I saw a girl at the diner tonight wearing a green "not all who wander are lost" tee shirt, perfectly three sizes too small and stretched like a cotton drumskin over her my eyes are up here. She was cute, and she was alone. For a minute. She was on a bench at one of the tables by the window, right behind where I was parked on my customary stool at the end of the counter. She smiled at me when I turned around and I totally lost focus on my, uhm, ahhh, what was I talking about? Oh yeah - the girl. Or more accurately, the shirt. What was written on it, really. Not all who wander are lost. I told her I liked the message, and using a line I picked up from my grandfather when I was a little kid, I asked if she was lost or just wandering. She was about to answer when what must have been her boyfriend slid onto the bench next to her, gave me the old whattahelldayouwant glare, and said "they" were neither. 'Nuf said. With my curiosity thus satisfied, I turned around and went back to working on my cheeseburger.
After I finished eating and walked out of Mrs. Mac's the "not all who wander..." saying was running back and forth in my head like a snippet from "Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer". I have a ballcap with that saying on it. It's a saying that's popped up in odd places for me recently, and every time I see or hear it I get a vague sort of deja vu feeling. Okay, so I get that same sort of feeling whenever I see a cute girl with a too small tee shirt on, but that's a topic for another day, right?
A couple of years ago I started adding quotes from my favorite authors, politicians, movie quotes, poems, etc. below the signature line on my e-mails. Occasionally I'd put down something that was an original thought, or at least something that sounded cool that I didn't remember for sure that I had heard or seen somewhere else before. Who knows. Anyway, one night several months ago I wrote an e-mail to my dad, and I tagged "not all who are lost wander" below my signature. It felt right. That was a few weeks after my 25th high school reunion, and I think that the experience of spending an evening with a bunch of good people, most of whom I hadn't seen in a quarter century, had cultivated some fertile subconscious thought plot. We had a fairly small graduating class, and I would consider everyone at the reunion to be, or have been at the time we graduated, a friend. I've done a lousy job of keeping in touch. I had wandered off, you see. It was great to reconnect with the folks there. It was sad to learn about the ones who had passed. It was uplifting to see the success that most everyone had enjoyed. Not necessarily financial success, either, although I guess there was some of that on display. It was more success in the sense that most folks were happy and seemed to be living lives that were filled with interesting and worthwhile occupations, healthy kids, loving pets. What struck me as odd, though, was that several of the Class of '80 go-getters that I would have predicted would end up professoring at Harvard, fortune-making on Wall Street, or rockin' in the free world had ended up staying in Auburn. Not that it's a bad place to crib, but, you know, it just didn't seem right to me for some reason. At the time.
Not all who wander are lost.
Not all who are lost wander.
Shuffle the words just a bit and you get two entirely different meanings. Shift the focus from wandering to being lost for a minute, and then step back and see what comes into view.
I have definitely been wandering, geographically speaking. 12 cities in 25 years, plus a couple of years roaming in a 22' motorhome in search of a medical miracle for my sweetie. But looking at other things than geography, I may have been more static than dynamic, so to speak.
Reunions, whether of the graduating class, family, or cell block variety, are notorious for setting off introspective episodes for some of the attendees. I, as I know you are becoming wearily aware, have been engaged off an on in just such an exercise, and that is the reason for creating this blog. I've kept a journal of sorts off and on for 20 years or so, but it's always been very private and heavily guarded. Doing this, getting these ramblings out in the public domain, however small the audience may be, is a step toward wandering in a new direction.
Comments, feedback, accusations, contributions are welcome.