Christmas Day, I took my two snow-loving dogs to “Two Dog” trail out Croy Canyon near where I live in Idaho. We had already enjoyed a very White Christmas, with more than two feet of snow falling across the five days around Christmas. I assumed wrongly that others might have hiked or snowshoed the trail the previous day, meaning that the snow would have been packed and the trail passable. I was wrong.
Yes, I could see the bare outline along parts of the trail by the contours and shadows of snow, and yes, I assumed that outline would be enough to guide me proper. Yet, as I started hiking, I became blinded by the snow-white of the hills, the backdrop of white clouds, and the white curtain of lightly-falling snow An ethereal aura surrounded me, not quite fog, but much like fog. I could make out the outline of the mountains and hills in the background, but at times, the trail was all but invisible. For hundreds of feet at a stretch.
But, I know this trail. I have jogged the trail. Biked the trail. And snowshoed the trail. The trail circles alongside and extends into hills that are bald without trees, down to a creek, and back to its beginning. Knowing the trail and following it precisely when all is white are two different things. Instinct led me, but barely. I might have done better had I closed my eyes to fight my way through.
As I walked, on that lonely Christmas afternoon – lonely in the spiritual sense of the word – I lost myself to the white. White, and the nature of faith. The blindness of it all. How one must lend oneself to the trail, to the journey, and let the journey subsume him or her. How God refuses to let us see beyond the pale, beyond the next ten feet, refuses to let us know enough to assume control. Let go, let go, let go, or as Julian wrote, all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well …
Faith, the seeing of invisible things, the author to the Hebrews called it, the seeing of a path that is not there. As I walked, I found myself struggling off-trail at times because I’d strayed, trudging through thigh-deep snow. Near the path, but not on it, relying on something beyond myself for return. And return I would, after stopping just long enough to recapture my center.
As I move into this new year and consider the path, I realize that – like every other year in my life – the trail is both secure and insecure. That my future is both secure and insecure. That I cannot see beyond the pale for reasons I may never appreciate, but also that I rest in a grace I cannot explain.
I made it safely back, of course, as I knew I would. Sated by grace.