Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt


I woke up in the dark this morning, which is not unusual at this time of year. Daylight hours always seem more precious right about now. I grabbed my camera – and the dog, who didn’t have to be asked twice – and headed up the mountain behind my village to the Pfannenstiel.

Walking, trekking, hiking, climbing – I don’t think the people I meet long the way are all that particular about how they describe this activity. Whatever it’s called, we do it because we love it.

We say a friendly “greutzi” to each other when we meet and keep going. I always smile too, as I say it, and the other hikers know from the toothy grin that I’m an American who has become lost on a Swiss mountain.

I know the path I’m on quite well by now and have even tried a few of the paths that seem to head off in odd directions. Remarkably, I always seem to end up again on the main path. And of course when that happens I make the obvious spiritual connection. This has been the story of my life. God has never let me wander too far off the main path.

Over the years I have collected various sayings and aphorisms about ministry from those who have practiced ministry a lot longer than I have. Early on I even put them together in a book that made a lot of money for my publisher and not nearly as much for me.

I am now beginning to do the same with hiking – collecting sayings, that is, not making money for my publisher.

“Anywhere is ‘within walking distance,’ if you’ve got the time” is one of my favorites.

I’ll never forget Yogi Berra’s line. The famous twentieth century theologian once said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.”

The veteran Mount Everest climber, Ed Viesturs, wisely said, “Getting to the top of the mountain is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” That one is the sort of quote that makes an amateur like me sound as though I know what I’m doing.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I’m not sure who first said that, but it must be something every hiker believes.  For me the walk is spiritual. It’s prayer time. It’s time to think through next Sunday’s sermon. And it’s also time to get a grip on the fears and worries that always seem ready to hijack my life.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves,” said Sir Edmund Hillary.

And with each step I hope I am closer to the conquest.




About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


8 Responses to Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt

  1. Jeff Edwards November 15, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    “God has never let me wander too far off the main path.” – I have found this true in my life also, and He/She has also let me wander, and occasionally get lost. But God always brings me back. I am loving the photos that accompany your thoughtful words, Doug. Then, in retirement, that is where my head is…taking images of God’s wonderful beauty given for us to take care of, not destroy. Happy hiking, friend.

    • Doug November 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

      Hi, Jeff. Good to hear from you as always. I am a newcomer to photography, as must be obvious, but it’s interesting and challenging and fun. Am not sure where the fascination with moss-covered tree stumps is coming from!

  2. Georgia Hamilton November 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    Doug, all the quotes are wonderful, but I think I like Sir Edmund Hllary’s the best! Have a blessed week.

    • Doug November 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

      I liked that one too … and saved it for the end.

  3. Sheila Banach November 15, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    You always did see the beauty of the tiny moss in the midst of the awesome forest. Embrace the days of your path.

    • Doug November 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm #


  4. Marianne nestor November 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I can just see you and your dog wandering throught the woods with a big smile.

    • Doug November 16, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

      Hi, Marianne. It’s good to hear from you. I hope you’re smiling too.