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Hiking in the mountains has been a favorite family pastime for many years. When the children were much younger, Mill Creek Canyon was a favorite haunt because instead of having to work hard just to get to the wooded shoulders of the hills, trails were relatively easy, safe for the children, and started in the woods surrounding the trailhead.
Like most trails that snake their way up into the mountains, much of the time along the way was spent with exposed roots and hillside rubble on one side of the path and a view into the attic of the forest on the other. But of all the many trails we hiked, I found my attention in Mill Creek drawn to trees that in their prime had suffered either a direct hit from a boulder, the falling of a nearby tree, or even a lightning strike.
Walking among them as a friend, I could almost hear their voices in the wind; and I could hear their silence, too, surrounded by the stories of their lives. It was sad to look upon the girth and straightness of so much dreaming and striving splintered on the forest floor, or broken like sectioned columns that in their fall had wrecked the limbs and spines of a companion's dreams of sky and wind and stars.
I also noticed, however, that from the mouldering debris of nearly every calamity, two or sometimes three spires of renewed hope, striving, and endurance rose as straight and strong as the first. And as I looked further, it struck me that this was as true for the tops of the trees as for their roots.
Few of the giants had made it to the roof of their world without the spent flame of their original intent being snapped off or withered. But just like the sinews of the roots, exposed along the trail (twining and growing ever onward until the obstacles in their path were clasped in the unyielding grasp of a fixed purpose), the tree's thwarted reaching at the fingertip of its first attempt had been turned instead into a hand extended heavenward.
I cannot think of those trees and their heavenward reaching throughout adversity, but what I also think of these lines from Alessandro Manzoni:
He who gave you so much happiness is everywhere, and never disturbs the joy of His children, except to prepare for them another greater and more certain. (From I Promessi Sposi, chapter VIII)