The Found in the Getting Lost
There are few things more frustrating to me than getting lost. I get this terrible feeling of unease in my diaphragm each time I feel as if I’ve strayed from the route to my destination. It feels unsteady and uncertain, like the road and I have just had a nasty misunderstanding. All I want to do is straighten everything out and move on. Which is why it is so surprising to me to come to the realization that I strongly believe in getting lost whenever possible.
When I was younger—young enough to ride in the backseat of a car comfortably and without feeling socially misplaced—my mother would take my sister and me on trips around our homestate of Iowa. These trips could land us anywhere from my aunt’s cattle ranch to Grant Wood’s famous white house. Yet, it was not the destination that took up most of the time allotted for a day trip, but the drive itself.
Before these trips, my sister and I would set up camp in the extended trunk of my mother’s 1970s station wagon while my mother circumnavigated the state in order to arrive at a destination that could have, in the hands of other parents, taken an hour or two.
The sense of direction instilled in my mother has always been somewhat lacking, but she has never, ever failed in allowing herself to partake in what she called “adventures” on the road. These adventures used to frustrate my sister and me to no end, as we were in most cases the ones who ended up with map spread between the two of ours laps, fingers tracing frantically along the color-coded Iowa highway systems.
Often we ended up driving along some of the most beautiful settings I can recall. The summer sun navigating its own way westward down the plane of our windows, casting a golden glow over the prairie grass horizon and a similar glow on our faces. My memory recalls beauty but also feels the stress of a 9-year-old mind struggling to understand the geometric mess of road systems on the map under her nose, almost to tears in frustration. I just wanted to get there, for heaven’s sake, Mom! Yet she insisted, “We are having an adventure.”
I didn’t believe that any sort of adventure had ever been had until very recently. I don’t know what triggered the understanding. Maybe it was driving myself, maybe it was missing her now that I’m not living at home. I don’t know. But some part of me has come to know deeply the art of getting lost.
The feeling of anger and frustration at the road, the journey, and that darned vehicle taking you farther and farther away from the prescribed path. That feeling of accomplishment and relief once the destination is met with fresh eyes, and the unfurrowing of the brow. I have learned that it is the unknown path and its ability to bring incredible joy to an arrival that is something to believe in. Something of an adventure.