The day the sky fell down

Whenever I learn a difficult life lesson, I tuck the memory of that hardship away in a corner of my mind. I get some reassurance in the thought that now I’ve become a little wiser, I’ll know what to do next time.

The problem is, the ‘next time’ never applies in quite the same way. I sometimes feel like I am learning a million lessons but they are just piling up into a mound more accurately described as assorted memories than the trusty instruction manual I had hoped for.

Last week, I was guiding on the Milford Track when the sky fell down. Honestly, it did. I heard it. I was with a group of about fifty walkers about three and a half miles from the end of the Track when it happened. The dripping forest was lit up for a split second before the world took a deep breath and started to roar. And that’s when the sky fell down. The clouds just shattered into pieces on top of us.

I had been here before so I’d wised up on the ways of the Arthur. Rain means waterfalls, and waterfalls mean side streams pouring over our path to safety. And that means it’s all on from a guiding point of view.

Inevitably, I suppose, this next time wasn’t exactly like that last time. Yes, the walkers came away from the trip safe, sound and with quite the tale to tell. But every ounce of energy had leeched out of me in the final downpour of rain. That I had gotten through a similar situation before didn’t seem to matter. At the end of the day there wasn’t a page in my life instruction book that could tell me how to get my strength back (turns out a bath and an early night, although hardly original, still does wonders).

A couple of days and several naps later, I am grateful to have a job that is challenging me in such a raw, personal way. It can be tough, way more tough than I realised when I signed up for it. But I’m adding to my haphazard pile of life lessons. Where there are gaps, I either seek out the advice of those more experienced than I, or simply fall back on my gut instinct.

Definitely a mini-revelation to keep in mind over the next couple of months, since it is somehow March, and my days on the Track are suddenly numbered. My ‘next time’ in seeking out my future direction is not going to be exactly like the last time. But I’ve got a wealth of experiences behind me, especially from the last few months. So whatever direction I’m going in, I’m backing myself that it is going to be a good one.