We were tramping through Couturie Forest in City Park along the well-mulched trails, and I noticed an option. The Couturie Forest contains the highest point in New Orleans, Laborde Lookout. The mountain—their words, not mine—measures a daunting 43 feet above sea level (or 53 feet, according to some sources, or 46 feet above a 3 feet-below-sea-level base according to others—New Orleanians aren’t particular about facts, preferring a good story or maybe even myth.) That measurement puts Laborde Mountain at about the height of an average pitcher’s mound. Later, researching for more information about this amazing site, I learned that it’s not even natural! As I understand it, the “hill” is manmade, built using leftover soil from the building of Interstate 610. This puts Laborde Mountain in a neck-in-neck contest with manmade Monkey Hill—a children’s hill at the Zoo, I kid you not—as the highest point above sea level in New Orleans.
But I digress.
The point is the trails. They zig-zagged through the forest. This, again, is kind of a nebulous term, “forest.” You aren’t, for example, whispering because your surroundings are so lush and dim and humusy that you don’t want to speak out loud. Nor are you constantly sweeping vines from your face, slapping at the unknown things grabbing at your body. It’s green, in early March, springish. And open, airy. We did run across a live oak grove, but basically you could see through this forest, so let’s call it a transparent forest. No Hansel and Gretel houses here.
The “forest” trails were unmarked, I mean in the sense of railings or guideposts or anything to keep you on the beaten path. The main trails were, as I’ve mentioned, mulched. But many were foot paths, trails beaten more by usage than maintenance. This was what I noticed on this glorious sunny day. The “path less-traveled”:
You see, I’d always viewed life as a choice between, on the one hand, the well-trod path and on the other, the wild, brambled, dangerous non-path. That’s binary thinking. Either/or. Black or white. Dualism.
The truth is that frequently branching off the main path in the forest were slight paths. Tributaries, created by spontaneous curiosity: wonder where this leads? The curious take off across the forest, stamping down a way that others walking the mulched trail notice—is that a path? And, intrigued, they take off in the same direction.
So, if you are considering your choices in life, and you are feeling depressed by the predictable way of the well-trodden but the uncharted forest daunts you, remember: if you take that narrower, less-defined path, someone has been there before you. You, in fact, are not alone at all.