On October 26th, after nearly a week of snow on the ground, temps in the low 20’s, and a cloudy sky, I took Gibbs (the dog) out for a walk at Quarry Park. I have spent a fair amount of time there, exploring the trails. But on this morning I decided to take some unknown trails and get lost. When I first discovered the park I did this often so I could find my way around…. Sometimes I take my spiritual direction clients out there for a session and it’s always good to know how to get back to the parking lot! But I haven’t purposefully got lost for a while. The park was quiet as we set off on one of the trails we knew, but I turned down a few trails I didn’t know, just to explore. We found a new to us quarry pond, a different grove of birch trees, some pretty mushrooms and a deer! After wandering for a while I thought it was probably time to make our way back, so I looked around me, set off in a direction I thought was right, and before long we were back on a trial we knew.
While I ‘get lost’ on purpose sometimes, I do so with intention. Either to make sure I know my way around the woods where I take clients, or to try a new path to see what I may discover…. New terrains, new vistas, new plants, new quiet spots to reflect, and so much more. Thankfully, I have a pretty good sense of direction, and was taught from a young age to be observant of my surroundings including turning around to see where I have been as well as looking forward. And I have yet to get totally lost on my expeditions, but have often ended up with wet feet before finding my way back to a path I know.
As I walked, I wondered why I don’t do this more in the rest of my life… explore different trails! And what I am missing out on by doing the same things. For sure, there is comfort in this, and I need a stable rhythm in my life to feel secure, but why do I so often go down the same paths in so many areas of my life? I find things that are easy to make for dinner and rotate them, but don’t get too adventurous in trying new recipes. I find an author I like and read through their books. I find a show I like and binge watch. The same with art and friends and things to do And while I don’t live with FOMO (as the young like to say…. Fear of missing out), I do, at times, wonder what I’m missing.
Every so often, I challenge myself to try something new, to explore and expand on what I like. I’ve been trying tofu recipes, for example, as I have never been able to cook it well. And this year I have chosen to mainly read books written by people of color… both fiction and non fiction, and I have enjoyed learning about the experiences of the authors and the ways they experience racism and society and life, getting a glimpse of life through their lenses. I got my kayak out this summer and began exploring the local lakes, and have been camping in some new places. And some times things have felt like a big miss…. Campsites not what they were made out to be, books that I didn’t enjoy, tofu mush! But I rest assured that I can always find my way back from my exploration to the paths I know and love. The well trodden recipes that don’t have tofu in them, the books I love, the people I find it easy to be with. They don’t go away, just because I’m exploring something new.
It makes me think of the time Jesus sent his disciples out to heal and proclaim the good news. He sent them off exploring new places without their things of comfort… no gold in their belts, no spare tunic. And when they arrived somewhere they were to stay until they had done what they went there to do, offering their peace. When they went out to explore, if they were unwelcome, they were instructed to return to the well worn path of life, shaking the dust from their feet.
I think this is the call for us. We can stray from the path of what we know to explore new things, and if it doesn’t work out, we can return to the path we know. That path doesn’t disappear because we open ourselves to new experiences. It is like God, always there to welcome us back. But the invitation is to try something new, to explore a little, to trust there is even more waiting to welcome us when we step outside of our comfort zones.
So wander off trail! Explore new things! Open yourself to learning something new. And see what wonders await you, knowing the well trodden path will always still be there.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.