“One day, Eve, Aussie, and Henry went into the forest and got lost. Eve thought she was heading towards a lake, but the forest went on and on and she couldn’t find the lake.”
“Was it hidden by a witch?”
“No, they were just lost.”
“So what happened?”
“They went round and round in circles but Eve couldn’t find her way out. She was tired and hungry, she wanted to go home.”
“Did she meet a wolf?”
“What’s the good of getting lost if you don’t meet a wolf or a demon? An angel maybe?”
“Not that, either.”
“Then big deal.”
I didn’t meet up with a wolf, a demon, an angel, or a spirit—or the lake, for that matter. But you know what? I was happy to discover that I could still get lost. I’m not a complete know-it-all yet, life isn’t a case of been-there-done-that.
I was tired after trudging around in circles for a couple of hours, listening for sounds of human activity (leaf-blowing everywhere except in the deep, dark forest), watching for landmarks that I’d pass again and again, reflecting the circular nature of getting lost. I couldn’t find my way, couldn’t find my bearings—this by a woman who walks in woods and forest several times a week.
There was plenty of time to remember my former great sense of direction. Whenever we got lost in the car over the years, Bernie would say “Left!” and I would say “Right!”, Bernie would do as I suggested, and when we arrived at our destination he’d shake his head and mutter, “You’ve got some sense of direction!”
No longer. It’s gone along with names, people’s birthdays, and most important, instructions memorized long ago on how to fix the coffee machine. This time I was reduced to squinting up to see the sun behind the clouds, trying to figure out where was south. Finally, I leaned back against a tree drooping with heavy yellow leaves and gave myself permission to be lost. Feel lost.
Do your days get monotonous, one replicating another replicating another? Do you feel like you always know what you’re doing—and it gets mechanical as anything, set in your routine and schedule, one item following the next, one meal following the next? Do you think the way to fix that is to fly to Florida for vacation?
Try getting lost. Not just in the forest, also in your mind. Let it go blank. Let it stop looking for familiar teachings and ideas, the usual blah blah blah landmarks. Put down those spiritual books. Those of us who strive for clarity—it’s not a bad thing to get confused every once in a while.
As I walked round and round I heard a big whooo! I looked up and saw a large crow flying back and forth above me. The whooo! was the sound of its large wings flapping high up in the air. Instantly I thought about Native Americans. Is the crow a sign? Is it telling me where to go? But it’s not a hawk, not an eagle, it’s a crow. Does crow stand for anything?
I started laughing: You’d do anything, look at any culture, read any book, practice any religion, to avoid the sense of being lost. But without being lost, how will you find your way?
I talked to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while.
“What’s new?” he asks.
“I’m practicing being lost.”
“I get lost naturally,” he says.
“I have to practice,” I tell him. Because I so much want to know.
Here are some other practices associated with being lost:
Being uncomfortable. (Feel in your belly!)
Being uncertain. (Ditto!)
Confusion about life and dharma. (Huh?)
Not making head or tail of my writing anymore. (I don’t know what the f— I’m doing!)
These are all challenging practices, I recommend them highly. Lucky for me, getting lost is getting easier day by day.
“I’ll meet you in 10 minutes,” my mom says to me first thing every time I call her.
“You can’t, mom, I’m in America.”
“What are you doing in America?”
“I live here, mom.”
“Oh,” she says. “You’re not in a hotel? I can come to a hotel.”
“I’m not in a hotel, mom.”
“Are you sure you’re not lost?”
“Actually, I’m not sure about that, mom.”
“Okay, let’s meet in 10 minutes.”
Should I run a contest on what to call this blog? Dispatches from Dead Ends? Dispatches from Absentia? Dispatches from Going Off-Course? What kind of stability is there in falling between the cracks? Stlll, I trust that fall. I trust getting lost.
However you wish to call this blog, please consider supporting it. I haven’t made such an official “ask” in a long time; usually, it’s for support for the local immigrant community (mostly undocumented families), which goes for cash assistance and food cards. In fact, I will soon post a Christmas Amazon list of toys and games for immigrant children; I’ll probably get it Wednesday evening when I see Jimena.
This time I ask on behalf of myself. This blog supports these families; it also supports me. It’s free to everyone even as it costs me to maintain the website and blog. I appreciate being part of this web of give-and-take, but I need help to keep writing, posting, sharing, push buttons, look over the edge again and again and share a vastness I occasionally see.
I’m especially grateful to those of you who make monthly gifts, but all donations, big and small, are deeply appreciated. May we all fly in the wind like the leaves outside. Never mind the altitude, just keep on flying.
You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Thank you.