Last night on our evening walk as we rounded the bend of the nature trail, I asked my daughter, “Do you want to take the dark and deadly trail or turn around and travel back in the light?” She laughed and asked, “Why do you call it ‘the dark and deadly trail?'”
I explained how that trail used to be inviting and sunny. When she was a baby, the path had been recently cut, and bushes and trees had not taken root. Over time, however, plants have grown up so tall that they create a tunnel effect. The result is a section of trail that resembles a fairy tale. Woodland animals live deep in the undergrowth, and at times, we hear noises we don’t recognize as birds or squirrels. The light disappears and creates an eerie feeling, especially at dusk. I will admit that sometimes if it’s just the dogs and me, we will jog that section to get through it faster, or turn around and go back the long way to remain on the sunny side. (They’re small dogs, people!. They won’t be able to protect me.)
There’s something about that trail that personifies the darkness of human nature. I realize that feeling may come to me because of one too many children’s stories with wolves or witches, but truly, it does. While it is a nature path and is full of beautiful foliage and fauna, it also seems as if something lurks behind the green, a sense of darkness I do not understand nor one that I want to experience. It is a bit unnerving.
In our lives, we encounter many dark and deadly trails–those that challenge us personally and those that challenge us culturally. It is understandable that we wonder if we will make it out alive, or at least whole and in tact.
What I’m learning as I grow older, however, is that those times and situations help us define what is important to us, help us create a sense of connection with the bigger world, and help us feel more resolute about what it is we believe. It is that kind of strength and determination that brings about change in this world; change that will make the world seem less “dark and deadly” for others.
And so, when my daughter looked at me last night and with gumption said, “The dark and deadly trail it is,” I followed her lead. And we never looked back.