Getting Lost

DSC00269“When we lose our map, our real knowledge of the path begins.”

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.

wr-1These 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?

This entry was posted in Childhood, Fear, Kindness, Life, Memoir, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, stories, Travels, Wise Words and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Getting Lost

  1. warmginger says:

    Ooh, the ‘unknowing of life’ – THE most delicious three words I’ve read this year!
    I’m not so relaxed about getting lost either – I get edgy if I don’t have the petrol tank at least half full. Fortunately my husband just loves exploring – countries, cities, new neighbourhoods – and I am quite happy following him. He wants to go to India this year and I must admit, I have a little bit of nerves about going somewhere completely ‘unknown”, and I do feel a bit pathetic admitting it. I also feel a bit better knowing I’m in good company. 😉

    • jzrart says:

      Thanks and welcome to the club of hesitant travelers. Isn’t it fun? I feel better being in good company as well, so don’t feel terribly pathetic. There are lots of us!

      • sharon says:

        Indeed there are. My wild gypsy needs to show up and help me get over my nerves about traveling this year.

  2. bacon says:

    Getting lost has often been my method of learning my way. It doesn’t cause me anxiety or panic – sometimes great frustration – but usually I think it’s funny. I get lost a lot. I kind of like it.

  3. Caroline says:

    I am way too much of a type A person to enjoy the process of being lost, or even getting lost. But I suppose it is all a matter of perspective. About 6 months into dating, David and I decided to take a day trip up to the Skagit Valley to see the tulips. It didn’t take very long, and by late morning David is asking me how much farther up the road it is to Vancouver, BC. (This was years ago, when the border crossings were quick, not like they are now.) I told him I thought it was another hour and a half or so, but I wasn’t ready to go. He looked at me like I was nuts and asked why not. I told him that I had a folder of things I wanted to do in Vancouver (maps, museums to visit, etc.) but I didn’t have it with me, so I wouldn’t know what to do. Trying hard not to laugh he tells me that they probably sell maps up there. And when he can tell I’m still not ready for the adventure, his response was “You are never really lost, somebody always knows where you are….” (Did I mention opposites attract? Because that is *so* not my way of looking at the world.)

    Needless to say, we soon set of for an unscripted day trip to Vancouver (and did get lost, even with a map) and have a fine time. That pretty much sums up our personalities, but we have found that we travel very well together, since my job is to figure out what to see, and his has become to figure out how. So, since I still get scared with being lost, I did the next best thing, I married someone who is never worried about it. And is really good with figuring out public transit in countries where we don’t speak the language 🙂 And somehow, it all works. (Although I do have a back up stash of maps for most places, which I still get teased about.)

  4. jzrart says:

    Caroline, I LOVE this story. For us scaredy cats having back up maps is a good thing when we know and understand our problems with getting lost. Sounds like you’ve got a good guy, too!

  5. Becca says:

    It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t like being lost – the idea of it or the actuality of it. I usually plan any journey out carefully to insure that I don’t lose my way.

  6. jzrart says:

    i’m with you Becca. I do the same most of the time. But when I still get lost, regardless of my planning I often find myself enjoying the situation.

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