In the late afternoon last Saturday, I decided to go for a walk. Supper plans were under control; Richard and Jonathan had gone for a drive; Allison was doing her own thing at home. I put on my lined pants, doubled up on mittens, and headed out.
We had had about 40cm of snow during the week before and including Christmas, so the snowbanks were piled high. But the sidewalk plows had been out, so most of the major streets seemed to have walkable sidewalks.
It was a nice time of day to walk. Although it was cloudy, darkness hadn't fallen yet, so I didn't feel unsafe; but it was dim enough that the Christmas lights outside and inside various houses were bright and sparkling against the snowy backdrop. I could even see through some windows and observe what people were doing.
As I turned off a main street and started up a side one, I had a strange visual sensation. The flat late-afternoon light made the path up ahead of me look solid white. Because the sun wasn't shining and the streetlights hadn't come on yet, there were no shadows to distinguish plowed banks from the flat path -- it was just a white expanse. I couldn't tell whether the sidewalk was plowed or completely filled with snow.
There was only one way to find out: keep walking. And a few steps along, I saw the plow had been through. The banks on either side took shape as I got closer to them, and the tread marks from the plow became distinct. What had looked shapeless and indistinct from a distance was in fact clearly marked and plain -- a fact I'd have missed if I'd relied on my eyes alone and assumed, "This sidewalk isn't plowed yet."
Maybe you're not sure about the path you need to walk in 2018. It may look as if no one's gone that way before, and you wonder if you'll be on your own. There may even seem to be no path at all -- just an indistinct expanse without markers or signposts.
But if you just set out and take those first steps, you may find that -- as the Quakers say -- "way will open" in front of you.
You may discover that a path, whether fresh or well-marked, lies ahead of your feet -- just waiting for you to follow it to whatever adventures the New Year holds.
- The Road goes ever on and on
- Down from the door where it began
- Now far ahead the Road has gone,
- And I must follow, if I can,
- Pursuing it with eager feet,
- Until it joins some larger way
- Where many paths and errands meet.
- And whither then? I cannot say.
- - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings