Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hobbit Wisdom

"Not all who wander are lost." That quote is attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm not sure which character actually said it, or who was being addressed, but I've always assumed, in both cases, it was a hobbit. Because hobbits are creatures of habit and so it would be a bit of a stretch for them to understand and therefore, a valuable saying. The other characters in Tolkien's books, being fairly adventuresome already, would have heard those same six words and replied "And your point is?" But a hobbit would be somewhat befuddled and chew on the idea.

I bet you think, speaking of wandering and adventures, that I'm gonna talk about my upcoming trip some more. Well, you'd be wrong. I'm actually just rambling on, or rather, wandering about with the use of words, about this particular morning, but in so doing, using it as an analogy for my life in general, and even, life in general. There, I've done all the work for you. You now can just sit back with another cup of coffee and read on without having to figure out where I'm going with this.

I've never been much of a planner. I'm not a complete free spirit - with no directions or goals in mind. But compared to some, I have less expectations of where I'm going or how I'll get there. I might take out a map, or make a to-do list, but I rarely fight it when things don't continue down the road I thought I'd be headed down, nor am I surprised anymore when they don't.

I've learned from experience (and much experimenting), that getting from Point A to Point B, whether it's a plan to get from blogger to bestselling novelist, or Susanville to Redding, isn't necessarily something one can do in a simple straight line. Unlike 10th grade geometry class, real life doesn't have a lot of straight lines. In real life, for example, there is a volcano between Susanville and Redding that one must drive around. In real life there are things like husbands and mortgages and sick friends and french fries and football games and holidays between blogging and signing a contract with your new publisher.

More to the point though, is even if I WAS a planner, even if I tried for as straight a line as I could, it's not necessarily the best, fastest, or most interesting way to get places. And it's probably not possible anyway. In real life, there's always SOMETHING. But even if I could, I wouldn't want to use a straight line for most things, because despite reaching the point, I think that somehow I'd be missing THE point. Yep, you've guessed it. I'm,gonna reach in a musty old bag of wisdom and pull out that dusty old cliche. Get Ready. Here it comes....

It's more about the journey then it is about the destination.

I've learned that whatever I thought the journey was about, even if I manage to reach Point B at all (which is always a nice surprise in itself, at least for me!), the greatest gift from the experience is often something completely unexpected and discovered not at the end but somewhere along the way. Usually, for me, the original goal, although valuable, is overshadowed by other treasures I gather along the way. (Uhm, what's the name of this blog again? Right.)

An example - something I was just talking about to someone the other day - A few years ago I went to a big quilt show in Chicago. My only goal, when I started out, was to go to quilt show and see quilts. But as things went along, things got more complex. I invited a friend. I decided that since I was so close, I'd go visit my sister and other relatives in Wisconsin. Now, years later, I am still glad I went and saw those quilts. It was a real turning point for me in the way I think of my quilting and my art. But that gift, of creative challenge and inspiration, isn't what I hold most dear from that trip. What I consider far more valuable is the deepening of friendships that resulted from meeting numerous online friends at the show. And I am more grateful for the extra time I got to spend with my sister, who lives so far away that we count our time together as adults in weeks or perhaps months, not years. I am also thankful for what turned out to be the last visit with my uncle, who passed away this last year. Last but not least, I'm thrilled to see, in hindsight, how the trip was a small trigger that led my friend, who suffers from a chronic condition and, at the time, the resulting depression, into a much healthier and happier direction in her life. See my point? NONE of those things were planned when I first decided to go to a quilt show, but somehow, as I wandered along, picking up details, those were some of the unplanned but important results.

I started out by saying this post was going to be about this particular morning. So, okay, here goes. This morning I woke up, pulled a blanket around me, scooped up the chihuahua and headed outside to let her do her thing. That finished, I came back inside, got dressed, opened the drapes in the house, and turned on the computer. So far, pretty routine. The next thing I wanted to do, which is what I usually do next, is make a pot of coffee. Here's where the road gets a bit windy, all so I could get from Point A - wanting a cup of coffee - to Point B - DRINKING a cup of coffee.

I reached for the coffee pot and..... ewwww. I'll save you the gross details. Let's just go with this - it's a good thing I don't know WHICH furry monster DID it, because their ass would be grass. I pulled on my jacket, grabbed my purse, and drove off to Starbucks. On the way, singing loudly to "Don't want to be an American IDIOT!!!!", I thought about my friend Shelly, who has a couple of stressful situations going on at the moment, and how she would NEVER ever be driving along singing this song at the top of her lungs, and suddenly realized that I could RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) her with Starbucks coffee too. I got to Starbucks and asked for a phone book so I could look up the address of the office where she's been working this spring. While I was doing that, the barista, who is the parent of one of Joe's old football buddies, got talking with me, and we had a really interesting conversation about kids and the military and DIL's and a few other things, and it was really nice catching up on each other's lives. I surprised Shelly with the coffee. She gave me a huge smile and a hug. Came back home, took off my jacket, picked up the squirming Rosie so she could sit in my lap as always, sat down at the computer, and took a sip of my coffee. <------ <------- BIG ARROWS! - this was the original Point B. See how NOT straight that line was?

Granted, this wasn't a BIG amazing wander. It was just a small wander. More along the lines (or would that be curves?) of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, than The Lord of the Rings. But it does show that life prefers the beauty of curves over the efficiency of straight lines. And that if we trust in it, wandering is it's own reward. And even, that a series of events that starts out with vile, evil (hey, those two words have the same four letters in them!) creatures peeing on your coffee pot can end up having some unexpectedly pleasant consequences.

But it's still a good thing I don't know which cat it was - GRRRRRRR.


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