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.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairn)

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.

Deep Waters

Punxsutawney Area School District swimming pool (where I have water aerobics twice a week and where I learned to swim)

 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. —Isaiah 43:2 NIV

The first couple of times I jumped off the low diving board at the local swimming pool, I landed on the sloped side near the ladder, so I didn’t think it was a problem that I couldn’t swim.

A teenage girl wants to do the things her friends are doing, right? And I was tired of playing it safe in the shallow water while everyone else was having a blast in the deep end of the pool. Back then I didn’t even know how to tread water. The only thing I knew how to do was the dead man’s float.

“How hard could it be?” I thought as I watched the others splashing off the diving board that long ago summer day. All I had to do was hop off the side so I landed on the slope near the ladder. So I swallowed my trepidation and took my place in line.

My strategy worked twice. The third time, however, I plunged into waters above my head.

I don’t remember how many times I bobbed to the surface, panicked and thrashing, my short life passing before my closed eyes. Then strong arms pulled me to safety. As I sat on the concrete beside the crowded pool, gasping and trembling, a lifelong fear was born.

For five decades, deep water terrified me. My kids all learned to swim, no thanks to me. When we went swimming, I stayed in the shallow water. When we went boating, I made sure I had a life vest strapped on tight.

Then my son bought an above-ground pool. Hot summer days found me cooling off in sun-warmed water that only came up to my neck. I learned to tread water and to propel myself beneath the surface. I practiced floating and splashed from one side of the pool to the other. As long as I could touch bottom (and my head was above the water), I was fine.

One long, cold winter, much like this one, I bought a pass for the indoor pool at the local middle school and began swimming lessons. I gave myself a couple of months to swim from one end of the pool to the other.

But I met that goal at the end of my second lesson, swimming on my back, my instructor beside me every stroke of the way.

“You’re doing fine,” she’d say. “Just a little farther.”

And so I kept going—swimming in twelve feet of water—something I didn’t think I’d do for a long time. But I couldn’t have done it without my instructor there beside me, encouraging me, giving me confidence with her presence.

It’s the same way with my swim through life.

When I must navigate deep waters, I’m not alone. My Instructor is beside me, encouraging me, ready to pull me out should I go under. His presence gives me the confidence I need to push on, just a little farther, stroke by stroke, until I finally reach the other side.

 Thank you, Father God, that You never leave me or forsake me—even when I get in over my head. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Isaiah 43:1–7.

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