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For those of you who've never heard of Flag Rock, it's located in Housatonic, Massachusetts on the northwest side of Monument Mountain. The views from the rock are spectacular; south along Route 7 to the Sheffield Flats bordered by the Taconic Range, west the Catskill Mountains where the setting sun provides an endlessly changing picture show as day wanes giving way to a night sky full of stars, directly below the village of Housatonic. My friend Steve and I have spent many nights camping there.
There are two trails leading to the top of Flag Rock. One trail is short and steep the other long and of gradual incline. Both trails lead one to the same place but provide distinctly different experiences getting there. The short trail is quite steep for pretty much the whole way up the side of the mountain. Carrying a pack up that trail is a … focusing experience to say the least; the focus, at my age, being surviving the walk. There isn't much opportunity to admire the surroundings; my vision is narrowly concentrated on where my next step is going to be, awareness turned decidedly inward. The long trail is just the opposite. Gradual incline, plenty of opportunity to check out the woods and local scenery; my awareness turns outward to my environment.
Aikido, like Flag Rock provides me with multiple paths that I can travel. Each path provides me a different experience and allows me to concentrate my awareness according to the dictates of the situation. The paths of Aikido intersect, allowing me ample opportunity to change the focus of my study throughout the course of my life. There is no one "correct" path to the exclusion of all others; just choices that I can make along the way.