Some Sundays, as a child, held what I call magical getting-lost days, ones where my family would go to church, head home to change clothes, then plop in the back seat of our Fury II, and go for a ride.
Out of Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, we’d go, far away from the planes that flew hourly over our house near the airport. A meandering family were we, along the Mississippi, River, Lake Pepin, or Chippewa Falls; somehow we always stumbled upon small towns and country roads.
I loved being in the car with my favorite people. Loved that Dad welcomed the challenge my brothers, Mark and Steve, and I, presented to him by asking him to “turn right at the next stop sign,” or “left after the next farm.” His openness revealed his easy-going way with his children and his receptivity to us.
Secretly, I think Dad had his own thrill with our challenge. Could he, (along with Mom too, his cohort on these Sunday drives), without using a map and within the confines of our silver-blue car, lead us to uncover round the next bend a surprise, be it a black squirrel, the smell of a skunk, or a fully autumn-blooming sugar maple?
Every single time. Wind strumming wheat fields. The snap of a branch and the glimpse of a white tail bouncing into the woods. Stopping under a bridge until a hail storm passed. Whenever we sensed adventure, we stopped the car, skipped stones, looked for agates, identified animal prints.
Every Sunday ride held adventure, wonder, and surprise, whether it was spying some sort of wildlife,
finding a cool bridge,
or heading down a country driveway because Mom had seen a “Puppies for sale” sign.
Always part of the deal? This:
Getting Lost Days were meant to make our senses come alive, to reconnoiter.
Reconnoiter: to inspect, observe, or survey. The “act of viewing in detail.”
I had a Getting Lost Day last Tuesday. Packed the essentials—my computer, a couple of notebooks, some writing books—and left my ordinary world in its ordinary place.
I went to a place where I knew I’d find adventure. The library. I checked myself into a little windowless study room for five hours.
That might seem like torture to some of you, but that space provided needed concentration. I made a writer’s notebook, a one-stop place to write down plot ideas, interesting stories, and names of characters.
Best of all, besides a break in routine, I gave myself many little gifts that day: quiet concentration, privacy yet when this extrovert introvert needed it, people, whether their voices were present physically or in their bodies of work. Both privacy and empowering shelves of others’ work helped me reconnoiter.
Here are some favorites from my Getting Lost Day:
Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience, compiled by Shaun Usher. Just a gem of a book, filled with random bits and lists of famous people, from Isaac Newton, to Gene Autry, to Peter Roget (of Roget’s Thesaurus). Here’s a funny list by Johnny Cash:
The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing, edited by Kevin Young. There lies in these pages mesmerizing symphonies of loss. Loved this poem by Simon Armitage:
And this beautiful little book, which on my Getting Lost Day, seemed to be on a book shelf at the right spot for my eyes.
Dani Shapiro writes, “Here’s a short list of what not to do when you sit down to write. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t look at e-mail. Don’t go on the Internet for any reason, including checking the spelling of some obscure word….[s]it down. Stay there. It’s hard–I know just how hard–and I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get any easier. Ever. Get used to the discomfort. Make some kind of peace with it.”
I’m working on the at-peace-with-it, but I sure feel a whole lot better about sitting at the keyboard, knowing I’m in the company of other writers like Ms. Shapiro.
I came to that library a harried, out-of-sorts gal. After my Getting Lost Day, I left a dfferent person, a more centered person.
Where have Getting Lost Days taken you? Or can’t you say because you’re about due for one? If so, reserve yourself a room at your library for a treat!
Julie Saffrin is the author of numerous published articles and essays. Her latest book, BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life, explores the power of gratitude and offers 120 creative ways to journey toward positive, lasting change.