I got lost today. Literally. I went for my usual lunch hour walk in the woods, after stopping at the library to pick up a few new books, and took a different path. Or what I thought was a path. In the winter, everything looks like it could be a path.
I walked and walked, la-di-dah, knowing that this park wasn’t all that huge and was surrounded by neighborhoods. I’d reverse course in due time and be back where I began. So, I kept walking until I found a pond. There was an upturned canoe on the other side where I spied a No Trespassing sign. Clearly I’d hit the border of the park.
I turned around to go back and….the path was gone. Had I come from there or……wait. Maybe it was that direction. I didn’t figure the wooded area would be too enormous; after all, it was right in town. My phone was no help other than the compass and even that only showed me where north was, not where I was in relation to north or anything else. Just me, birds, fallen trees, and underbrush. The occasional squirrel. After 20 minutes, I found the edge of the woods. There were backyards and green grass and covered grills and swingsets. I turned back. I didn’t want to walk out into someone’s yard. There must be a path that will get me back where I wanted to be.
After another 10 minutes, I retraced my steps again and gave up, emerging into someone’s backyard figuring if someone came out of the house or pulled into the driveway, I’d just apologize. Which is exactly what happened. A guy in a truck pulled up just as I was walking down his driveway towards the road. I explained, he left (had he been alerted by someone to my presence? He was on his phone. Someone must have told him.), I walked down the street out of his neighborhood and realized I was about a mile from my car in the wrong direction. I got in a nice 3-mile walk all told.
While I was still lost, the sky clouded up and the wind went a little crazy. I thought about Bowie and whether he was up there, somewhere, stirring things up. Probably not but my thoughts haven’t been too far away from him all day.
Back during my youthful obsession, in high school, I’d go by Cokesbury Books at 5th and Grace streets. It was on the way from algebra class back to my school building in Jackson Ward. The bookstore sold primarily religious books but they had a surprising little collection of other stuff, including David Bowie Black Book (the original 1981 version). Black cover, white title. I couldn’t afford to buy it and the library didn’t carry it so I’d stop in once or twice a week and read a few pages, mark my place, put the book back on the shelf and hope it was still there next time. It was. I read the whole biography in the bookstore, section by section, chapter by chapter. This was how my grandfather read all the Andrew Lang fairy tale books – each a different color. He’d read them in the library, didn’t borrow them (I can’t remember why) and would reshelve them where they couldn’t be found. Behind another book, in another section. So that they’d still be there when he returned. Probably drove the librarians crazy.
We do crazy things and sometimes there’s a – to us – rational reason behind them. I went into the woods (and when I got back to the office, I checked the map. I’d somehow left the 8-acre park and wandered into a 90-acre piece of no man’s land), thrashed about for an hour thinking thoughts and then thinking about nothing but how to get out again. It was good to be completely present in the moment. To focus on just that one thing – not being lost anymore. When I came out, the truck guy probably thought I was crazy. Middle aged woman, dressed in black, in his backyard. WTH.
By the time I got to my car, it was colder and windy and the clouds were heavy and dark and looked like they meant business. But it didn’t rain. I wasn’t lost for long. All’s well. Life goes on. It goes on without a few heroes but with books. And trees. And crazy odd skies. And it’s sad to think he didn’t see THIS day, THIS strange sunset. But neither did a lot of people. And one day my time will be up and I’ll miss books and sunsets and getting lost in the woods on a winter day. So I better get out and do it again while I can.