Walking stick versus hiking stick

Garden club field trips are coming up! Two out of the three groups of which I’m a member are already talking about the places we want to see this year. One of them entails hiking upward along a waterfall, through a botanical garden. It sounds heavenly…aside from the climb! I may need help if I go; preferably by a crane. I didn’t say cane, but crane. Some jobs call for more than a little stick.

Hiking sticks are different from walking sticks, I recently learned from a friend who makes them.

The hiking stick is a little longer. The reason why is that it can be used on terrain that ascends and descends. While a cane or walking stick is used on level ground, the long-distance version — the hiking stick — is used on hills and valleys.

As the hiker goes down a path or even on a non-path route, she will need to put the base of that stick lower than her foot, to steady herself as she steps off the higher ground to footholds of unknown stability. The last thing she needs to be doing is reaching down as she gropes for a good place to set her foot. The combination of an unbalanced body and a treacherous slope could be disastrous.

The hiker might then make her descent much more rapidly than anticipated, and in a direction she may not want to go — not to mention the abrasions and possible broken bones that could accompany such a swift descent. Yes, I’m talking about falling. I don’t want to dwell on that too much, because I’ve taken my share of tumbles! I am a natural klutz, and have to work hard not to literally stumble through life!

In general it seems easier to go downward, with the benefit of gravity and all. Add the fact that downward is the direction we will take if we take a wrong step! This applies to our psyches as well as our bodies. It is often easier to let our minds go to the downward, depressive states than it is to push upward to the more positive mindset.

Left unchecked, this gravitational pull toward sadness and depression will hurt and be just as dangerous as…well, me on a hillside.

Every little side path seems to almost beckon us to go downward, into the dark places and ditches and the dangerous spots. It will take a conscious effort to avoid these, but avoidance is a must! (Philippians 4:6-8)

There will still be a danger in going upward, to be sure. We are not guaranteed an easy path either way. The upward climb requires more energy, and there remains the danger of a misplaced step and subsequent fall.

In our spiritual climb, however, we are promised a guide and a good Shepherd who will walk with us!

If we leave his company to explore an intriguing path downward into treacherous places, we are on our own in many respects. He will always be there in this life to welcome us back to his company, but what if we don’t make it back to that higher ground? That’s too big a risk to take!

“I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day,
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

~ hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr.

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