Getting lost, pt II


I like getting lost....not reeeeaallly lost, just lost enough. What do I mean? I mean that I take in my surroundings, noting important orientation points so that I have a good sense of how to return, and then purposefully step off the trail. I take the first step, and then the next, and the next....wandering for awhile, noticing the details around me, the changing light, the textures of tree bark and starry moss, the calls and scattered sounds of birds and chipmunks, the scents that are stirred up by my footsteps in the brush.


Pausing from time to time, I make sure that I still have a good enough sense of where I am and to where I plan to return. There have been times in my wanderings that I have gotten so excited by a new "trail" that I'm following, of rocks, of scents, of bird calls, of a desire to find my way to a particular cliff across the valley, that I have lost sense of some of the details of my journey and found myself having to 



look around with wide-angle vision


....aware that everything is starting to look far too much the same

and then.....



circle back to the last place that feels familiar


Eventually, I wind my way back to where I took that first step off-trail. My body sighs with relief as I return to the path that I know...and yet I see that path very differently now that I have been wandering, and even lost, for awhile. I begin to question this familiar path, and for a time, even what I think I know seems unfamiliar. The light has changed and shapes have shifted. Even well-known landmarks seem not quite as I've known them before.

Am I really "here"?

Is "here" also "lost"?

Senses open and alert, I tune into my environment ever closer, listening to the intimate details of this place.   


Whether my wanderings are in the outer landscapes of the mountains near my home, or in the inner landscapes of my thoughts, dreams, emotions, and wonderings, one of my favorite parts of getting lost is

returning to where I started, and

seeing-sensing-knowing the place

for the first time.*

As I move through familiar and unfamiliar paths in my life, I remember that getting just lost enough reminds me to stay closely attuned to myself and my surroundings. I am reminded to pay attention to what I know, while also knowing that my perspective may shift...

and that each time I return,

I am circling ever deeper

and more intimately, 



*reference to T.S. Eliot's poem, Four Quartets

Start Close In

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

David Whyte

photo credit: me, somewhere in the High Peterskill/Lost City region of the Shawangunk Mountains.....