It’s a perfect day to get lost on purpose. Warm but not too warm. Blue skies with just enough clouds to make it interesting. Add in the raucous noise of 18 teams playing flag football on the field next to the house this morning at 8 AM and I had all the incentive I needed to disappear for a few hours. Having finished another chapter of my novel in progress yesterday, I didn’t even feel guilty for not writing first thing this morning. Okay so maybe a little teensy bit guilty. So let’s go with the rationalization that I went driving so I could hear what my characters are up to today. Sounds plausible – right? Cool. Doesn’t need to be completely believable. Merely plausible.
So I’ve been asked, “Is it even possible to get lost on purpose?”
Yes. Yes it is. Drive out of town. Head a few towns north of anything you kinda sorta know and start taking random turns. Pretty soon, you’re lost. No smartphone apps. No GPS. No advance planning. And definitely absolutely positively no highways. Highways are cheating.
Why would you do such a thing? I can’t tell you why you would. Sorry, you have to find that one out for yourself. But I know why I do it.
Because once I’m lost, once I’m completely beyond what I know, I notice everything. I see every fence, every wildflower and every hay bale being stacked in the open barns for winter. I see the horses jogging in their pastures and the browning cornstalks almost ready to be plowed under as the end of the season approaches. I see the decrepit and likely historic cemeteries disappearing under knee deep grasses, some behind rusty iron fences, others behind mossy rock walls. I see the abandoned stone house with its windows missing, sagging walls and holes where the porch should be. Then I notice the smoke pouring from the chimney and the battered old white Lincoln parked nearby. Maybe not abandoned after all…? It makes me wonder. I see every leaf, every tree and every bush. There are fall colors starting to appear at the very tops of the trees as if heaven dripped a wee bit of paint, just to see if anyone noticed.
And I hear my soundtrack as if for the first time. I bring hours worth of music queued up on random shuffle, rarely more than one song for any given artist. Some are comfortable old favorites – Creedence, Clapton, the Stones. Some are new found favorites – Ruthie Foster and Amos Lee. Even a few eclectic songs from Yael Naim. All now forever imprinted in my mind with fresh images of an almost autumn day in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley.
To get back back home, I had no idea which road to take so I headed south. Well what looked to be south-ish. It’s Connecticut. If you head south long enough, you hit Long Island Sound. I know my way from there.
Funny thing is, instead of hearing my characters, who seem to have taken Sunday off for a change, I started seeing and hearing something else. Something that hit a little – a lot – closer to home. See, I took some random turns in my life. I got lost – really lost – and I didn’t like where I ended up. Six years ago this coming Friday, I punched the Do Over button on my life.
Turns out there is no Do Over button. There’s no Start Over button either. I know. I looked. Hard. Turns out there’s only a Just Keep Going button. So I hit that one. Since then, I’ve spent the last six years trying to sift through other people’s images of what I am, what I should be, could be, ought to be or have (or had) the potential to be, trying to sift out what is my entirely own. There’s a path in there somewhere and yet I keep trying to stick to the roads I think I kinda sorta know. All the while, I’m wondering, Is this really all there is?
No. It’s not. It’s just as far as I’ve been willing to go. Maybe just a few completely random turns… I can always head in a familiar-ish direction if I don’t where it leads. Right? Sounds… well… plausible. I’ve been told that if I can figure out where my main character, my 25 year-old what-if-I’d-turned-left-instead-of-right character, is headed, I may very well find out where I need to be headed.
I stumbled across a song a few weeks ago. Yes randomly. These lines are stuck in my head, along with the image of smoke rising from that abandoned falling-down stone house, a house that called for a second look because in its own broken down way, it was really quite beautiful.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
– Oceans by Hillsong United.