Stepping Stones

by Elizabeth deGraw Renna

“Big steps. Baby steps. As long as we’re headed in the right direction, they’re all good.”
From the magazine “Whole Living”,
September 2012

Path, noun
– A track that has been worn by the continual passage of feet
– A course; a route along which something moves
– A course of action: a course of action or a way of living

An image of stepping stones in a garden came to mind recently when I was thinking about all the ideas that I have that I want to write about. Sometimes it feels like one preliminary idea leads me to several others and I don’t know which direction to go next.

So there it was, the image of stepping stones in a garden, and I imagined myself coming to places on the path where it feels like there are suddenly several choices about where to step next. I remind myself that choosing one path and one set of stepping stones doesn’t eliminate the other choices – you can backtrack in a garden and choose a new path, another path. Or you can, if you’re in charge, plan for the path to circle back around and reconnect with a part of the path you were already on, allowing a revisiting of scenery or ideas, themes, and topics for reflection.

One thing about walking along a path of stepping stones in a garden setting: for me, they encourage me and cause me to look down, so that my feet will land on each stone rather than falling in between. That’s a downside of stepping stones: if I’m looking down and paying such close attention to my steps, I am probably missing out on seeing some of the beauty and inspiration of the garden space around me. I think the experience is similar when the ground we are walking along is uneven or strewn with small rocks or if the path includes exposed tree roots or large branches, either on the ground or hanging across the path, such as on a trail through the woods. We tend to look down in order to pick our way carefully and safely.

A path through a garden laid with stepping stones was set up that way on purpose, to lead you, the walker/visitor, through the garden along a particular path, with the stones set down both decoratively and functionally. Stepping stones can serve the purpose of slowing you down and prompting you to pause and take in the sights and sounds around you. I need to perceive that invitation from the stepping stones and accept it – slow down, stop, look and listen, absorb what is around me, and then step onward, stone by stone, step by step.

The path may wind and twist. It may feel like a labyrinth, where at times you perceive yourself approaching and getting closer to the destination of the center, only to be led away again by the path. Or you may encounter a crossroads along your path where you have to make a choice about which way to step – to move – next. All the choices are “right”. Making decisions about which path to follow in any given moment is a part of life, a part of the challenging of living life sometimes!