A few weeks ago I had a strange experience. I was upset about something - I can't recall what - and Larry and I had gone for a long walk with our dog, Thurber. We were in Prospect Park when Thurber, a hound, heard or smelled something and he took off into the woods. We followed and called to him and after a while he caught up with us.
But I found myself in a part of the woods that wasn't familiar to me. We were on a path that I didn't recognize. Looking out, I saw far ahead of me a winding trail, more woods, and a lake, but none of it looked even vaguely familiar. For a moment I was truly frightened.
I said to Larry. "I've never been here before." And he replied, "Yes, you have lots of times." But no matter how much he tried to convince me I was certain that this was a part of the park where I'd never been.
I recalled Dante's Inferno, its opening lines - "In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood, savage and harsh and dense, the thought of which renews my fear!"
Whatever I was upset about, wherever we were going that morning - everything seemed lost to me.
We kept on the path, descending, until suddenly we arrived at a place I know very well. A small bridge that passes above a waterfall. And suddenly I realized that I had been on this trail often, but I had never come at it from this direction. We had always climbed up from the waterfall, never walked down.
It seemed to me to be a metaphor for whatever ailed me - my daughter, my work, a friendship. It wasn't that the situation had changed but rather that I needed to look at it from another angle. I was on one track and stubbornly seemed unable to view the problem any differently. Yet it seemed to me that the message of this brief journey was the need to approach our lives from a different angle.
It was interesting to me that day to find that I could get lost in a familiar place. And just as interesting to see that I could find my way again.