by joe walko

Cairn. Pronounced “karen.” Karens, if plural. An orderly tower of stones set up as a marker, clearly not natural, perhaps manmade, perhaps divined. Some are simple, just a few stones; some ornate, stacked tall in intricate balance—depending on where you are and what you need.

For as long as I can remember, I have ignored my cairns. But life is crashing down around me; alcohol is tightening its grip, I’m fighting for my job, and my wife is battling cancer. I need a sign. Then on an epic solo journey deep within the desert wilderness, the cairns I so desperately need are made clear.

Faith in those signs is quickly tested. Life following my cairns doesn’t get better, it gets worse, until all seems lost, including the lessons of the desert. But at rock bottom, unmistakable signs appear, “coincidences” that cannot be ignored. Cairns appear in the form of gurus, gifts, and real-life angels, suggesting my next step and inspiring me to navigate the path I am meant to take.

Do we need the challenges that life inevitably throws at us to strip us down to our true selves, so that we may finally find the courage and faith necessary to follow our authentic path? I now believe so. But how do you recover from the big losses? How do you pick yourself up from the depths and move forward?

Now I know.  One day at a time.   Following your cairns…


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