Clueless Wise Guys leave by Back door
today's UPI column #89 of 100
I will bring you by a way you do not know, I will make the darkness light before you, I will make the crooked things straight, I will not forsake you
So There I was
Good and lost, I did not have a clue. And it did not matter because I was with my dad and when I was with my dad, lost was not possible. He was the true north that my compass always pointed towards. He knew everything, the names of all the plants and stars. He could defend against anything, yet he never said a violent word or committed a violent deed in my presence, not once in 47 years.
On that day we were on a hike around Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. I have not been back there as an adult. It suspect it is a fairly small lake and our hike that day was probably one of a few miles, but when I was 9, it was uncharted wilderness. The Lake is ringed by what are probably hills, but then were mountains. Lots of cool rock formations. My brothers were doing something else with my mother that day. Dad and I were on a trek that was designed to meet them at the other end of the lake in time for lunch.
I was all about playing Pocahontas. Dad taught me how to walk on the balls of my feet and try not to break twigs, to move silently through the woods. There was probably a bit of ulterior motive in this. I was not very good at being quiet as a child, I still am not good at it, but he tried to teach me. We practiced sneaking up on chipmunks and rabbits. He taught me that if you walk around a rabbit in a slowly decreasing spiral that the rabbit will think you are on a tangential path and freeze, and that you can get quite close.
I don’t know when he realized that we had gotten off our chosen trail. I remember him climbing a rock at one point to see if he could still see the lake and being perplexed when he could not. I remember a lot of talk about reading directions by the sun and the moss on trees. Finally we came out to a road, and we were not anywhere near the expected picnic area. He put me up on his shoulders and we walked the road for a bit and then re-entered the State Park. I only became aware of our lost estate when I saw my mother, picnic lunch laid out, scanning the horizon and then seeing us coming from the wrong way, and using her ‘put out’ voice to say “Orville, where have you been!? You are two hours late!” My dad used his special smile and a hug and a kiss to placate her wrath – it worked every time for him.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is the circuitous path of the Magi. Pretty clueless for wise men. Any sense of the politics of the day and region would have made them cautious about Herod the Great. But they were specialists. All about the Astology. And so they consulted a king about a king. Fortunately, they also took seriously a dream, and so were led home by another route.
The Christ child escapes in the nick of time. Not so lucky the innocent boy babes of Bethlehem. If I had been scripting the story the Magi would have gone back to Herod and told a few clever falsehoods. “King? Well, as it turns out, we miscalculated! There is no infant king. Not a sign. Sorry to bother. We’ll be heading back to Persia now. As you were.” But no one consulted me for the script. The Magi slip away. Joseph packs up the family and runs, and Herod is left to his royal paranoia with its natural evil consequences.
The road to Persia, like the road to Nazareth turns out to be unexpectedly long and circuitous.
I have written scripts for my life. My cosmic circular file is full of them. When I was thirteen I had button printed for my presidential run. I was planning to run at the first available moment, when I turned thirty-five. I would be the first female president. That would have been 1992. We got Mr. Bill instead. Turns out Mrs. Bill, who grew up near me in the suburbs of Chicago is looking like the dark horse of womankind. Odd that.
I turn fifty this month. Halfway home. (Optimistic, aren’t I?) I have never completely given up making plans and scripts. But these days I understand, that by my own lights, I am still blissfully lost. I do not know where I am, I know where I want to end up, but I do not know how I am going to get there. It does not matter. I walk the path with a guide. And He is a better woodsman than even my dad. And we laugh and we play and He teaches me things. I will get home. I will slip through the fingers of all the Herods who dog my steps. I will arrive by a way I do not know.
That’s fine by me.