While hiking out at Camp Horizon on Sunday evening, I followed the trail from Cardiac Hill over to the Arkansas River. Having slogged through a good bit of soggy bottoms on this hike and having had to improvise a couple of flooded crossings last week, I was glad to see the water had receded considerably. I estimate the level had declined by fifteen feet or so, leaving a lot of mud and debris behind.
That mud was precipitously slick as I approached a small ditch that empties directly into the river. A bunch of natural debris had accumulated on the narrow footbridge which was still submerged. Water from the backed up pool trickled through the sticks, stems, branches and dead leaves that were matted against the little dam. Nature’s little construction project stretched about twelve feet wide, forming a pool over two feet deep at that point. Below that point, the water flowing out was only a few inches deep.
I looked at the water backed up on the upstream side and thought, “It’s gonna take quite a while for that to all drain out at this pace. This whole place will be stinking by then.”
So, seeing the opportunity to get a bit muddy and do a good deed at the same time, I decided to let my inner child come out and play for a while. I did take the cell phone away from him first and laid it on a safe, dry spot, along with the hiking poles. Then I let the little scamp have at it!
While nearly sliding into the ditch several times, I managed to pry loose several key sticks and branches. I created an opening nearly two feet wide and about ten inches deep on the near corner. Water poured through like university football fans crashing a barricade following an upset victory over an arch-rival on their home field. It churned through the loose trunks and chunks right below the dam and swelled up to eighteen inches deep almost immediately.
I wanted to stay and watch until the pool was drained but I knew as far back up the channel as the water was backed up, that could take a few hours. As I carefully worked my way back up that slimy slope toward the trail, I used my hiking poles for balance and leverage. Every few steps, I looked back at the water spilling through that opening. By the time I got out of the mud and back up to the fine gravel path, I was carrying an extra pound or two on each shoe.
With the sun slipping quickly below the low Oklahoma hills off to the south, I headed back toward the truck parked a couple of miles away. While the red sky reflected off pools of water still held in the bottom, I reflected on a few lessons:
From time to time, we’ll come upon an opportunity we didn’t expect and that others would never call an “opportunity.” Those are really special moments; they let us be who we are—even if no one else wants to be who we are!
We won’t always be able to stick around and see the end of the good that we begin. That should never keep us from getting started and pushing it forward a bit.
Sometimes the need of the moment leaves a bit of a mess on us. As long as it’s the type that washes off, we shouldn’t worry too much. If it’s the type that doesn’t wash off, it really isn’t an opportunity. More likely it should be called “temptation.”