Recently during a trip to New Mexico I was hiking just outside of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Christo foothills. Due to a wrong turn I found myself at the trailhead for the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve Trail. It seemed like a pleasant jaunt through an area that had originally been under water with a self-guided trail explaining where the original dams had been. It was a bright sunny day the trail was an easy stroll with lovely views and big skies and was exactly what I felt like. My enjoyment was expanded when I came across this sign that made me smile. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it – Enjoy the Mud, Avoid the Mud.”
Somewhat to my surprise this sign led to a continuing philosophical contemplation as additional meaning began to emerge. First I began to realize how frequently during this road trip I had inadvertently followed this sign’s advice. Often I had taken a fork without having any idea of where it may lead. Sometimes it led to the mud and sometimes avoiding the mud. Suddenly the wisdom of the sign’s suggestion became apparent. Accepting the mud and learning to enjoy it could shift a negative experience into a positive one.
The previous day I had got stuck in an enormous traffic jam on my way into Santa Fe. I was at a complete standstill when irrationally I had pulled out of the traffic and made a turn with no idea where it may lead. Finding myself on the side streets of the city with no idea of how to proceed, I noticed a local park with convenient parking. I pulled off and sat for a moment; I did not have a map of the city and I could not use my iPad without Wi-Fi. Suddenly I decided to “enjoy the mud”. I took my bike off the back and set off to cycle into Santa Fe. A moment of frustration led to a day of freedom. It was as though a weight had been lifted off my back. I followed my nose and eventually found a bike route that led me past all the traffic into the downtown area. I realized how much better I was served having my bike and not the car. I found a delightful bookstore and coffee shop “Collected Works”; I enjoyed the first really good coffee since I left Vancouver and I got my bearings on my iPad so I could plan a delightful unencumbered day.
I had a similar experience with Moab where due to a Saturday arrival and an astonishing number of tourists I was despairing of finding a campsite. I pulled off in frustration wondering what to do next. My plan was to drive back into town and find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi but as I pulled out I came close to hitting a passing vehicle. In embarrassment I adjusted and took an unexpected turn to the right. Now I am driving down a strange backstreet with no idea where I was going. It seems to be taking me away from town then as I reached a fork in the road I saw a sign, “Kane’s Camping – 4 miles” I followed a scenic drive along the Colorado River to an admittedly somewhat primitive campsite that became my home for the next two days. “Enjoy the Mud.”
My reflection expanded to embrace a broader vision. The sign on the hike became a new stop on the journey of the Soul. It presented a mystical moment when the way ahead was clearly signposted. The Soul journey always goes where it needs to go. The guidance was clearly about acceptance and surrender. The mud couldn’t impede me as long as I didn’t resist it. Perhaps it is not about sweating which fork we take but rather ensuring we embrace wherever we end up.
Postscript: At this point I was going to quote John Lennon and his “Life is what happens” quote. To my surprise although Lennon used these words in his song, Darling Boy, he was not the originator. Allen Saunders who wrote the comic strips Steve Roper and Mary Worth first made this observation in 1957, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”