One of the best parts about hiking my local trails every day is seeing the subtle shifts that happen from week to week. Of course there are big changes like leaves falling in autumn and the hills filling with green grass in the spring. Each week, I pass by the same places and watch dozens of tiny developments unfold within each season. After years of hiking the same trails, I have especially grown to look forward to the succession of wildflowers that each period brings.
Last spring, while hiking through my favorite canyon, I discovered a flower that was brand new to me. While most native plants and wildflowers are familiar to me, if not by name, at least by sight, this was something I had never seen before. Although it was quite large, it seemed to just appear out of nowhere one week. The whole day, I was enraptured by this discovery. What was this mysterious flower? Had it been there last year and I just didn’t notice it? If not, how did it suddenly appear this year? With a little research, I learned this was a pink Trillium flower, a native species from the Lily family.
Later that week, I hiked another familiar loop, but this time, I walked the opposite direction from my usual route. In the middle of the loop, I discovered a wooden bench tucked back in the trees. I had probably walked this stretch of the trail more than 50 times and never seen that bench before. The well-worn wood told me this was definitely not a new bench, but somehow, I had never seen it in all my times passing by. Was it really such a different line of sight walking this trail in the opposite direction or had I just been so preoccupied the other times I passed through that I completely missed this bench?
These experiences left me pondering, what else have I missed in my daily life? What other majestic flowers are trying to share their beauty with me? Where is there a place to rest and relax that I have overlooked in my rush to get everything on my list completed? What routines do I have in my schedule that I could turn backwards in order to gain a fresh perspective? What gifts are being offered to me that I miss in my hurried pace?
I’ll never really know if that Trillium flower was there in the previous years or if I witnessed its first appearance in the canyon, but this year, I am on the lookout for its return. I am also keeping my eyes open for other surprises, and reminding myself not to assume that I already know what is coming around the next bend. Every time I pass that bench, it makes me smile. Sometimes, I even slow down long enough to sit on it for a few minutes, and I am filled with gratitude for the chance to look back at the trail from a different perspective.
Julie Haydon is an artist and musician living the beautiful hills of Oakland, CA who creates works of beauty that brings people together. When she is not at working, she is outside playing in the dirt or hiking with her husband and their two spoiled dogs.