash if she doesn’t detect anything of extra interest – lucky for me, my eyes seem to be better than hers) and walked on. I held her at a close distance and we marched right on by that cat without incident. Olive noticed the cat but didn’t yank my arm off to go after her. She just barked a few times and focused ahead.

And there was my lesson for the day. If I place myself on the end of that leash, I think that sometimes I also pass the test, as did Olive. I think if I am aware of the big picture and know that just shortly up the path there may be something else of better interest to me I don’t get all crazy. If I behave I will be let off the leash to get a close-up of what is best for me, which is probably not what I think is best for me. Because of the leash I allow myself to be tethered to (which for me is my faith and beliefs) I am freed from so many unnecessary distractions. The key though is that I have to be willing to be leashed so that I don’t run off before I have a chance to think things through. I also have to trust my maker and know that He will unleash me when I am ready and/or safe. It was a profound observation for me as I resist being controlled in any manner.

Then, just as I finished processing all of the leash metaphors in my own life, I noticed another cat. I hurried and put Olive on the leash again, hoping for the same success to support my observation. This time, however, I was disappointed. I braced myself as Olive took off, as usual, only to be thwarted by the yank of her collar on the leash. I never understand why dogs don’t learn!

I’ll leave you walking along with me on the trail trying to make sense of the second cat encounter. You can surely come up with your own comparisons, as did I, but I will give you this: I was instantly filled with gratitude for my maker who always stands with the leash, waiting for me to heed his calls instead of taking off after who knows what. He has a grand journey prepared for me and no matter how many times I allow myself to be distracted with my own ridiculous notions, He never lets go. And someday, in the very distant future, I am sure that I will be strong enough to not need a leash, until then, though, I will gladly tether myself to it.

IMG_20141107_104356 (1)

Lessons from the trail: family bikeride

Man, I can’t wait for spring.
The following pictures have a funny story
that you would never guess just by looking at them.
One summer day, the year before last, a mother got really greedy
and decided that her family could ride their bikes
farther then ever before.
She wanted to make it from home to the nearby waterfalls.
It was only 16.5 miles round-trip.
bridal veil
Every family member, but her, complained the whole way.
The mom didn’t understand, she was having the time of her life.
Even the oldest daughter who was used to running all the time seemed to hate every minute.
At mile 6.5, (1.7 shy of their destiny) the mom cut her losses
and finally told everyone they could turn back.
The mother was so disappointed. The father was almost dead.
The kids vowed to never ride again.
But, to this day, all but the mom
are still all heard to brag of that long family ride
a few summers back.
(The mom is still waiting for the family conquer expedition.)
They still ride together as a family often
but never ever more then ten miles at a time.
The mom now sticks to the long distances by herself.
The moral of the story:
Sixteen miles for one person might be a piece of cake,
but just because you are that person
it doesn’t mean that you can automatically
expect your family to be as capable.
The other thing that we learned:
Together time is the best time to make memories,
even if everyone is in physical pain.
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Lessons from the trail: A Scout Leader

This lesson from the trail occurred a few months back. It was dusk on a perfect-weathered weeknight and I was out biking with my hubby when we crossed a bunch of young men accompanied by their adult church leaders. They were all getting exercise at their own levels of ability. We observed the get-goers first as we were riding in the opposite direction. First was a group of about 10 boys with one pretty fit and younger leader cruising along at an admirable speed. The next four groups were varied in number of boys and accompanied adults but ranged no more than a few minutes behind the front group to trailing maybe five minutes behind. After a few more minutes we then passed the obviously struggling group with some of the younger boys as well as the overweight members of the troop (adults and boys). They were slow, but they were still persisting and seemed to be enjoying themselves and the camaraderie. LG and I discussed our pride and admiration for the whole group (at their varying abilities) as we rode away. We assumed that the last struggling group would be the last but we assumed wrong.


This photo was taken at the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Church History Museum back in August ’13. No doubt my husband was having a moment of remembrance to when he earned his own Eagle Scout.

bike path

After several more minutes we came to a crossroad where the trail-users have to yield to the vehicles using the city road. Because we were stopped waiting on the traffic we were able to observe the very last Scout leader with just a single boy across the street. What I observed touched me deeply.

At every road crossing on each side of the street there are a set of narrow passages through gates that keep large vehicles from using the trail. I personally (as well as most others) pass through these gates with ease. Whether I am running or biking, I don’t have to give the narrow passages a second thought. When LG and I ride together, so that we don’t have to slow down, it is just understood that simultaneously he takes the passes on the left and I on the ones on the right.

This day however LG and I both stood still with our bikes as we watched this most amazingly patient Scout leader treat his troop member with great kindness, respect, and love. We had just passed the rest of the troop so we could tell that this young man wasn’t one of the youngest. He was probably about fourteen and looked like a completely healthy capable kid. Yet, upon careful observation it was obvious that this boy must have had some kind of mental disability. From across the street, we watched this pair slowly approach the gate and even more slowly come to a very careful stop.

With an encouraging smile on his face, the leader stood aside and let the boy struggle through the threatening narrow passage. For some reason the boy’s large motor skills created a mountain out of a molehill and he could not get through the gateway while peddling. He tried. He gave it everything he had, but he eventually dismounted his bike (while somewhat animatedly cursing the dang gate) and walked through awkwardly dragging his bike to his side.We took an extra long drink of our water and moved to the side of the path on our side of the street to stay out of the way. The same exact four minute process happened once again on our side of the street and we had a front seat view of one very determined boy and his ideal Scout leader. Thinking back on this is bringing tears to my eyes once again. It was such an inspiring interaction.


I couldn’t help but find this event metaphoric in my own life. Don’t we all struggle at times in our lives? Sometime somewhere we may have been or will be at the end of the pack. We may be frustrated with a repeated obstacle. We may be giving it everything we’ve got (in fact giving it more than even the ones at the front of the pack) yet we remain peddling way behind. I’ve been there. I’ve wondered, “Why me? Why does it have to be so hard?”

When I get to my next obstacle I will think of this boy and let his determination and courage be my guiding light.

I will also make a very serious effort to be a leader with kind eyes, a patient demeanor, an encouraging smile, and a love bigger than the universe itself.

Lessons from the trail: Arriving


I started running 22 months ago. When I started I was 235 pounds and couldn’t run a lap. I am now 190 pounds and have run a half marathon without stopping. My pace has fluctuated but has consistently increased. It’s been a long haul, but I have not quit. I have laced up those running shoes no matter what almost every T,TH,S for two years. When I started I thought if I could just run a 9 minute mile, I’d be happy. I was lucky to get a 14 minute mile back then.

Last week, I had a really great “I’ve finally arrived” moment. It went something like this: I was trudging along the trail, doing the best I could and running at what I thought was my typical 10-11 minute per mile pace. I glanced back (as I typically do in case there are any rapists following me) and saw three serious running ladies running towards me all in the latest running fashions. Their fluorescent colors were a dead give away that they were out to own that trail.

I knew they were coming for me. I steeled myself for the assault. Even though they were a good half mile back, I just knew they would be running past me any second. They wouldn’t be sweaty or even winded…they would just fly on by like all the real runners so often do. I told myself for the thousandth time that it didn’t matter. I was on the trail just like them. I was a runner just like them. Heck, we were all wearing the same long distance runner’s water belt and I even had on a fluorescent pink shirt. Showing up is what really mattered, but then something magical happened…they didn’t pass me. I kept on running and forced myself not to look back again. I focused and ran my little heart out. My running app alerted me that I had run another mile. My pace was 8 minutes 30 seconds. What??? No wonder they hadn’t passed me. Several more minutes went by before they finally did pass me. I snapped the above picture (mentally and literally) as the moment was a beautiful one for me.

I took off my headphones and hollered, “I’ve been waiting for you guys. You better pick up your pace, it took you a lot longer than I thought it would. You must be at the end of your marathon.” Yes, I haggled them. I’m obnoxious like that.  I think it is always a good thing to show the skinny runners that us fat runners are serious about our sport too. They chuckled and passed on by as I slowed to snap their perfect silhouettes against the sunset. One lady took a second to turn back and say, “We just started, you’ve probably been out here longer than we have.”

I put my phone back away and ran along behind them for a long time. I ran right behind them for another mile until it was time for me to turn around. Tears came to my eyes as I couldn’t believe that I somehow managed to run at the same pace as the ladies in the big league for several miles.  I didn’t know how that could even be possible. My feelings of pride and self-satisfaction alone powered me the two more miles home when I was stunned to see I had run seven miles at an average of 9.3 minutes per mile. Those girls had put a little pressure on my mind and my body and my legs had responded with ease. I had upped my pace by about a minute per mile and I had gotten pretty dang close to my original “I will have arrived when I get there” goal.

A few days later I ran five miles in a row with my coveted nine minutes per mile pace and last Thursday I ran another four at a 9.5 minutes per mile pace. As I go out and work hard on the trail to keep a hold of this faster pace it is challenging. I am at a new level of competition. It’s competition with myself to see if I can perform at my fullest every time I get on the trail without other runners chasing me and putting on the pressure. I can’t stop thinking of those three runners and thanking them for the push that I didn’t even know I needed.

And my lesson from the trail: I arrived but the fierce sense of satisfaction only lasted for a short moment. I now have a new arrival goal, so I plan to try and just enjoy the journey, it lasts a lot longer than the arrival.

Lessons from the Trail: Desire and Effort


Last week the marriage counselor gave LG and I a big challenge that we’ve been trying to acheive. LG is to be in charge and do everything that I normally do and I am supposed to learn how to quit being in charge and follow LG in a support role. When she gave us the assignment last week I lamented, “You don’t understand, I don’t do well when things go wrong. You just upped the possibility of things going awry by about 400%.” She understands perfectly. She’s good at what she does. She wants to help me learn to let go and stop trying to control everything and she also wants to help LG to conquer his fear of screwing up which I have exacerbated for 16 years.

She explained, “Alice, you will be fine. Just remember you can’t judge people by outcome, you have to judge solely on the principles of desire and effort.”  “If LeGrand goes to the store and brings home all the wrong stuff, just know it isn’t the end of the world. He can fix it. He can return whatever was too expensive. When he gets home with not even one thing that was on the list, you can be happy because he has the desire to partner with you and he made the effort to do it. ” I tried to breathe. She was totally right, but for some weird reason, I have the hardest time letting people make mistakes. I’m still trying to understand it, but I committed to do better even without the wisdom of understanding my irrationality. I took out a pen from my purse and wrote the words DESIRE and EFFORT in about a 34 font on my left hand. I needed all the help I could get to remember, especially when things went wrong.

So, all this was on my mind as I headed out onto the trail on my bike yesterday. With the ink residuals on my hand, I could no longer read the words but I had memorized them after a few days. I watched the other people on the trail, like I always do. I was in the middle ground of cyclists. I have a mountain bike that I push to the max. I do about twelve miles per hour and get a good workout aiming for at least 15 miles per ride. I am always somewhat astounded when the “real” cyclists go whizzing past me with their fancy road-bikes and padded shorts with matching bike jerseys. They must be doing about twenty-five mph.  I off-set my disappointment in my slower self by passing up the even slower more relaxed riders on beach cruisers and tandems.

It couldn’t have hit me harder yesterday if it was an alien ship landing right on top of me. Everyone on the trail, no matter what their speed or clothing or bike or size had a desire to ride. And if they were on the trail, they had put forth the effort.

We were all winning! No judgement needed. We were all riding. We all had desire and we all had put in different levels of effort. Yes, some of us had a much greater ability (WHY CAN’T I HAVE THE GREATEST ABILITY?) but we were equal in desire and had all exerted effort. Yeah for us!

Now if I can just translate this lesson from the trail onto things more personal I know I will be much happier. Others’ cycling abilities don’t really personally affect me, but when they don’t remember to take out the trash it does. I am still trying to figure out how to handle those more personal moments of disappointment. How do you give someone an A for effort when they forget and there really was no effort at all? I guess at that point I should just hand out an A for desire and give the ADHD members of my family some serious grace.

Some scriptures on desire and effort.

Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to they name, and to the remembrance of thee. ~ Isaiah 26:8

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby ~ 1Peter2:2

Some Mormon doctrine for my LDS friends.

Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in the their sickle to reap. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in my name. Amen.  ~Doctrine and Covenants 11: 27

And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. ~ Alma 41:3

Here is some good food for thought I just enjoyed on the subject of desire. And here is an address by the intellectually advanced Neal Maxwell.

Lessons from the trail – Surprise Hopscotch


Last week while I was running on the trail I came across a lovely surprise. Take a look. What would you do? I personally couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. In fact, I even took extra time to get out my phone to photograph it all for you.

I ran in from the top and so when I got to the bottom of the hopscotch where it suggested to take a break, I took it. I stopped my running momentum and planted my feet. As I turned around, to my surprise there were two cyclists and two runners close behind. They didn’t stop but all chuckled as I started to skip through the boxes like a school-girl with a treasure. I giggled at how wonderful it was to just have fun solely for the sake of having fun. I felt twenty years younger. Thirty actually.  My 40-year-old body silently thanked the chalk creator, but my heavy heart and tired mind breathed new life.

What a wonderful idea!

Down the trail I passed an older couple walking a dog and then hit my mileage so I turned around and passed them again on my way back home. I took off my headphones and told them about the hopscotch and declared, “I expect to see you guys have some fun with that.” I turned back to see when I figured they would be right on top of it, disappointingly they  just walked right over the top of it. What a bummer. I so wanted to see the 60 year old folks get the same sense of fun and pleasure I had experienced.

And then the lesson came.

You can’t force other people in to having fun. They have to choose it for themselves.

For me: I choose all the fun I can get. Life is short and I want to enjoy it as much as possible.

Lessons from the trail: grandpas

be my friend

Watching these grandpas walk together on the trail forced me to take inventory the other day. Am I a good friend? Do I have friends I can count on?

I have so much room for improvement.

I get lonely often. I have been trying to cultivate my relationship with God to a deeper level and feel successful. My relationship with my husband is better than ever (thank you marriage counselor.) I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my kids – can’t get away from them – blasted summer. However, I still get lonely.

At the same time, I like being alone. I don’t feel lonely when I am alone. Weird, eh? It leaves me wondering what my loneliness is trying to tell me because some of my happiest times are when I am alone. I guess when I am alone I am closest to God so that explains that. So what is this loneliness and why do I often feel it when I am surrounded by people?

As I run and bike the trail, I see all kinds of people engaged in all kinds of activity. Lately, though, I’ve been paying the greatest attention to the people who walk with a companion.

They always seem engaged in a beautiful thing with and without conversation. When there are just two people they always seem to genuinely be enjoying one another’s company. The picture above depicts one of these scenarios I found most touching.

I just read an article from the LA times that linked loneliness to premature death. I loved this line.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

I think for me personally, I experience loneliness because at 39, I still struggle with emotional maturity. At least that is what the therapist said. Ha ha. I want to learn how to be closer to people. I want an old man to walk with on my path….o.k. maybe an old woman as I have an old man in my husband already. I’ve been on the prowl for a friendship that will be more deep and fulfilling, but so far it has been a challenge for me to find. Living in a society where putting on airs seems mandatory makes it almost impossible. There seems to be so much competition to be the best in everything nowadays instead of an atmosphere of  “hey, you’re screwed up, I’m screwed up, you want to be friends?”

At the same time, I over-share and over-communicate, and maybe seek out too much emotional support and encouragement. I air my dirty laundry in hope of acceptance and am often left disappointed. I also struggle with comparison so it’s hard for me to befriend people who are out to prove themselves better than me.

I find myself pulling away from people who are surface friends. I can’t handle being surrounded by perfect people. I need real. Part of me worries that maybe I am expecting too much from others and not focusing on myself enough, but I think that is just paranoia talking. I think what is really happening is that for the first time in my life I am getting in touch with the real me: the good, the bad, the ugly. I am learning to love myself and accept myself. Like a person who trains with friends for a marathon: when the person is running consistently 2 minutes faster per mile, it’s time to find new running partners. For me, as I seek out emotional wellness, it means that surface friendships are no longer enough. The other people are two minutes behind and I can’t stop my personal best to wait for them. It hurts. It’s a painful change, and maybe even sometimes a lonely place, but eventually I think I will find them and I will be all the better for it.

I am left pondering is true friendship able to be maintained despite emotional wellness?  I guess the real question is “should it be”?

I am going to open comments on this post only. I would love to hear kind feedback on how to create and maintain quality friendships.

Lessons from the Trail: The Horse and the Pipeline

trust your guide

Last week I learned another lesson from the trail. Just like my last lesson, the experience lasted less than 30 seconds. Being out in God’s open air seems to heighten my spiritual sense. Everything seems to have symbolic meaning that points me towards my maker.

As I was passing this trail-head, (photo taken later) I noticed two horseback riders approaching this portion of tunnel.  The pipe pieces are found along the new Murdock Trail-heads as focal pieces of history. The trail is built atop of an old irrigation canal that has been piped and paved over and it’s fun to see the enormity of the pipeline underfoot.

Anyhow, the lead rider was trying his darnedest to lead his horse through the tunnel. The teeny tunnel is actually a shortcut to the bathrooms. If you don’t go through the tunnel, you have to follow the trail around the long way. The horse was having nothing to do with it. He kept violently swinging his head to the right as if to make his guide aware that he knew the better way.

But, he didn’t know the better way, he was just afraid to walk through the tunnel. He didn’t trust his guide.

I chuckled at the horse’s foolishness and marveled at the guide’s patience. As I drove off on my bike, never to know whether or not the horse would actually make it through the tunnel, I shook my head in shame a bit realizing that I do the same all too often. God tells me to go a certain direction and I can’t figure out how that direction can possibly be the best choice for me. I pridefully think that I can show God how to do it my way by violently throwing out my neck. I deny the real reason for my refusal: my fear. Yes, I’m a dumb stubborn mule and I often take the long way because I refuse to trust. Lucky for me, my guide has perfect patience.

Lessons from the Trail: The Mother Bird

I try to spend as much time as possible on a trail directly east of my house.
It is a beautiful place where I love to bike and run.
You’ve probably seen some of the Instagram photos from the trail that I’ve taken on my sidebar.
Since it’s completion a few months ago, Murdock Trail has quickly become one of my Holy Places.

murdock trail

In the past two weeks, while on the trail, I’ve had three very significant experiences that I want to write about. I expect I will have many more, so today I will start this “lessons from the trail” mini-series on my blog as a place to record these simple moments in time that have such a profound impact. In fact, for me, the impact is so significant that I usually bawl my eyes out and thank God for the message. Well, at least that is what has happened the last three times and I expect my reaction won’t change over time. When the whisperings hit straight to my heart, I usually suspect that God has something to do with it.


So, as you all know, lately I have been heavily focusing on my role at home and learning to find happiness and joy in my motherhood. Well, the other day, my lesson was magnificently focused on this journey. It was a small moment. It probably only lasted 25 seconds.

On a chain-link fence off to the side of a trail, I noticed a bunch of little finch-like birds. I couldn’t tell if they were just a really teeny species or if they were babies. The looked a lot like the ones above that I snatched off the internet. (I really would like to learn more about birds) As I was riding my bike towards home and watching the birds (there were about 5 or 6) playfully perching and hovering around the fence, out of nowhere, came a bigger bird. It was instantly apparent that the big bird must be their mother. She looked exactly like them and seemed to be at the very least communicating in some way with the young-in’s or at the most she was somehow corralling them. I couldn’t quite tell.

I kept observing and my eyes were drawn towards the mother. She looked haggard. Maybe she was molting, I wondered. Or maybe she was just a new mom and her wings were haphazard from all the time she spent in the nest with her babies? I kept thinking about the reasons the mother’s beauty was significantly less than her babies’ beauty.

Out of nowhere my answer came: She gave her beauty to her babies. She didn’t care what she looked like. Her eye was on her prize: her babies on the fence. She was happily observing them, watching out for danger, keeping them close. In the very least she was talking to them, in the most she was corralling them. Someday she would die, yet she would live on through those babies. Without the pressures and complications I as a human mother face, she seemed to possess the joy for which I’ve been looking.

With  my new insight I gained from pondering, that mother bird was instantly transformed into one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen. As tears welled up in my eyes I realized that God was up in heaven somewhere looking down on me having as significant an experience with me as I was with the bird. He smiled (as I did with the bird) in pride at this haggard momma who just wants to learn to be happy with all that is required of her. I heard his voice directly to my heart, “Alice, know this to be true…you are a beautiful mother and there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, better than that.”