Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen
One Halloween evening, a very long time ago, when I was maybe in second grade, my mom helped me get dressed up as a gypsy. We drove to town and got lined up to be in the village Halloween Parade. It was complete with a high school marching band, police officers on horseback, and lots of other kids just like myself, all in costumes, ready to pick up the candy that the watching crowd would be tossing along our path as we marched down Main Street.
Mom stood right next to me and as we all started to move along, she dashed off to the side of the street, promising she’d be there, walking along with me the whole way. I remember being scared. I didn’t know any of the other kids and I’d never been in a parade before. I was a shy little girl, so there was no spontaneous going up to other kids and introducing myself.
I tried to keep an eye on Mom, as I moved down the street picking up O. Henry Bars, Almond Joys and all sorts of other sweets that were tossed my way. I was sure these goodies would overflow the orange paper sack I carried and that at home, I’d have to hide all of it from my little brother. I imagined having enough candy to last me until next Halloween when I would simply do it all over again.
But halfway down Main Street, I realized that Mom wasn’t where she said she’d be. I stopped in my tracks, looking up and down the street for her, as all of the other boys and girls kept marching by picking up all the loot. The street was lined with what I thought were millions of people, but I couldn’t find my mother among them.
I started to cry. I stood there in terror, not knowing whether to follow the crowd or to go back to where I thought we had started. A very kind man, dressed up in firefighting gear, came up to me and asked what the matter was. I told him I was lost and didn’t know where my Mom was. He took my hand and led me down the street to where the parade was breaking up. After a few very long moments, there she was, as concerned about me as I was about having lost her. She gave me a big hug, thanked the Fireman, and we piled in the car and went home. Needless to say, there were few pieces of candy in my bag, but I did have my mom and I was safe and sound.
I think about that story a lot whenever I’m in a strange place and don’t know exactly where I’m going. Fear still stalks me when I think I’m lost and will never be able to find my way home again. And too often I’ve held back, not allowing myself to venture out into the world, afraid of finding myself in a rundown slum, surrounded by the world’s most incorrigible creatures, begging for my life.
But then I tell myself, “Hey, what’s wrong with you? We’re always lost and like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, we never know where we’ll find ourselves from one minute to the next. Might as well, slow down and enjoy the scenery.”
Like the time Bill and I found a tiny perfumery, tucked away on a hillside on the Burren in County Clare, Ireland. Driving through that rocky stretch of ultra rural countryside, we got mixed up and horribly lost. The road signs all seemed to be pointing in the wrong direction. We were trying to find our way to Galway from Shannon where we had just that morning arrived on the Emerald Isle. It was a scenic and beautiful route and had we not gotten lost I never would have found the little vial of flower mastery that I later took home with me. And we would never have found the roadside restaurant where we enjoyed some of the world’s best mussels flavored with heaps of garlic.
These days I still get lost both outwardly and inwardly. I’m discovering that allowing myself to wander about in the unknowing of life is much easier to manage than I thought … and the best way to discover the beautiful world I live in.
How do you feel about getting lost? Do you turn it into an adventure or like me get scared?