“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been known as a collector of “treasures.” A few awards, some mementoes collected over time, most given to me by others, lined a shelf in my office at The Salvation Army in Syracuse. There was my magic wand, all social workers need one of those, of course, and a duck one of my managers gave me because she thought of me as the Mama Duck, and the Family Services management team as my ducklings.
Another of my favorites was a small framed picture another manager gave me of an eagle soaring with a Knute Rockne quote that read: “Leadership: Eagles do not flock, you find them one at a time.”
I believe that a big part of my work has been to help others learn to soar, to rise as high as their wings could go, and for my managers, to also help them discover the leadership I saw in them, to assist and guide as they cleared away any obstacles they might face, and to live with the integrity and values foundational to leaders. At least this was what I tried to do, modeling my leadership on Bobbie Schofield, our Executive Director. I think the entire executive team did the same because Bobbie inspired us so. She was an expert at finding the eagles among us, and seeing eaglets even amid a world filled with ugly ducklings.
In downsizing to move to my new house, I have pared away many of these items. However, a stone with a motto on it that I chose for Doug now resides on my new desk in my new home. It reads, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
I’m keeping that one.
In the woods behind my house when I was growing up, there were many paths. Some were well-worn, beaten into hard bare earth by many feet, and there was one major thoroughfare, a shortcut from our neighborhood to our school…we all followed that one.
But my favorite thing to do was to go exploring off the beaten path, searching for “discoveries.” J.R.R Tolkien described Bilbo as someone who looked at maps and questioned what lay beyond the borders of the known. That is me, too.
I love solving puzzles, meeting new expectations, living up to challenges, acing tests, designing new ways to serve an unmet need, learning new things, discovering new tidbits of interesting information, creating hypothesis and seeing if they are true, daring myself and others to go further and do more…often with less. I honed many of those skills over a lifetime, and have taken them into many unforeseen pathways.
For 2017, the latest unexplored territory will be our retirement.
For a while yet, since we moved in December, it will be figuring out our house and where to fit things…and deciding some things no longer fit. As spring comes, our new yard, a pretty blank slate, will also await. So, I know there will be lots of digging in my future. And of course, there are still this blog and my book…I need to get back on track with my agent and publishing quest now that our move is almost behind us.
What else awaits is…unknown! What a gift! A new lease on life to discover. New directions, maybe new work, volunteering – All kinds of possibilities to explore.
As always, I will try to leave a trail….and just in case, if you want, you can borrow my wand.
Until then, I will close out the end of this momentous year with a poem that came to me as thoughts of Dylan Thomas and Thoreau rolled through my head as I wrote this:
The Path to a Deliberate Good Night
No need to rage if life is passionately lived, Embraced, delved, explored, even in twilight times. The barest bones contain the sweetest marrow.
No need to abandon gentleness, goodness, caring. Even tears shed in farewell, especially tears, Reflect the light of love found in shooting stars.
No need to fear approaching darkness, Shine a light for another, raise high your lamp, And you can always see your path.
Sing, sing away the sunset of the dying day, Love, love away the night till morning come, Live, live, and leave behind a path past the horizon.
Happy New Year my friends.