Prone to Wander: A Reclaimation

When I was a girl, there was one line in a song we sang in church that resonated with me:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…

Lately it’s returned to my consciousness as the snow melts and my feet find the soil once again.

Walks are nice, but wandering is better.

Unfortunately the song positions the idea of wandering as a sin. I suppose it’s because it means straying from God. Not literal wandering, off literal pathways.

But I have a tendency to be very literal, so I deeply felt the idea of being “prone to wander” and would like to reclaim it for those of us who are indeed rather literal and enjoy exploring our surrounding topography.

I often wonder about wandering when I think about the Mennonite settlers of this area, what it was like when they arrived. What sort of situation did they step into? The land has been permanently altered by their (our) arrival and it grieves me.

I’m also curious. Is there a way to capture some of that experience, even still?

A dear friend lives near town. Between her house and mine there is what I like to call a forest. How lovely it would be if I could walk to her house through untamed bush instead of along the highway.

It’s private property of course, lined with “no trespassing” signs.

I discovered the landowner’s name and overcame my fear of the telephone and spoke with this person and obtain permission to wander the forest.

What a gift!

I managed to convince a friend to join me in venturing into the woods in the dark, where we had never walked before.

The experience was unparalleled.

It was chaotic and maybe somewhat dangerous in that we might’ve lost an eye from the thwack of unseen branches to the face.

Inevitably, we became lost. I confidently led her in precisely the wrong direction simply because I found a deer path that I figured must lead to where we were headed. (It did not.)

But we found that once we were in the woods, it wasn’t as dark as we’d assumed. We became accustomed to being in the bush on a moonless night and eventually found our way. It just took a little longer… and is that such a bad thing?

I’m typically pretty contented, but in this adventure I felt a different kind of joy. It jolted me back to those moments when I was lost in our woods on the farm when I was a young girl. The sense of temporary panic, disorientation, going in the exact wrong direction, always finding my way home.

One thing is clear, one thing I regret: I didn’t get lost often enough when I had the chance.

It’s amazing how quickly I become disoriented in the woods. It’s pretty much instantaneous. The bush was thick except for where the deer had walked. I wonder if it was like that when the first Mennonites arrived. I read about how the trees were so thick they couldn’t take wagons through or even ride horses very well here. I guess it was like this.

Is it possible to miss something you’ve never seen or experienced?

I’m grateful for the chance to step into the feeling of being lost in the woods near Steinbach. It’s all too rare a feeling these days and I think this year will be filled with many more wanderings.

May it be so.

(Feature photo NOT from my evening wandering… as clearly it was taken during daylight hours.)