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Climbing the Path

I have a motivational picture on my desk. It's a photo of a gnarled tree overlooking the ocean, with a few little islands under a somewhat leaden sky. It's not a particularly spectacular picture, but what makes it motivational for me is the story behind it:

Some years ago, I went on a trip to Canada to volunteer at a scientific research project. Along with the survey tasks, we were offered some leisure activities. One of these was what the project briefing had called a hike but project staff referred to as a 'wild walk' or 'a bit of a scramble'.

The project briefing stated that you had to be physically fit to take part in this activity, but project staff downplayed this, saying it wasn't that bad. I was in two minds whether to go or not - I am not a very fit person but I didn't want to miss out on an activity.

In the end I decided that I was only going to be here once and only had one chance to take part, so I went along.

It was fairly easy to start with: a narrow path going up a slight incline. But the path suddenly came to an end in front of a vertical earthen wall. It carried on at the top, about 3m further up. There was a tree at the top which had a knotted rope tied to it, and we had to climb up this rope to carry on.

I have always been good at walking - I will happily walk for hours - but I have no strength in my arms and I have never been able to do climbing.

I knew, with complete and utter certainty, that I would not be able to get up this rope.

I would have to turn round and go back to the camp by myself. However the camp was a distance away by now, and I thought that, seeing as I was here now, I might as well just give it one go.

So I tried it, our guide gave me a hand, and I made it - it wasn't actually as difficult as I had expected. I wasn't the only one in our group who had felt intimidated by the climb and our guide assured us that this was the only section like that on the path - well maybe just one more. One or two.

There were six sections in total, where we had to climb along ropes or scramble over large fallen trees. By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was gasping for breath and I must have been bright red in the face.

But I did reach the top, and the photo is the view from the top of that hill.

If I had known beforehand what the path was going to be like, I would not have gone. I would have been 100% certain that I would have been unable to do it.

None of us knew the pandemic was coming, and I for one am very glad about that. It would have felt too difficult to deal with, too much to take on.

But here we are, climbing up the path, dealing with it one obstacle at a time (actually usually several obstacles at a time, but there you go).

We haven't reached the top yet, and we don't know what still lies ahead. But we are capable of more than we realise, and we will get there.

And one day we will be able to look back and feel proud of our climb.

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