Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Lost Art of Wandering

Not all those who wander are lost. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Travel has always been for me an inner journey of awakening, a new way of seeing, a nurturing of the poetic instinct.

View of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 1946
Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

In Arabic literature of past ages, travel was considered one of the four great subjects worthy of the poet: love, song and blood, being the other three. These four contain the basic desires of the human heart, worthy of being elevated to a necessity for any human being who is truly alive. 

For wandering nomads like me the real adventure, "the great affair," as Robert Louis Stevenson describes it, "is to move." Moving in such a way, without a clear intention, opens a path to deeper awareness as we venture toward the unexpected. 

When a planned trip failed to materialize, I found myself in Paris, wandering around without an agenda. Spontaneous wandering is not my strong suit, so after a few days of uncertainty, I was surprised by the intensity of memories that began to surface.

Without so much doing, images reappeared like lost snapshots. 

Waking up in Paris during my honeymoon to find screaming fans lined up outside our window at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée’, all dressed in red and gold braid jackets to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, who happened to be staying at the hotel.

Going to a dinner in Versailles' Hall of Battles as violinists serenaded us with "Fascination." It seemed like a fairy tale that faded with time, yet the music stayed with me. 

Walking aimlessly through the streets of Paris, I regained those lost memories and released some of my sadness. 

Perhaps the best reward for wanderers are moments of delicious serendipity. While crossing Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, deciding whether I should turn left or right, I heard someone call out my name and encountered a friend I hadn't seen in over 30 years.

Sitting together in a cafe on a famous boulevard in Paris made me laugh out loud at how the universe brings about such collisions when we simply surrender and let life unfold. 

I would love to live as a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. ~ John O'Donohue, Unfinished Poem

Paris, Statues with Eiffel Tower, March 18, 1946
Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images