Beaten Paths

April 1, 2020–Why do paths get such a bad reputation?

In all those cringy memes and inspirational posters you see the tanned and toned traveler choosing to set off on the unbeaten path, blazing a new trail through the Forest of Confusion, across the Sea of Setbacks, and arriving at the Meadow of Nirvana, even more tanned and toned.

Paths can be a good thing. Have you not considered that ruts are there because they have been proven to be the best way forward?

How many modern superhighways follow a line that was a paved road, before that a gravel road, before that a dirt lane, path, pioneer trail, and animal trail?

There is even a tale that train tracks in the United States are the width they are because that was the distance between two horses hind ends when hitched to a wagon. Fill in your metaphor.

The utility of beaten paths became apparent to me the other day when I found myself out in our front yard, barefoot. I had to get to the backyard quickly for some reason. Those familiar with Texas terrain know it is folly to stray off any trail. Our yard is a hazard of sticker burrs, fire ant mounds, yucca spines, and, most recently, shards of deer bones our dog has drug into the yard.

Fortunately, our dog has also worn a solid path around the house. It unrolls like the old Lucky Strike radio commercial: “so round, so smooth, so firmly packed.”

It was like walking on silky, cool pavement.

Paths also run both ways. They are also good for finding your way home. This literally happened to me the other night.

I went for a late walk in the country, and, lost in thought, soon found myself far from home with fog and dark descending. Of course I knew my way home, but as I cut cross-country to save time, I found myself disoriented in the dense cedar. Even the dog abandoned me!

Fortunately I crossed a cattle trail. I followed it, knowing those clever beasts had found the shortest distance to somewhere. Sure enough, as I followed their footsteps, I began to recognize landmarks and soon emerged in my own driveway.

Thank goodness we don’t need to blaze a new trail and reinvent the wheel that travels it every time we set out on a new endeavor.

Sure, if you only follow paths, you only end up where others have been before.

But sometimes that’s just the place you were looking to go.

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