Two Rocks Don’t Make a Duck

Cairn at Acadia National Park
September 23, 2013

My God is my rock. – Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

When my husband and I visited the Acadia National Park Visitors Center, informational placards lined the uphill walkway from the parking lot to the building. Of course, I had to read them all. Not only because I needed to catch my breath from climbing the hundred-plus steps, either. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. Or my insatiable curiosity. Or both.

Since Dean’s impatience at my frequent stops was starting to show (and it was only the beginning of the day), I took pictures of the placards so I could read them later in the evening when he was asleep in his recliner.

But the cairns intrigued me, and I took my sweet time at each of them.

A cairn is a stone structure built to point the way on a trail. Although cairns come in various shapes and sizes, the ones at Acadia were no more than 18 inches high and were built with four or six large stones: two or four large, square ones on the bottom with one large, rectangular stone spanning them, and a smaller, triangular-shaped one on top, with the tip pointing the direction of the trail.

“Cairns are carefully built and placed to point the way,” one placard read. “When trail blazes are hidden by fog or snow, cairns are essential,” said another.

Another placard warned of tampering with the cairns: “Do not build new cairns or add to existing cairns – you may confuse or endanger hikers.”

Back at the camper, I googled “cairns” to find out more about them. Trail marks in North America, I learned, are often called “ducks” or “duckies” because the point of the top rock resembles a duck’s beak. “The expression ‘two rocks don’t make a duck’ reminds hikers that just one rock resting on another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking.” (

Like a path in the woods, the trail of life can be confusing at times, too. The fog of indecision, the snow of fear about the results of our choices may hide the direction we are to go. Sometimes all the paths look good – or bad.

Right now I’m wrestling with a decision of whether or not to proceed with the project of publishing a third book of meditations – compilations of this column. Since I self-publish, the cost upfront comes out of my pocket. I’ve started two or three times to put the book together since my last compilation came out in 2002. But each time I backed out because of finances.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you,” the Bible tells us in James 1:5 (NLT).

And again: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT).

God’s cairns are there for the asking. But sometimes we don’t recognize them because, like me, we don’t know what they are.

But when we do, we see that He’s placed them at every point we need direction. We just need eyes to see the duck.

Give me the spiritual sight to see and recognize the cairns You’ve placed along my life’s path, O Lord. Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 13:21–22

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Stoplights and Country Drivers

If the Cloud stayed above the Tabernacle two days, a month, or a year, that is how long the people of Israel stayed; but as soon as it moved, they moved. –Numbers 9:22 (TLB)

I’ve been driving for almost 50 years, and I confess I’ve turned into a country driver.

I prefer sharing the road with just a few vehicles, preferably not slow pokes or those prone to road rage or who are clueless about using turn signals and turning on their headlights in certain conditions. I tolerate the occasional horse and buggy in my lane and watch for country critters crossing unexpectedly in front of me at night. When I’m driving the interstate, I set my cruise control to 10 miles under the speed limit so all the other traffic will breeze right by me.

I like having the road to myself, and, living in the country a dozen miles from the nearest town, most of the time I do.

I don’t do city driving. One time coming home from the Pittsburgh airport, I drove more than an hour out of my way, taking the long way around rather than drive through the city.

Back when one of my children was young, I had to take him to regular appointments with a doctor whose office was in Oakland. Those were the days before GPS, but I knew my exit, which wasn’t very far into the metropolis, and the doctor’s office was just a few blocks from there. I knew my way out, too.

One time, however, I got lost. Apparently I made a wrong turn and ended up by the University of Pittsburgh campus. When I recognized the Cathedral of Learning, I knew I was in trouble. My son, who heard the quiver in my voice, said, “Mom, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to! Instead I stopped and asked someone on the street for directions. The way back to my regular route wasn’t far, and the directions were thankfully simple. We made it home without me having a meltdown.

At Bible study last week, we were discussing driving in city traffic. Carla, the hostess, told us about a time when she was stopped at a red light in the city, and her Aunt Alice, noticing her angst, said, “When you get to a red light, it’s time to get your bearings.”

What wisdom! And not only for driving in city traffic but also for navigating life’s roads.

There are times the Good Lord puts a red light in front of us so we can get our bearings. But instead of being thankful, we grumble and whine and complain. We don’t like being slowed down or stopped on the way to where we’re going. And we’re always in such a hurry.

God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When it moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped—no matter how long the stop was.

Although He doesn’t use the cloud-and-fire method these days, God still does direct us—if we’re paying attention and if we’re willing to follow His leading. Sometimes the stop is longer than we want—indeed sometimes we don’t even want to stop.

Are you stopped at a red light today? Thank God and remember: He knows the way and He knows when to move forward and when we need time to get our bearings.

Thank you, Father, for the stoplights of life that help me to get my bearings. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Exodus 13:21–22Numbers 9:15–23