Since I was in the neighbourhood, I thought I’d take the dog up Silver Star mountain for a hike. The peak is just 25 km from where Joan and I were looking after our grandchildren last week.
I knew there were great cross-country ski trails up there in the winter. I thought they might make good hiking trails in the fall.
Indeed, they do. Trees have been removed, ground roughly levelled, undergrowth trimmed back.
The hike would have been better if the weather had cooperated, though. Bright sunshine flooded the valley below. But the mountain had its head in the clouds. Cold fog wreathed through the forest, condensing on the bushes, the leaves, the long grass…
Almost immediately, the trail ran through a boggy patch. Water seeped into my shoes. Long grass and low shrubs brushed against my legs, soaking me to the skin up to my knees.
My pants clung to my shins. My socks squished. My shoes turned into mobile wading pools.
I almost turned back. Then I remembered, from working in the bush doing timber surveys years ago, that only the first penetration of icy water to the skin is a shock. After that, wet clothing insulates like a swimmer’s wet suit. That first layer of water has already been warmed by the body. Any additional cold water has to displace the warmer water that’s already there before it can reach sensitive skin.
My recollections were correct. Once I was wet, it wasn’t so bad, after all.
Over the next hour or so, as the dog delightedly explored this new territory, it occurred to me that hiking in wet clothing is like many other things in life.
Swimming, for example. I cringe, getting into the water. I keep as much of me as I can out of the water until the last possible moment. But once I’m in, it’s not so bad after all.
I approached parenting much the same way. I wanted children; I wanted to be a father. But oh, Lord, not yet! I was not ready for waking in the middle of the night to comfort a fretful infant, for wiping tiny bums, for having a burp drool something slimy down my back….
But once I got into parenting, it wasn’t so bad, after all.
The analogy might even work with faith. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard stressed “the leap of faith.” He didn’t mean suddenly affirming a complex creed that ties down all loose ends. Rather, he argued, we can’t slither unconsciously from denial – whether by deliberate choice or by apathy – into acceptance of a divine presence whom we can know and who can know us. We have to leap, and trust that someone or something will catch us.
Many people, I guess, fear taking that leap. They’re afraid of becoming fiery-eyed fundamentalists. Or of losing their friends. Or that being religious might spoil their fun….
Sometimes they’re surprised to find, once they’ve made the leap, that it’s not so bad, after all.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author of 17 books and several thousand magazine and newspaper articles. He welcomes comments; firstname.lastname@example.org.