I scanned the hillside, but every tree looked the same. I was lost in what seemed the deepest burrows of Earth where only the Hobbit could live. I was 10 years old and I was lost.
You know the feeling — the churning in your stomach like you’ve just gulped a flask of bleach. If I just hadn’t broken my glasses, maybe I could tell which direction would lead me home. The woods I had ventured into surrounded a cemetery on the outskirts of my small hometown. I couldn’t be more than a few miles from my house, but I felt fathoms deep in uncharted waters.
The sound of dogs’ barking startled me and for a moment I forget that I’m lost. All I hear is the barking getting closer and louder and all I can think is I have to hide. I scramble into the bushes along the path, hunkering as the dogs bark passed. I remain sequestered behind the brambles as I strain to gauge how far off they are and wonder if they will smell me when they come back.
Seconds later, the barking dogs return to where they came from and I hit the path running. Now I know which direction to go. It’s simple — away from the barking and away from the dogs. Just over the knoll, the woods seem to unfold its fist and let me loose, emptying me into someone’s back yard.
With today’s technology, I should probably never get lost. But I do. I take the wrong exit on the interstate. I exit the wrong door at the mall which takes me to the wrong parking lot and I panic, when I reach what I think is my parking space and think my car’s been stolen.
I say yes when I should have said no or no when I should have said yes — either response garnering me a bumpy ride in unfamiliar territory when I could have been sailing along had I just spoken my truth. I get lost in my head — in my thoughts that seem an infinite as the universe itself.
When my navigation system routes me on a path I didn’t intend or I’m perusing an avenue of adventure I’ve never previously considered, a panic squeezes in, wanting me to scamper to a familiar place — to safety. I’ve learned to trust my internal navigation that routes me in the right direction — and that’s always away from barking dogs and often into a meadow I would have never seen had I stayed home.
Sometimes you may not know what to run toward, but knowing what to run from can be just as important.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.