07 March 2008

Down in the Valley

Last week was spring break here at the University of Georgia, and as the complete lack of posts on this blog indicate, I didn't really do much of anything. I made the classic student's mistake - taking a break to sleep and watch TV. I had fully intended to clean my apartment (only half-done), catch up on German (not done at all), catch up on reading (I did read, just not much), and post on here every day (huh - about that...). Instead, I spent a large amount of time at two friends' apartment watching them play Super Smash Brothers (I don't like video games, but this one makes a good spectator's sport) and watching episodes of Firefly (good show). I slept in until at least eleven almost every morning. By most accounts, it was a good week; it just didn't go as planned (they rarely do). Oh, and did I mention the tornadoes? Nothing says spring break like hunkering down in the bathroom with a wool blanket over your head - actually, it reminds me of the time in Kansas when I was working on a term paper - the siren went off, so I took the laptop and the dog to the basement and just kept typing. Wait - wasn't I talking about something else? Oh yes.

My favorite part of the break was when I went hiking. Those who know me know that I like to hike - there has yet to be a break in which I haven't packed some dried fruit and a bottle of water to go wander around the woods. This week's goal was Tallulah Gorge. I first expected the hike to be a steep descent, a nice path along the bottom, and a steep climb. Easy, right?

Well, I woke up early and drove to the gorge, registered with the park office, and started the hike. And by all means, the hike down was normal - steep stairs, a bridge over the river, and more stairs to the base of the waterfall. But as had been explained to me, I had to cross the river again because only one end is hikeable. The means of crossing said river? Hopping from boulder to boulder. I cross the river and realize that there is no trail - the only means of making it downstream is scampering over boulders and the occasional patch of dirt. And, at one point, the wall of the gorge itself. When the time comes to cross the river again, there are no boulders and there is no bridge - you have to take off your boots, roll up your pants, and wade across. Unfortunately, the water was about thigh-deep and the bottom of the pool was very slick. Oh, and did I mention that you do this at the top of the waterfall? So, with nearly no margin of error, I start to cross, slip, and end up four-legging my way across to the other side. And then the climb up - no stairs, no trail, just more boulders. On the way up, I see a group of vultures a la the Jungle Book. They took off at the sight of me, and then, a happy thought - they may be waiting on the carcass of a fresh bear kill - this ended up being one of the few times in my life that I was very happy to be wrong (if you know anything about bears, you know you don't want to sneak up on a bear and its fresh kill).

So why am I telling you this? Because I did learn something. First, the next time I do this hike, I'm taking some water shoes and two other people to help with crossing the river. Oh, and a towel.

Second - sometimes we end up in bad situations. And we end up there so fast that it takes us by surprise. When I crossed the river on the boulders, I put myself in a place where the only way to go back was to go forward. And I didn't know it until that jumping to that final boulder. So, stuck on the gorge floor, I started down stream, and things didn't improve. There were quite a few moments where were it not for good balance and better shoes, I would have fallen into the river. And when, as things seemed the most hopeless, as I climbed out of the river, I hoped to see my easy way out. Instead, I saw a slight trail that ended in a mountain of very large rocks. Getting out was going to be anything but easy. But the only way back was forward.

Spring break was slightly stressful - for me, but more so for a few friends. I watched as an apartment and a friendship sank further into despair, and still pray that good comes out of it. And just as that should have been settled, it was put on hold to pray for and comfort another friend in her tragedy. And to these friends who very suddenly find themselves in bad, and tragic, situations, I can't explain why they are there or that getting out is going to be easy. I can say that there's a reason, but I can't say what that reason is. I can only tell them that getting out is going to be hard, it's going to hurt, and worse, there's no going back. I can only tell them that God will give them the strength to get through it, that if they lean on him, they will overcome. I can promise them that I'll be there to help them. Really, it's all any of us can do.

Rock on.