There wasn’t enough time to walk in the woods near my mother’s house before lunch. And it was cloudy. A chance of rain. Desperate to try out my newly repaired camera, I drove my little Prius up October Mountain. Car-hiking.
The road narrowed as I drove. Up. Into dark woods, past quiet campgrounds all but abandoned now that summer was over. There was supposed to be a lake somewhere. I followed the road, zigzagging up and down, to where the trees were backlit with light. Water. Found.
Returning to the car after taking my fill of photos, I saw there were three roads, not simply the one I’d doggedly pressed ahead on in search of the lake. The road I headed out on soon became so pitted with potholes that the Prius, whose front bumper barely clears the ground by three inches, bounced like a ship in a stormy sea. Its belly scraped bottom at each depression. I had to make a twelve-point U-turn to come back to where the three roads met. And then everything looked different. One road was paved. Had I taken the paved road?
This was turning into an adventure. I plugged in the GPS, setting it for my mother’s house. It beeped and blinked red question marks as I continued along the second road, looking for something familiar. The road roughened and grew rockier, and finally petered off into a muddy trail. Another twelve-point turn, and I retraced my path to test the third road.
My mother would be worried. “I’ll be back in an hour-and-a-half and then we’ll have lunch,” she’d said. It was now lunchtime. I needed a bathroom. The grating of the Prius’s bottom was grinding into a headache. Enough of this driving endlessly around the mountain. I wanted to be back home, in my sweet bed with the cozy pillows and new matelassé stitched quilt. Maybe it was time to call 9-1-1. But then I’d have to say I was lost, because you can’t phone 9-1-1 to tell them you’re simply disoriented.
Lost. I’m careful about how I use that word. It’s such a sad word: A long-lost forgotten friend. A lost dog. Lost opportunities. ‘Lost’ sounds so hopeless: A lost soul. Love lost. To me ‘lost’ means irretrievable, consigned to oblivion. Gone. But six years ago I did not lose my father; he shows up whenever I spend a dollar. My daughter who died is not lost; she was with me when I photographed the lake at October Mountain. Besides, I had half a tank of gas and a GPS. I was not lost.
Finally, after I retried each of the three roads, the GPS found a signal and led me back. “I got lost,” was the first thing I told my mother.
What does ‘lost’ mean to you? What is not lost?