My husband and I had been up late for a New Year’s celebration and got a slower start than we had anticipated, but we were all excited to be on the trail on such a lovely, sunny first day of the year.
Every New Year’s Day, our family tradition for the last three years has been to go on a hiking adventure. This year we took our annual hike to Mt. Tamalpais, a beautiful location just outside of San Francisco, California.
A picturesque setting of green ferns and waterfalls greeted us as we started on the trail. We hiked along in a joyous mood, taking in the beauty that surrounded us. After hiking to the top in about two hours, we enjoyed a picnic on the top of a tree trunk and planned our hike back down. My husband decided that it would be a good idea for us to take a different route down and we started on the loop back heading on a deserted trail.
After about two hours of hiking down, my knee started to ache. While I haven’t had a serious injury to it, over the years my knee had shown signs of inflammation when hiking downhill on steep hills or mountains. I had not anticipated that my knee would cause me such big problems hiking that day.
The pain intensified with each mile of downhill hiking; after several more hours, I could hardly hike down the hill.
Needless to say, my mood shifted from joyous to upset. The boys’ mood had also shifted, as the hike had been planned to be about three hours. After hiking six hours, the children were quite irritated and even more annoyed that my pace was slowing us down, as we were aware that the sun would be setting soon.
The last half mile of the trail was quite steep; my boys (ages 13 and 10) decided that since the sun was setting they would lead the way.
After a few minutes, with the setting sun, we realized that the boys were nowhere in sight.
And while I was worried about the safety of the children, the pain from my knee had become so strong that without my husband’s assistance I would not have been able to hike any further. Through tear-filled eyes and the support of my husband’s arm, I hobbled my way down the dark trail.
We heard the voice of a stranger: “Are you looking for your children?”
A man and woman in Northface jackets appeared out of nowhere with a flashlight. They asked if we needed help and said that their friend had our boys safe at the bottom of the mountain. They led us to them with their flashlight. My knee ached and I was in excruciating pain, but my mood shifted from worry to relief, as I was reassured that our boys were safe and not alone on the mountain in the dark.
The first day of the new year began with a crazy adventure—it ended with a sweet reminder that there are angels walking this earth amongst us.
Angels of help, angels of love, angels of guidance and protection. And while the day may have turned a bit upside down, it turned back to joyful as I was reminded of deep appreciation for my good health, my caring husband and my sweet sons. I was filled with appreciation for the goodness of those who surround us and are available in times of need.
Maybe this year I needed a little reminder of the gifts in my life and all of the goodness of human spirit that surrounds me.
May your new year be filled with little reminders of the angels that surround you and the goodness of the human spirit.
Happy New Year!
Marla McMahon, PsyD, is a mom of two boys and a clinical psychologist. In her private practice in Sacramento, California, she works within a mind-body model with patients of all ages, in areas of depression, anxiety and stress reduction using mindfulness-based therapy. In her spare time, Marla enjoys being outside as much as possible and drives the distance to be near the ocean. She also enjoys paddle boarding and hiking, and she is a dedicated yogi and meditator.
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Assistant Ed: K.Macku
Ed: Kate Bartolotta