I had a friend who loved Tolkien’s sentence: “All who wander are not lost.” He was a gentle, free spirit and a wanderer by choice. Wandering brought him joy.
I, on the other hand, have never been much of a wanderer. I’ve always prefered a kind of structure and order in my life that wandering doesn’t permit.
But for a while we did sometimes wander. My job felt oppressive and all-consuming in those days. I needed freedom from it. So we’d take long vacations to remote places. We’d fly across the ocean, rent a car and just start driving–with no reservations or itinerary. It wasn’t as easy in those days to stay connected to the office as it would be now. It was actually possible to unplug, without guilt. After a few days of that kind of wandering, I could feel the stress fade away.
We were hopping around the Spanish countryside one summer when my friend died. While pitching horseshoes barefoot, he stepped back, startling a friend’s dog. The dog reflexively bit him on the heel. It was a very minor bite and no one thought anything of it. But my friend had a compromised immune system. A few days later he started showing strange symptoms and even though he ended up at Duke University hospital, he was gone before anyone could make a diagnosis. I still miss him.
Because I was wandering, incommunicado, it was only after we returned to the States that I learned he had died. I’m pretty sure he would have preferred that the sad news not interrupt our wandering.
It’s been many years now since we’ve wandered like that. These days the 15 mile trip into town seems like a burdensome journey. We’re tied to the land now and I’m OK with that.
These are the days for staying home.