Today I got lost – almost literally in my backyard. Well, almost the backyard of the yoga studio, that is.
I had heard about a park just down the street from the UP studio, Paradise Pond Park. A couple of people had told me about it some time ago, and it took me more than a year to find my way there.
To be fair to myself, I did look for it on a walk some time ago, and it was the strangest thing, I simply could not find it. I swear this park lives in the land of myth – the mists of Avalon. As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t find it when I was looking for it – I must have walked right by it. It is not a difficult park to miss. It takes up many acres, and there is a large, clearly marked entrance. I do not know how I could have driven right by it and not seen it.
Which brings me to today. I was driving to the studio from a different direction than normal, after having gone on a field trip with my daughter’s class. Something about the change in perspective had me notice the entrance to the park for the first time – which I had driven by weekly. I had some time before I needed to be anywhere, so I decided to pull into the park and check it out.
The park was lovely. Wide, comfortable wood chip lined paths led into a spacious forest, and it was just a few yards in that I felt like I was off the road, out of the city. It was a bit windy and lightly raining, and the sound of the leaves rustling and the drops of rain on the leaves masked the sound of traffic and other city sounds. I walked for 10 minutes or so, impressed with the size of this park, which until this moment, I hadn’t really believed existed. I was a bit lost in thought, thinking about bringing my kids here for exploration and a picnic sometime, fantasizing about leading a yoga and walking meditation class out there when the weather is nice. I walked until I could see buildings at the opposite end of the park, and then turned around and began to make my way back. I realized that I really should get to the studio and get some work done before having to pick up my kids at school.
I made my way back, I thought on the same path I had walked in, but it started curving to the right, which I hadn’t recalled, and I felt like it was taking me on the perimeter of the park. I started seeing the back of buildings and thought I must be a short distance from the road I had driven in from, and that I would intersect with the entrance soon enough. No such luck. I did come upon a wide deck that looked out on a marsh, and thought that looked like a nice place to sit and meditate, but I passed by, in my effort to get back to my car, get back to work, get back to productivity. I kept walking, and then the path ended. A dead end. Nowhere to go. I couldn’t see the road, the entrance, my car.
I knew I couldn’t be so far from where I started, but I also noticed a little anxious feeling – a little fear arising – almost like feeling like a kid again, lost in some unfamiliar place. I felt a momentary panic, an annoyance about the time this was taking, about how I really needed to get some things done today, that I was out here in the woods traipsing around instead.
I have always prided myself on having a good sense of direction. I used to brag about my being able to easily find my way around European cities on my post college graduation travels. I could get off a train in Prague and find my way to the door of my youth hostel with ease. No cell phone with Google Maps, no cell phone period!
But as I tried to retrace my steps in the park, looking for an intersecting path that would take me back to my car, I found myself more and more confused about which direction was which. I had no good sense of which direction I was facing, which direction my car was, which direction was back to work and my (hopefully) productive afternoon. I wandered and wandered, doing my best to let go of the rising anxiety about feeling lost. I tried to calm myself with logic – this park is not that big, if I just walk in one direction, I will run into a road. I am not in the backcountry, I am not in danger. But still – I. Was. Lost.
Then I had a moment – I recalled moments of getting lost when I was younger. I knew that panicking made it worse. I knew I had to pause, relax, and breathe.
I stopped. I felt my feet on the ground. I closed my eyes for a few moments and listened. I felt my breath. I opened my eyes and saw a tree in front of me that looked like it was almost floating with the most beautiful, delicate, melon orange fall leaves. I heard the drops of rain through the leaves, the breeze rising and falling, looked up and saw the swaying of tall trees.
In that moment, I remembered that the pace of my life was my choice. My internal urging to be productive was a choice. I had been moving at the pace of the world – the world of the news, of politics, of technology, of the many emails coming into my inbox, living at the pace of the anxious voice inside urging – “Keep up! Don’t miss out! Be productive!”
I realized I could choose to slow down. I could slow down to the pace of the trees, the thought occurred to me. That thought gave me a spacious feeling inside. As I paused, I breathed in the smell of the forest, the feeling of the ground under my feet, felt as if I was growing roots down into the earth. The knot of anxiety loosened in me. A deep appreciation for the slowness of nature arose.
And then I un-paused, and easily found my way out of the forest.