Don’t reach out for something that is not there

once-we-let-goWhile hiking in the mountainous back country, one frequently encounters uneven footing along loose rocks, gravel, moss, plants, or ‘blow-down’.  Blow-down is found in a relatively large area where trees have died and fallen over on top of each other, waiting the processes of time to decay the trunks into the nutrients of the soil.

However, as a hiker, blow-down is a pain to get past.  The tree trunks are scattered about in complete randomness.  It would be nice if they were all neatly stacked side by side so I could easily pass, but that isn’t how nature works.  The trees are scattered all about it total disorder – different heights, different thickness, different length, different angles.

Each encounter with the terrain is unique.  To get by, one has to climb or step over; sometimes crawl under; and sometimes the easiest path is to walk around the whole lot.  Traversing blow-down is exponentially more difficult in winter when the trunks are covered with snow and ice, and in many cases indistinguishable across the surface of a deep snow fall.  To step on a fallen log, made slippery by ice or snow, will always send you to the ground.

Inevitably while hiking, even in the summer, one looses their step and begins to slip.  The natural tendency in those situations is to reach out and grab hold to something for stability.  Recently, I was in one of these fields of blow-down, picking my way through each step.  My eyes were focused down, to pick out my footing.  As I stepped over a fallen log, I began to slip.  In the corner of my eye, I saw a living aspen and reached out to grab it to gain stability.  I immediately fell over and landed on my face.

What happened to that tree I reached out for?  Did it magically disappear at the instant I needed it?

Well, it wasn’t there and I was laid out on the ground (confirming another hiking truth: “gravity always pulls in the same direction”).  As I regained my senses, I saw the aspen I had reached out for.  My brain assessed it as something to help, but in reality, it was further away than my reach.  It wasn’t there.

On reflection, I developed one of my principles.  “Don’t reach out to something that is not there”.  This is an important concept, whether hiking, working, or relating to other people.  Don’t reach out when there is nothing there to reach for – you’ll end up falling on your face, or worse.

Humans tend to be overly optimistic.  We want the end to turn out well, to achieve prosperity and fortune.  The Yukon Gold Rush of the 1890s was a perceived opportunity, yet ended in failure and ruin for many.  Attracted to the opportunity of striking it rich, tens of thousands launched into the great, frigid, primitive, relentless wilderness of Northwestern Canada and Alaska to stake a claim.  Some left the lower 48 states on foot, having no comprehension of the distance or barrenness of the trip they were undertaking.  They risked their lives for a crazy pursuit.  Such a tragedy!  They reached out for something that was not there.

Are you trying to hold on to something that is too far away or not there?

Is there something dead or dying in your life that needs to be dealt with?

Is it time to move on?

We get fired.

We have a financial collapse.

Relationships disintegrate.

Maybe there is a chance for restoration and reconciliation.  If there is communication, hope, and a mutual desire to work it out, we endeavor to do what it takes to restore and rebuild our relationships.  However, sometimes the situation is complete, fatal, over.  There is nothing to return to.

Don’t reach out to something, or someone who is not there.

Move on; build on new, solid ground – not on a fleeting glimpse of what used to be.  Don’t look back, look forward.  Let go of the things that don’t matter or are no longer there.  When you do, you make space for those things that do matter.


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About John Forrest