One of my favorite things to do all by myself is to walk in the woods . With no companions to distract me with agreeable conversation, my eyes take in the clouds, the stones and this time of year, the mostly bare dark tree limbs, scouring the sky. The aromas all around me become prominent : the sweet smell of the gently decomposing leaves, the wet smell of the earth and moss ….and my ears are alert to the subtle sounds of wind, my feet on the path, the occasional dogs and people encountered and lilting birdcalls…. But just as alert to the absence of the ambient sounds that thread through the day: the fan of my computer, the ringing phone, passing cars, the thrum of the steam boiler making this drafty old house, in which I am typing, warm…all of it gone…the lack of it making the world seem new.
But there is another component to these adventures as well …getting lost and finding my way. For me, getting lost isn’t a casual thing; getting lost terrifies me. And terror is not too strong a word, my heart pounds, my breath becomes shallow, my adrenaline surges and all my senses become highly attuned. It is that heightened focus that makes the heart pounding worth it for me I suppose. It is not dissimilar to what one feels on stage in a live performance. In a world where our focus is pulled in so many directions at once, to have such intense focus is a gift.
On the other hand that level of fear is not optimal, to say the least. So I try to keep track of my meanderings, left at that huge lichen encrusted limb, right at the remnants of a colonial farmer’s stone fence … But, I’m not really very good at it. My mind wanders, one lichen-covered branch can look much like another…and besides I have no natural sense of direction. So I get lost rather a lot. Pretty much every time.
And then there is getting lost going forward. You are on a trail, maybe a not particularly well trodden one and all of a sudden it isn’t at all clear where it leads. You stop in your tracks, you scratch your head and you scan the leaves, stones and grasses ahead. No clue. I’ve found over the years, a surefire navigation guide at these junctures, I look back. Somehow once you look at the path you have already walked it makes it clear how the path ahead lies. Every time.
Helping my daughter navigate a new, clear and fulfilling path has so filled my days and nights… and my dreams…that I never concluded this writing started a few months ago. The leaves are now covered in snow, the aromas more subtle, the birds are down to the hardy few species that survive New England winters. But I thought of it today as she is almost there. And to see the next steps with clarity it is time to make myself, so fiercely focused on the path going forward this past many months, even years, go back for a bit. I’ll linger there just long enough to garner what wisdom I can, warm myself with memories and gain energy to shine on my daughter’s continuing path forward. It is a most remarkable one, her path, in both directions . I look forward with a loving heart to witnessing all she discovers about life and herself on her way, she won’t get lost.