I adopted a trail at a state park. Here's what happened. . .

By Kate

I was spending the day at a park in prayer, and for some lunatic reason thought it would be a lovely thing to adopt a trail, which entails clearing brush from a two mile section once a month. Decent chance I was in one of my ‘hypomanic’ states (see previous post), and feeling overly ambitious and in love with God’s Great Creation and overlooking entirely God’s Great Providential Will, which means that, ironically, while spending the day in prayer, I failed to pray about whether “adopting” a two mile section of trail in a state park would be a wise thing to do.

Still elated with my decision and perhaps slightly out of breath, when I got home I practically ran up to Rick, “I adopted a trail at Ridley Creek Park!”

            “How much did it cost?”

            “What do you mean? It didn’t cost anything.”

            “You adopted it. Doesn’t that mean you own it?”

            “It means I take care of it,” I said.

            “Why would you want to take care of something you don’t own?”

            “I think I might be a better person than you.”

            “Yeah, maybe,” he said, and went back to writing a Bible study about God’s love.

A few weeks later I was stunned as the murders in Charleston hit the news. I felt the need to be alone, so I grabbed a scythe the park ranger had given me and drove to my (my!) trailhead. It had rained a lot so the trail was overgrown. I walked over to the dirt path and began sweeping over the weeds with the scythe, slicing through the brush, careful to beat back any thorns or poison ivy. I wore old jeans tucked into my socks to ward off ticks.

About 20 minutes in and already sweating profusely, I heard voices and noticed a group of young children rounding the corner. They were laughing and all memory-making happy, poking stuff with sticks and swinging water bottles like windmills. Awe, so sweet. I remember my own kids about that age. Precious. Two moms followed them. They were pretty, in diet trim, and chatting about who knows what, gossiping probably, because that’s all moms have to do at that age. Especially stupid ones who don’t care about what’s going on in the world and have nothing else to do but talk on their smart phones and go home and eat gluten free yogurt. I kind of hated them. Sort of. I should admit that I guess.  

I paused and smiled. They walked past, still talking, and steered their kids around me like I was some kind of criminal assigned to community service. It’s possible I was wearing a t-shirt with a bit of neon, but still. I went back to whacking the weeds.

Then, as they walked away, I thought—before I could even register the thought, like it was from some alien being who had taken over my mind because I was exhausted and beginning to regret every altruistic trail adoption notion I’d ever entertained—I thought to myself, ‘that’s right, don’t even notice me, go on ahead with your little iphone 6’s and jogging bras, even though you’re walking, while I whack at weeds to keep ticks and poison ivy off your kids. You keep going with your lily-white butts (I know, strange. I’m white.) and Nike sneakers and enjoy your day while the rest of America mourns the loss of 9 sisters and brothers killed as they studied the Word of God.’

I whacked at the weeds with my scythe.

It was hypocritical of course. Because God knows, I’ve ignored plenty of people, walked around many people, more interested in me than them. As the reality of what I had thought dawned on me I confessed my hatred, because that’s what it was. It felt good to repent. God is good. I’m so sorry.

Two other women came down the path. They wore the same kind of spandex stuff that hinted at iphones (FYI I have an iphone) and whatnot. I was about a half mile down the trail at this point. Having spent so much time with my own thoughts, I had begun to turn ‘scythe’ in to a verb. I was ‘scything’. I scythed. I didn’t look up. The women stopped next to me. Probably for directions.

            “Thank you so much,” one of them said.

            “This is volunteer work, isn’t it?” the other one said.

            “We love this park,” the first one said.

            “Yes, it’s so beautiful,” the other one said.

            “And the brush, it’s so overgrown,” the first one said.

            “Such hard work,” the other one said.

            “Well, thank you, thank you so much,” they both said, smiling.

            Yes, of course, no problem, I said, enjoy the park, it’s a gorgeous day; and I’m an idiot God, a selfish one, sorry again, thanks for the reminder and yeah, I know, when I had young kids I wouldn’t have paid any attention to me either, over here beating back the weeds. I love you and you’re amazing and your creation is amazing and even though sometimes nothing makes sense and people kill each other you don’t, you save us so that someday everything will make sense, so thanks.