Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Steps to Nowhere or Stairway to Heaven?


IMG_0565On our hike a couple weeks ago, my friend and I passed this pair of trees to which someone had, long ago, nailed small blocks of wood, forming steps up the tree. At this point the wooden blocks are well-weathered and even beginning to come apart. I also imagine that the trees’ growth over the years has carried these wooden blocks much further away from the ground than they were originally placed. Their distance from the ground means that they are no longer useful as climbing aids, and as I stopped to snap a few pictures, we joked about how they were steps to nowhere.

Of course, I presume that was not always the case. Perhaps, back before this was forest service land, someone constructed a tree house in the branches of these trees, and these blocks of wood were indeed steps to somewhere important, and magical, for a generation of children—or even adults. If so, nothing remains now except the steps.

On the other hand…as art begins a conversation with each viewer, so these steps up the trees began a conversation with me. My mind pondered them as we continued on our way. Eventually I realized that they could also form a stairway to heaven. Whether as a metaphor for meditation or a whimsical reference to the iconic song of the same name, those steps could have been placed there with the intent of inviting the viewer to step up, reach for the skies, or dream of a day when “the forests will echo with laughter.”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

The forests did echo with our laughter as we walked. I might not have thought about others hearing our laughter, except that we came upon a group of young men who were maintaining the trail we were following. We thanked them, and cheered them on as we walked by. In that moment, we all shared the precious value of the forest—although our perspectives on that particular patch of trail were likely rather different!

Perspective is a common theme for me these days. As I view others’ online perspectives on websites and offerings related to spiritual guidance, I share with them the precious value that the online world provides for publicizing and expanding the ministry of spiritual direction. Simultaneously, my own perspective on that ministry continues to grow and deepen.

When has something caught your attention, and invited you into a conversation of some sort? What did it lead you to imagine or ponder, determine or dream?

Have you ever been invited, or felt pulled, to create something provocative like those steps, in order to bring others to wonder or ponder, imagine or dream?


Author: Shirin McArthur

I'm a spiritual guide, retreat leader, writer and editor.

2 thoughts on “Steps to Nowhere or Stairway to Heaven?

  1. Intriguing!

    Perhaps you saw the photo that went around Facebook several months ago showing a little girl dancing in front of a large painting of a woman dancing? I tracked down the photographer (in Ireland) and purchased two copies of that photo, which I plan to frame. One will be given as a baby gift to an artist I love. The other will hang among our family photos, as a reminder to engage life fully. . . just as you did on this walk. To see with the perspective of the open heart, the souls so awake as to be listening, in conversation with the Divine verve.

    As of this past Wednesday, I have been offering spiritual guidance for 19 years; noticing that little girl guided me, much as noticing the trees guided you.

    May we ever be awake and awaken.


  2. June this is such a lovely reflection. I don’t know the image you reference but I can imagine it. Congratulations on 19 years of ministry. It is indeed an awesome gift to notice God’s gifts on behalf of others!


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