“Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Well, it happened. Emotional gridlock. I work to maintain balance in my life but occasionally I still crumble. There was too much noise: practice, business meetings, unread emails, papers to grade, school functions, ants in the kitchen, and the list goes on. It was time for deliberate action. I needed to find myself and sort out the static in my head.
My family packed up a cooler and headed off the grid for a day in the woods. We craved fresh air, dirt trails, trickling mountain streams and towering majestic trees. No cell phones, computers or to do lists - just us for a day in the great outdoors. I needed to lose the world in order to find myself.
Time spent in nature is humbling. It knocks me back down to size and reminds me that this world was spinning way before I existed and will continue to live long after I am gone. The circle of life works in harmony. Yes, there is rot and decay, a necessary and natural part of the process, but there is a beautiful choreography of living organisms working together.
In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit explores the idea that when immersed in breathtaking natural settings, such as the Grand Canyon, adults tend to scan the “landscape for picturesque panoramas and scenic overlooks...while the kids were on their hands and knees, engaged with what was immediately before them.” Children can be our teachers. They remind us to slow down and observe every detail along the way. Adults tend to be too preoccupied with the long game. We have forgotten the beauty of getting lost in the present moment.
My family did not do anything remarkable that day. We listened to water gurgling over pebbles; we balanced on fallen tree trunks; we climbed rocks and relished the view. I observed my children laughing, running and exploring the natural world. We listened to each other and nature’s soundtrack. Our lungs and hearts were filled.
I came back home with some clarity and perspective. Some much-needed distance from life’s demands offered peace and a chance to reconnect with my inner voice. When the world’s noise is removed - all the press conferences, social media posts, text messages and agendas - there is beautiful, raw simplicity. I stand exposed as an honest, living, breathing human being who is not really lost at all. She has been there all along, buried in the deep. For in the words of Thoreau, “Our life is frittered away with detail...simplify, simplify.”
Sometimes it just takes getting lost in order to be found.