“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly. My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.
“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet. And wither then? I cannot say.'”
Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote. “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”
“Yeah,” answered my dad.
“We’re wandering and we’re lost.” Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild. And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.
My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack. It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East. After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead. The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill. After five minutes I knew this was no good.
We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain. Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one. An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.
It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.
Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.” There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually. If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering. I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.
Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination. Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.
I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other. Quickly the trailhead slid behind us. The sun was hot and my mood was still low. We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson. We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.
As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind. “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”
Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.
With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack. He’d stopped for some reason. “Hey!” said a familiar voice. It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see. He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport. He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly. I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.
Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered. I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me. I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over. I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down. Even if I get lost along the way. After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier. And definitely prettier.
And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson. My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the grater adventure along the way. And while we hiked I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.
Tolkien is right, not all who wander are lost.
As the Neighborhood Cafe closes down at the end of the month you can keep reading what Brendan Scott writes on his Adventures in Guatemala blog. Just make sure you subscribe by selecting the subscribe button on the right hand side of his blog! He writes regularly about his adventures and how he saw God working through his daily life and would love for you all to be a part of his adventure. He is very thankful for all of the readers here at the Cafe.
4 responses to “All Who Wander”
I love that Tolkien quote: “All that is gold does not glitter”!
And I’m glad you were wandering, but not lost!
I think we all have different thirst levels and tolerance levels for life’s “adventures”,… and I think I wore mine out a long time ago (along with my nerves and my knees!),… (-:
My very “normal goals” would lead me unsuspectingly into adventures that I hadn’t sought out at all,… one definite and succinct example being the (youthfully impulsive) time that I actually ran “up” the sky high “down” escalator — (the side-by-side “up” escalator was not operating and was blocked off for repairs) — at one end of the gigantic NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal, backpack in tow, in order to avoid missing the bus back home and having to wait til almost midnite for the next one,… yes, I was gasping for breath, and yes, my heart was pounding for what seemed like most of the hour and a half journey home,… and I never tried THAT again,… got much better at getting to destinations a little bit early, ahead of final departure times,… not perfect, by any means, but better,…
It seems to me that it’s not necessarily the winning or losing, or being, or finding, the “ultimate” whatever in life, but how we go about doing what we do,… how we’re “playing the game”,… at a certain point, the familiar rule books, guide books, and the maps may seem to leave us “guessing” as to what we do next,… how we are to handle xyz,… and at this point any human adventure can begin,…
What we have internalized about “God’s Ways” will help us as an internal compass, and may send us red flags or white flags or green and yellow lights along the way,… but we might still feel that we are playing in a “Blind Man’s Buff” challenge, complicated by erroneous leadings and suggestive whispers to entice us off the way,… even whether we want to be tempted or not!,… how flat-out rude and impositional these mis-leading imposters can be!!,… but of such are many human adventures and coping-situations induced,…
When you talk about the significant “unseen” elements affecting the “seen” world, I think this is exactly where our faith comes in, to play a very important and determining role in our outcomes, for better and/or for worse,… I think God has His eye on our faith and how we use it to conduct our life, and in initiating and completing our chosen paths,…
The combination, of our faith walk before God and the motives of our heart, become our testimony that we live out before Him,… things that He sees and knows us for well enough, (but that others may miss,… that are “unseen” to them),… living, walking, to be pleasing to “the Master” (our Lord), can become the best challenge and adventure we’ll ever take on,…
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Hebrews 11:13 [ The Heavenly Hope ]
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
May the Lord be with you in everything you do,… Amen,… (-:
I sure wasn’t glad about wandering at the time. 40 extra pounds on your back will do that to you. Thank you for the blessings!
It would do that to me too!,… and in short order!,… (He probably sends us forth “in twos” for good enough reasons!),… but He hasn’t lost or left us yet!,… So, we praise and thank Him for His faithfulness!
Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
I want to thank each of you, Brendan, Eugene, and Michael, for all your original creations that have opened up this blog-conversation,… as a “token” of thanks and appreciation, I will leave each one a music sample from you-tube, that I think the Lord just led me to (via a slightly unusual dream),…
thank you,… I hope it works,… otherwise I’ll give you the ID info & you can find them on you-tube,… God Bless!