A number of years ago I bought a T-shirt embroidered with the words "All who wander are not lost." I am not all that fond of the shirt, but I have kept it for the motto. It seems to sum up my life in six words.
I am rather known for my wanderings (or wandelings as I tend to call them) – and yes, sometimes I do wonder when I wander. I have found a good "wandle" will heal most of what bothers me. It takes me out of my busy-ness and puts me smack dab in the moment.
I think wandering has a bad reputation in our world these days. We hear a lot about focus and purpose and meaning and very little about the value of a good wander. Yet, most of my best discoveries have been made serendipitously.
Now, I am all for focus. But I also believe that sometimes it gets in the way of our discovering who we are. We are so focused on staying on "the path" that we forget to look for the interesting side roads.
Years ago, I occasionally worked as a guest lecturer on various cruise ships. I was on a cruise that left from Seville, Spain, stopped at various places in the Mediterranean and then crossed the Atlantic and finally docked at a Caribbean Island. It was a grand adventure.
My older sister had just died of a sudden heart attack at age 47 and I was grieving her while watching the waves on the transatlantic portion of the journey. Even with today’s modern cruise ships, it takes five full days to cross the Atlantic. I spent a lot of that time staring at the waves and wondering at the uncertainty of life.
On day two of our crossing, a small exhausted bird lighted on the deck. The crew was amazed. I had never thought about it, but small birds do not fly over the Atlantic. There simply is no place for them to land or anything for them to eat.
The tiny bird became a sort of mascot of the crew. For three days it huddled, tired and hungry in the far corner of an upper deck. The crew fed it and gave it water and wondered about where it had come from and what it had been thinking.
The day we were scheduled to arrive in the Caribbean, the bird flew away. Somehow it knew that we were close enough to land. So, off it went on a great adventure.
I sometimes think of that tiny stowaway, landing so far away from its home. Did it survive? Were there others of its kind to welcome it? Wandering is like that. We never quite know where we might end up.
Of course, life is like that. I am now 10 years older than my sister was when she died. I’ve had plenty of time to wonder and wander. She was cheated, I think, of so many years. Yet, I know that she went on her own great adventure across a large uncharted expanse. Rather like my tiny bird friend, she did not know where she would end up or who would be there to greet her.
Ah yes, wandering is good for one’s soul. With all the bank failures, mortgage difficulties and concern over pensions, perhaps this is a good month to remember that we are all just wandering on a journey we call life.