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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Walk


Last week I had the privilege of hiking from the small seaport of Amalfi, Italy up to the even tinier but magnificent town of Ravello perched about 1,200 feet above. As hills go that is hardly a staggering height, but what made it a bit more of a challenge is that the way to get there is a series of ever ascending steps built out of local limestone and volcanic rock- more than 3 miles of them that wind back and forth –at times in near vertical progression. Of course, there is a road one could take, but for those who live on Ravello’s slopes, the steps are the only path to reach the road, and depending on where you live you’ll still need to walk a fair distance up and back again. People don’t often move in Ravello. You can see why. Imagine toting your household belongings up narrow, steep, winding stone corridors, (in some places less than 4 feet wide). Even shopping for everyday necessities, food and such, is a task not taken lightly when you must tote your bags up or down the steps.

Your reward for this hike, and the reason people choose to live here are the same—a community some describe as the jewel of the Amalfi—and I would agree with them. As you make your way up and pause occasionally to catch your breath or adjust your pack, you look out at a magnificent vista—the Tyrrhenian Sea below and above you on the heights yet unscaled, the Villas Ruffolo and Cimbrone and their extraordinary gardens.

My mind wandered a bit as I walked along, focused on the steps and my footing on the path ahead. And as they often do, they turned to the subject of this blog, relationships, and among them our relationship with that higher being that dwells within us.

The walk is more than a metaphor. Like the residents of Ravello, we set out on our walk every day regardless of what may confront us—sunshine or mist, beautiful scenery or the never-ending trudge up and down, down and up. It’s romantic when we think of this walk as something we will do once in a lifetime, quite another to face the prospect of doing it every day, regardless of what mood we are in or what burdens we carry with us. But life sometimes feels that way as can our relationships. Sometimes we are just weary, exhausted by the journey and the realization that tomorrow we must do it all over again. On those days, the beauty around us—the rewards of our efforts may not seem worth it. In the worst case, we may feel like Job; afflicted and at the end of our ability to cope; we just want out.

I am not going to hand you some trite counsel—when we are looking at the path ahead and are burdened beyond our capacity it can be very hard to find the faith to carry us forward. In desperation, we may be ready to sunder deep and loving relationships, even our relationship with that higher being, convinced that anything would be better than to endure another day such as we have, seemingly forever.

What helped me along my walk was the expectation that around the next turn, at the next resting spot I would find something I had never seen before. It made the hike up a journey of discovery, rather than a long hot walk to a destination I had only heard about but never seen. It also made me think that if we took that lesson to heart in our lives and in our relationships, we would be the better for it. When we are on the path we expect tomorrow to be just like today. If our pack is light and the day is sunny that may be fine, but if things are not so bright and our load feels unbearable the compulsion to quit can be pressing. That is when we need to stop, turn our gaze back to where we started to see how far we have come, and to look out at the views around us, not the path before us. That is when we need to remind ourselves that we can no more predict tomorrow, or even the next hour than we can ascend to the summit in a single leap.

How do you do this? By remembering that each day—each hour is new and not a replay of what came before. It only seems that way because we choose to see it as such. How many times in our lives have we been at the bottom and a week, month, or years later found ourselves confronted by unexpected change for the better? That is not an accident of fate, but an aspect of life and our relationship with that higher being. We can appreciate those high points—the summits of our lives only because we have endured the walk of thousands of steps. It is the same in our relationships with others. If we are tempted to call it quits, we need to step back and remind ourselves that we started at a summit and there are others yet to be scaled—but only if we stay on the path.

Around the next turn, at the next resting point, we will have a chance to feel the cool breeze, and feel refreshed enough to continue on, and who knows what we might discover there? The jewel of our lives is not a once and done thing, but an on-going, ever revealing, always new and yet to be discovered thing. All that is required of us is perspective—the reminder that there are many summits to climb yet and rewards to reap at the top when we attain them.


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