Not Lost

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, lost on October Mountain, photoshops the lake onto a cozy matelasse stitched quilt.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?


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6 thoughts on “Not Lost

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I get it, Robin. I remember when we were lost in my neighbor’s woods–or I was lost but you didn’t feel lost at all. I’ll never forget how trusting you were and the poem you shared with me by David Wagoner a few days after we found our way back to my home, the long way round. “The forest knows / Where you are. / You must let it find you. ” Did you think of those lines before the GPS kicked in? I think of them whenever I’m physically, psychologically, or spiritually lost–so often.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well here we are – twins again. I think of those lines a lot, Elaine. And I often remember, especially this time of the year, our day getting lost in your woods. Well, one thing – I’m almost always feeling lost. The only thing that anchors me consistently is a good meal where I have to sit down, preferably in a restaurant where I’m not tempted to fly out of my chair every few minutes to fix or tinker with something. It’s mainly a thing of being lost in time. Not knowing how to consume it gently, one blessed moment at a time. And as for trusting – I didn’t trust you as much as I trusted that come the next day, we would certainly not still be scrambling to find our way out of those woods. So it’s feeling lost in time but trusting time. Do you think this sounds like an addiction?

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    I agree Robin, that “lost” is a scary word! I am lost in so many of my dreams–trying to find my way back to my childhood home in Irvington, New Jersey. Or losing my sisters, my grandkids, and losing my way. I remember being really lost one night driving home to my daughter, who was home alone. She was a mature twelve-year-old, but still, I felt so guilty. I was on country roads then, too.

    It was a great relief to read that your gps kicked in finally!

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m still working on that word. Lost. I guess maybe I’m kinda hung up on that word because I wrote about it again, sorta, this week, Lynne. Being on those lonely country roads only emphasizes the tangled forest growing in your mind. You’ve “lost” a lot. Everyone you’ve ever lost can visit you when you’re driving alone on a quiet road. As well as everything that’s ever haunted you.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      And Lucy, that’s what we all need more of. Maybe. More adventure. More opportunity to “get lost.” To feel that little scare, the doubt that creeps in, the beating of one’s heart what-if, what-if, what-if… is invigorating, possibly good for us once in a while. Don’tcha think?


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