When we set out on the hike, we were full of energy and enthusiasm for what lay ahead. It’s always like that. You don’t know what you’re really getting into until you’re in the thick of it and then you just keep soldiering on because you want to make it to the pinnacle.

So just a little ways into the Boynton Creek trail, a tall thin man, about 70, gray hair, gray eyes, approached my friend with a smile and said, “Because you’re wearing a heart on your shirt, I have a heart for you.”

He handed her a rock shaped into a heart, the color of all the canyon walls in Sedona. Then he came to me, gave me a heart, and went one by one among the five of us and offered each of us a heart.

It was…interesting. Who was this man? Why was he giving us rocks shaped into hearts? Most people would assume he wanted something in return – money, perhaps, or a bottle of water on the trail.

But no. He smiled and walked on, after giving each of us a piece of hewn love.

The hike was long. Three and a half hours from start to finish. Through winding rock-strewn paths deep into the canyon. At the beginning, we were so hot and sweaty, we shed layers and downed water.

In the middle, our breath puffed in clouds and little patches of snow covered the moss. We pulled on our layers, finished off our waters.

At the very end, as the guidebook promised, the ascent was steep and a bit treacherous. We slowed. Took our time. And at the top, the view was breathtaking. Worth the effort, just as the guidebook had promised.

So then we wound our way down again and back through the cold of winter into the bright shining sun of spring dawning and a thawing of our souls and our bodies. Our feet were sore by then, very sore, the toes having pushed up against the shoes on the ascent and then down on the tread to make the descent not quite so rapid.

We wound through the early trails, knowing we were almost at the end.

And that’s when we heard it.

The sweet melody of a Native American flute reverberating off the rock walls.

We looked up, high up, toward the peaks of all the cliffsides around us. And there he was, our heart-giving friend, sitting on the very top of a very steep precipice, playing the flute.

The moon shone vivid in the three o’clock sky. He played and the music sailed down to us, wrapping us in the hug of a love-filled tune, and we wondered about this sweet soul.

How did he get up there? Who was he? Did he make the heart-shaped rocks?

His shirt is the color of the rocks, Alisa said.

Was he real? He stood before us in flesh and blood, warm hand offering us little pieces of love.

But there he was, atop the highest peak, with no visible way to truly ascend it.

Giving us all a love song. A warm smile. A gift without expecting a gift in return. Could it be that he was a spirit come to earth in the flesh to teach us a lesson about giving?

The ultimate mitzvah, said Alisa, is to be a pall bearer. The gift that the recipient can never reciprocate.

The truest kind of giving. No expectation of reciprocity. Just pure, unobstructed giving.

As much as we real-world cynics want to say that nothing happens without a motive or have a pat explanation of every single occurrence, I’m sorry but I just can’t agree. Sometimes there are inexplicable events, and sometimes there are people with the deepest kind of love who only want to make the world a better place by giving happiness, a smile, and the kind of love you never, ever see.

I’d like to believe that he was a spirit brought to us because we needed that lesson, all five of us, and all of us on that trail. That’s the story I’m going with.

Because in the pace of even a vacation, with emotions and personalities and so many choices, the one thing we must never take our eye off of is that mere truth that to love is the entire purpose of pretty much any path.

Put down your objections. Just consider it. Just for a minute. Because resistance is the surest sign that love is all you need.

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