Hold Your Head Up, Look Forward and Just Keep Walking

By Samantha McKenzie

A 2.8 mile walk in Umstead State Park this weekend turned into a quick lesson for me and my 13 year old.

The ground was wet from the previous days rain and it was our first trip to the park since we moved. We’re a family that likes to walk moderate trails in whatever park we can find. When I lived in Greensboro, NC, it was the majestic view from the peak at Pilot Mountain that first won our hearts. Then it became the waterfalls at Hanging Rock that kept us coming back.

I wouldn’t consider myself an outdoorsy person, but I do love the beauty of nature. I love the views, the smells and the communion.  The bugs and spiders, yeah, not so much.

This Saturday, I found myself a little fearful as I took steps into the unknown new terrain. I kept my eyes to the ground in front of me, hoping not to trip over a protruding root. I didn’t want to slip or fall. (The last time I took a tumble, it took my strained knee a whole year to heal). So I took caution with every step for the first 20 minutes until I realized that I was missing out on all the majesty before me. I stopped to take a phone call from my older daughter which caused me to look up. It was at that moment that I was free to really appreciate the view around me.

And it was breathtaking. And it was serene. And it was all that I had hoped for when I had planned this trip.

For the first time since I had arrived, I finally inhaled the beauty of the things surrounding me. I saw handsome trees that stretched to the sky and covered the morning sun that peeked on me between the leaves. I saw the greenest plants that lined my path and perfectly fallen leaves that directed my next steps. I saw what I had come to see and I was thankful.

From that moment on, I decided to lose my fears and live in the moment. I walked with my head up, looking forward to whatever was ahead of me, capturing terrific photos of my view and remembering to appreciate it all.

And then out of nowhere, I saw the Big Lake. It was on the park map, but I had totally forgotten that it would be on this trail. It stood out proudly, as if it were awaiting our arrival. I moved towards this body of water, getting as close to the edge as it would allow me, and then gave it a quick wink, thanking it for the kind welcome.

As I walked back through the woods, I was so glad for the lesson. What if we lived without fear? What if we decided to walk into the unknown, being grateful for the experience, admiring its beauty and letting our steps take us where the path leads? What if…?

Here’s to another day and another lesson learned. Hold your head up ladies, look forward and just keep walking. The fears aren’t worth it, and our rewards are straight ahead.

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