“Will we ever make it to the top,” the boy asked his father.
“Of course we will,” he replied, “but it won’t be easy.”
“If it’s hard, then why are we doing this,” the boy questioned again. “I’m already tired, my legs hurt, and there’s so much more to go.”
“You’ll see when we get there.”
Together, they continued up the beaten trail.
In some places the path had become overgrown on both sides by caprifoliaceae, a leafy shrub with white flowers that devours the area it inhabits.
“These weeds are taller than me!,” the boy exclaimed. “I can’t even see where I am going anymore. The trail is getting narrower. Are you sure we’re going the right way? Maybe we should turn back now before there is no more trail.”
The man stopped, knelt down beside the boy, and plucked one of the white flowers from the shrub.
“Smell this,” he said as he handed the bloom to the boy.
With a skeptical look on his face the boy brought the flower to his nose.
“It smells so sweet!,” the boy said with brightening eyes.
The man took another flower and lightly pinched the small bulb where it had been attached the stem of the bush. A drop of clear liquid formed at the base.
“Here,” he handed the flower to the boy, “taste this.”
The boy took the flower, examined the bead of liquid, and looked at his father.
“Trust me,” he said, “go ahead.”
The boy slowly pressed the flower to his lips, and then licked the drop.
“Wow!,” he said with a big grin, “it tastes so good!”
“It’s called honeysuckle,” the man said. “Would you like some more?”
The boy nodded.
The man pulled three more flowers from the bush and handed them to the boy.
“Remember, the path may become narrow sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’re going the wrong way. If you ever feel like you are becoming lost, just take a moment to rest, look around, and you’ll find something beautiful or even sweet to the senses—even when you are unsure—and you’ll know you’re still going the right way.”
They continued up the winding dirt path, the overgrowth eventually pulling away. The trail became steeper, rockier, and more difficult to keep track of because of the dead leaves that increasingly covered the forest floor.
“I can’t see the trail anymore,” the boy said. “The sun is starting to go away, and I don’t want to get lost.”
The man stopped.
“Do you trust me,” he asked the child.
“Yes, always, but that doesn’t mean I’m not scared,” he replied. “I can’t see the path at all now. What if there is no more path?”
“While you may not see it, there is always a path,” the man said.
And with his foot, he brushed away the leaves in front of them, revealing the earth beneath.
Imitating his father, the boy began kicking away the leaves in front of them.
As they ascended the mountain, the switchbacks became increasingly more tiring, and the trees farther and fewer between until the leaves on the ground had all but disappeared. Then, a sound of rushing water slowly filled the air. The path now ended as it came upon a creek that flowed down the side of the mountain; water foaming and gurgling as it traversed over and around the rocks in its way. On the other side of the creek the path could be seen.
“How will we get across this,” the boy asked. “I’m too small. I’ll slip and it’ll pull me away. We have to go back.”
The man smiled and looked down at the boy.
“We’ve already come this far, and you still trust me don’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, of course, but sometimes…” the boy said. “Sometimes, I just don’t know why you want me to do these kinds of things. It scares me, and I don’t know what the point is.”
“The point?” the man asked. “Why must there be a point to it?”
“Take your shoes and socks off, put them in your backpack, and take my hand. We’ll cross this together. I won’t let you go. No matter what.”
They took their shoes and socks off, and the boy grabbed his dad’s hand. He thought to himself how he felt so small in his dad’s presence and then he felt safe; not even realizing that they were now half-way across the creek.
They were close to the other side when the boy began to realize that the fast-moving water was now up above his knees. It was so cold that he could barely think of anything else, and he kept having to struggle against the current with all his might to keep from falling over.
Then it happened. As he placed his right foot in front of the other, the creek bottom was not there, and he felt the weight of his entire body fall away with it. Feeling himself moving with the water, he struggled and kicked and screamed for help.
The man looked down at the boy flailing to his left, there hands still clasped together.
“What are you doing over there?” he asked, followed by a hearty chuckle. He then pulled the boy by his extended arm back towards him and then lifted him up onto the ground by the trail.
“I thought the water was taking me away!” the soaking boy said.
“I had you the entire time, but you just forgot that I was there.” the man said.
“I know,” the boy said. “I do that sometimes.”
At last, they reached the peak of the mountain. There were still a few hours left of sunlight. All around them, they could see for miles and miles. In all directions, there was vast panorama of forests, fields, rivers, and more mountains.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” the boy said with eyes wide open. “I want to see more! Can we climb those mountains way over there?”
“Of course we can. And you will. But there may come a day that I might not always be able to climb those mountains with you. You may feel that you are wandering aimlessly; not sure of what you are doing, where you’re going, or why you continue on. Sometimes, you might feel smothered by your surroundings, or you might not see the ground beneath your feet, or you may even think you have lost your grip. Just remember that the unclear paths you walk today will take you where you’re supposed to be.”
“Well, we better start back down the path if we’re going to get home in time for dinner,” the man said.
He watched the boy take of running down the path alone, smiled, put his backpack on, and began walking after him.