Linda Barbosa writes under a pen name for the Elder Wisdom Circle. Her books and stories encourage others to discover the happiness that resides between their ears.
We’re thrilled to share this post on Growing Bolder!
While hiking to Taughannock Falls in upstate NY, my newly-retired husband and I were intrigued by the artistic stacks of rocks we spotted along the trail. I’d heard of cairns before, but living in a South Florida suburb, neither of us had actually seen one.
When we finally arrived at the waterfall (well worth the hike, by the way), we were greeted by hundreds of skillfully crafted mini-monuments scattered about the water’s edge. An army of little rock statues stood at attention, ready to celebrate with us. It was a laugh-out-loud moment. If rocks could high-five you, I’m pretty sure this is how they would do it.
Cairns, I’ve since learned, have been around since prehistoric times. They mark trails and burial sites. More elaborate cairns have served as memorials. In modern times, they’re often just for fun, left behind by fellow travelers. I’ve built a couple myself, one by Lake Michigan, another near St. Georges Bay. By now, Mother Nature has no doubt returned my geological graffiti to the piles of rubble from whence they came.
A cairn is a sign that someone else has gone before us to point the way or celebrate our arrival. I think that’s why I like them so much. They remind me of the parents, teachers and mentors who have guided and encouraged me on my own journey.
If we’re fortunate, our earliest human cairns were our parents. They were the first to warn us of dangers ahead and point us toward the right path. They also celebrated our every accomplishment, from keeping the bed dry to graduating from school.
Teachers also serve as powerful human cairns. Blessed is the child who has one special adult or teacher who encourages her to pursue a passion. I remember my grandmother telling me I was so creative. I was 14 at the time, skinny, awkward, and lacking in confidence. Little did Grandma know those two little words would trigger a chain reaction of creative endeavors that would fill my life with joy and satisfaction.
Two-legged cairns continue to guide and encourage me even today. My writing critique group, a talented assemblage of authors, comes to mind. Collectively, they know far more than I do about writing, publishing and marketing. Kind souls that they are, they generously share that knowledge with late bloomers like myself.
Then there’s the Elder Wisdom Circle. A group of roughly 600 volunteers, ranging in age from 60 to 105, they offer their wisdom and experience to young advice-seekers all over the world. The Elders have answered over 375,000 personal requests for advice. I was thrilled to turn 60 so I would be old enough to apply as an Elder.
It’s an honor to serve with them. A small stone cairn sits on my desk reminding me to choose my words carefully when responding to a distraught teen or young adult.
We all have cairn stories and I’d love to hear yours. Have you seen one while hiking in the woods? Have you built one? Pictures, please! Maybe you’d like to acknowledge a significant two-legged cairn in your life.
Perhaps you’re a living cairn yourself. Feel free to share your stories below, or visit me at LifeBetweenMyEars.com.