Tree by Tree

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Last Saturday I decided to try out the notoriously steep Disney Hiking Trail in Dalton. I am trying to get my legs in shape for the hills I will be climbing soon in Tuscany(!)

This Disney Trail has nothing to do with the fun theme parks in Florida and California. It was named for a Confederate war officer, George W. Disney, who is buried at the top. Over a hundred years ago, a group of Boy Scouts discovered the grave and built the trail which goes straight up the mountain. It is considered the most difficult trail in Northwest Georgia. This sounded like a challenge!

The wind was whipping the leaves as I found the trailhead behind a church. I was glad to see other cars in the parking lot — if I fell, someone would be around to hear me call!

The trail started out at a moderate incline, but I soon found myself huffing and puffing— the hike was kicking my butt! As I continued on, the path became steeper and soon I was climbing instead of hiking.  Every few yards, I had to stop to lean against a sturdy tree to catch my breath. But I kept going.

The trail is rugged, but not too long and I finally made it to the rock outcropping at the top. Yay! The trail seemed to end. A fellow hiker later told me that there was a path to slide through to get to the pinnacle, but since it was, as Winnie-the-Pooh would say, ‘a rather blustery day,’ I decided to count my blessings and not push all the way to the top. I had visions of a branch blowing by and sending me flying off the rock face.

I was rewarded by a beautiful view on this bright clear Spring day. I caught my breath resting against the huge boulders.

But now came the scary part of the climb—the descent.

The last thing I wanted to do was go hurtling down the mountain, so I proceeded cautiously. I found that by reaching out and putting my hand on the next tree I could gently slide toward it. The trees supported me and helped me keep my balance so that my momentum didn’t take over and send me crashing down.

Tree by tree, I made my way to the level part of the trail.

I was reminded of Anne Lamott’s well-known book on writing, Bird by Bird. The title comes from the time her brother had procrastinated on doing a report on birds. The night before it was due, he sat in tears at the kitchen table, his pictures scattered around him, overwhelmed by the task. His father said, “Take it bird by bird, son. Bird by bird.”

This is Lamott’s advice on writing, to take it sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Too often when we focus on the immensity of the job before us, we become paralyzed and give up.

I thought about how life is often this way as I lurched from tree to tree down the trail. When we go through challenging and scary seasons, we may feel like we are in danger of losing our footing and sliding into a broken heap at the bottom. Just like I held on to the trees to steady myself, we need supports in our life.

Those supports for me have been those friends and family members who listen to me without judgement, my devotional readings, and my times of quiet prayer, asking for God’s strength.

God speaks through the His word to comfort me. Many times a Bible verse is my anchor for the day, giving me the insight I need to tackle what lies ahead.

Proverbs tells us:

The Lord’s name is a strong tower;
    the righteous run to it and find refuge.

(Proverbs 18:10, CEB)

Today you may be pushing up a mountain, stopping to catch your breath, or sliding toward safety – wherever you find yourself, I pray that you feel God’s presence like a strong tower, providing you with a safe place to rest and renew your strength.

1 thought on “Tree by Tree”

  1. Tree by tree! What a great analogy for a hike, our spiritual walk, or any arduous task. As soon as I read “tree by tree” I thought of “bird by bird” and then laughed when I read your next line. Love the story. Love the pictures. Love the history. Love the reference to Ann Lamott. Thanks for sharing thoughts from your heart, Millicent. Keep these stories coming.


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