J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: "Not all those who wander are lost"
How did the master author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings know this about our dog? Yesterday was a bitter cold day with some ice and a north wind that took my breath away. I was all cozy on the couch, watching a movie when my husband, Mark, came to the door to report that our dog, Hunny, had bolted. He had let her off-leash near our front door thinking she would rush inside due to the cold. Apparently, she had other ideas and the call of the wild was too much of a lure. Off she ran at full speed through the tall grass and prickly pear cactus to sniff out the deer and other fury friends and foes. Our search began. We were a bit worried about what she might find although the snakes are not out and about right now. While my Mark drove through the hills, I donned my hiking boots and heavy coat and trudged through the nearby woods in search of our blonde adventurer. It wasn't long before I spotted her very near the bluff of our high cliff. She was using all the existing deer trails for navigation. In truth, she was having a fabulous time. She was not lost. She was simply wandering and exploring to her heart's content.
After a short (maybe 20 minutes) run, Hunny was safely back home. She was no worse for the wear and we survived as well. She had a grand time. Her deer run was irritating at first but then offered some unexpected gifts. I had not planned on a trek into the woods on a cold day but it offered some interesting moments. I was fascinated by the animal trails hidden in the tall grass. Those trails negotiated cactus, boulders and sharp rocks. They led to places important to the animals. The trails led to food sources and water for nutrition and hydration. They led to groves of trees for safe hiding. No wonder the deer can glide through the rugged terrain with ease. They simply follow their well-worn paths and party on. Their steady, constant use of the self-created travel options gives them a safe, relatively unhindered way to move along on their journeys.
Our senses teach us how to navigate life. We can gain wisdom from bodily experiences and being connected to all things. Established virtues like generosity, kindness, integrity and such do not live in the ether. No, we must learn those virtues by embodying them. Virtues are rooted in physical practice. Think of generosity and kindness. As a child, I learned those virtues by putting a coin in the offering plate or taking a meal to a family in need with my parents. Physical acts and intention were present and formative. Living a life fully and with meaning takes practice and action. It sometimes requires courage in the face of discomfort and uncertainty. What Hunny taught me was to feel something beyond myself. In those moments of that brief, great, wintery chase, I relaxed into self-awareness and became one with nature. Time was suspended and the inner-connectedness with all was held in my grasp. My senses were enlivened. I listened, felt the cold, smelled the trees and grass and embraced wisdom from my bodily experience as I searched the horizon for a well-loved fury friend.
In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama says this:
For me, becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as a forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn't end.
Hunny nor I were lost. We were just wandering. And, in that wandering, I was found. That being said, I was more than happy to return to the couch with a hot cup of tea, a warm blanket, and a blonde dog hugging repentantly in my lap. Trust me. I am not all that noble when it comes to a wintery day. My Texas blood is pretty thin.
Prayer:As I wander and journey through this life, help me, O God, to be found alive and aware; ready and willing; open and hopeful. Amen.