"In the middle of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost."---Dante 1314
Recognition of one's lostness is like that: disorienting, painful, hard to accept, a blow to one's pride. It takes humility to admit you're lost.
Just remember that accepting one's lostness is not only painful; it's necessary. It's the first step on the way back to your dreams.
"In the middle of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost," wrote the poet Dante in 1314. Since these lines first appeared in "The Divine Comedy," countless others have no doubt had the same experience. It's easy to find ourselves temporarily lost at midlife.
In a physical sense, I've only been seriously lost once in my life. It happened about 20 years ago when my friend Gary Mooring and I were crossing the Palo Duro Canyon at its widest point near Highway 207 in Armstrong County. I learned things about being lost that day that shed some light on midlife lostness, but first--because some will read these words who are unfamiliar with the Texas Panhandle's best-known landmark--I digress.
Dubbed "The Grand Canyon of Texas" the Palo Duro drops abruptly from the high, flat plains of the Texas Panhandle in a 120-mile-long swath of deep gorges, grassy plateaus, and colorful rock formations, all cut by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Rich in history, the area has seen Spanish conquistadors (Coronado came here in 1540 searching for the elusive Seven Cities of Cibola), Commanche Indians (In 1874, the Battle of the Palo Duro was the last major Indian engagement in Texas), and legendary cattlemen (On our hike, Gary and I would pass corrals built by Col. Charles Goodnight who established the 600,000 acre JA Ranch in 1876).
My story begins on a day in late September when Gary and I decided to scout a trail we would use a week later to guide some backpackers across the canyon. I was familiar with the wildlife path that descended the south rim, as well as the jeep trail we would use to scale the north rim; it was the seven miles in-between I had never traveled, which, of course, is where we got lost.
Because the tributary canyon we walked through hid all landmarks, and because the sun was straight overhead and we had not brought along a compass (the arrogance of youth), and because our changes in direction came in small, unnoticeable increments, we spent the early part of the afternoon walking in a circle, lost but unaware of it.
What brought my friend and me to our senses was a glimpse of a familiar landmark--a microwave tower located on the south rim near Wayside. Yet seeing is not always believing, and, I was so sure we were moving in the right direction, I first assumed that the tower was a new one built, without my notice, on the north rim.
Recognition of one's lostness is like that: disorienting, painful, hard to accept, a blow to one's pride. It takes humility to admit you're lost. In our case, we had to admit that--geometry class notwithstanding--the best route to our destination wasn't a straight line (our best route lay southeast down the river to Dry Creek and then northwest to the big cottonwood and our jeep trail).
Similarly, at midlife it's easy to lose sight of one's landmarks, to forget one's life goals and dreams, and, because we can drift off course gradually over years, it's possible to not notice that we travel in a direction opposite what we planned. So if this happens to you, just remember that accepting one's lostness is not only painful; it's necessary. It's the first step on the way back to your dreams.
My Articles about Hidden Falls Ranch (and its people)
It's Her One Time Around
Happy 30th Anniversary
Lost in the Palo Duro
Memories of Summer Camp
My Sister, My Advocate
To Uncle John and Aunt Betty: A Tribute
Hidden Falls Ranch: A 40th Anniversary Tribute
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