Wednesday, September 11, 2013

hacking through the forest blind

In a meeting yesterday a woman described her work on a new project and said, candidly and eloquently, that often she found herself "hacking through the forest blind."  This may be a common expression that the cool or contemporary use on a regular basis. Predictably perhaps, I'd never heard of it, but it caught my attention and amused me immediately.

Years ago, my brother and I travelled to Glacier National Park and hiked on several trails there.  The most stunning, step for step, was one called the Garden Wall Trail.  The park has so many vistas that take your breath away and on this hike one could easily become breathless because of how often you need to stop and stare at what seems indescribable.

The trail is not for the weak kneed.  It is so named because early on one finds a garden hose attached to the side of a cliff. The reason for the garden hose is that the path is so narrow and the drop off so stunningly steep that even the tough ones among us want to cling to that hose to ensure that we don't topple over to oblivion.

We were half way into the hike well beyond the garden hose part when we saw, to our open jawed astonishment, that a hiker was clawing up the sheer steep incline and was nearing the top.  He got to the ridge, and like a cartoon character slapped one hand and then another on the trail.  He then hoisted himself up until he was upright and began to dust himself off.

The vertical nature of the cliff and the drop to the bottom was such that what he had done seemed outrageously dangerous.  What kind of nut would do this off the trail hiking?  The fellow got his bearings and saw the two of us stare at him.  I said something of the order of "why did you do that?"

He responded, sheepishly, that he was afraid of heights and therefore couldn't take the first hundred yards of the hike with the garden rail and the drop off.  To avoid this he "bushwhacked" his way up the mountain to begin his hike after the narrow garden hose path portion.  This explanation to us was, and still is, mindboggling.

"Do you mean" I stammered "you walked up a vertical mountain BECAUSE you are afraid of heights?"  He nodded and laughed self effacingly.  "Can't handle that garden hose path. Can't deal with that drop."

So illogical.  For some reason when the woman yesterday said she had been "hacking through a forest blind" this fellow who bushwacked up the sheer side of a mountain to AVOID his fear of heights came to mind. Maybe it was because what he had done was hack through whatever shrubs were in his way to get to the trail.  So the image of hacking through a forest was akin to what he had done.

But it also crossed my mind that in so many of our endeavors we are hacking through the forest blind--often unnecessarily and illogically. Afraid of some demon we avoid the path that might be screaming at us that it is the best way to go and hack dangerously and blindly through the forest.  

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