Recently, my threesome of a family went to an Apple Fair in a sweet Stars Hollow-like town an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of folks from around the Bay, dressed in the most summery of Northern California attire, gathered to sip reds and whites from local wineries and to sample a dizzying variety of apple products from the familiar to the novel.
Of course, there was also the usual fair grub such as funnel cakes, garlic fries and hot dogs. These, we narrowly escaped having filled up on a lunch of Bulgarian fare. The mini donuts, however, may as well have been called the devil’s delight. Not a single visitor seemed able to resist. Not the cowboys, not the bikers, certainly not the cherubic, rosy-cheeked boys and girls barely old enough to walk. Not even the little novice of a nun with an earnest face. If they couldn’t say no, who was I to say no?
It was a gorgeous day. There was something about all that food (and the apples, apples everywhere!) that made smiles flash more readily. A mix of locals from every ethnic background as well as tourists representing every corner of the globe blanketed the fairgrounds with contentment. It was nice. For a brief moment, the song We Are the World played in my head and it felt as though there was world peace.
This feeling didn’t last. My son, with his uncanny ability to gravitate toward things that worry me, saw a hay bale maze. As a citified chick with a challenged geographical sense, my experience with hay bale mazes is less than zero. My first feeling was one of dread. Oh, no, I’m going to lose him. It didn’t help that I had a slight allergic reaction to all that hay. (Just thinking about it now makes my nose itch.) I surveyed the maze and panicked a little when I couldn’t tell how many entrances and exits there were.
I realize that real life, in some ways, is a bit like a hay bale maze:
We feel out of sorts traveling from point A to point B. We don’t possess the confidence we need when we traverse a path we’ve never walked. Every turn can look just like the last one. At a fork in the road, we have no way of knowing for sure if we should make a left or if we should make a right. But, what’s with the shoulds, anyway? Whether it’s left or right or straight, the path that suits us is the path that makes us come alive.
Directions don’t always get us where we want to go. Even with a GPS system, there are times when it can’t get us directly to our desired destination. In the same regard, there will be those who will give us direction or instructions in life, whether welcome or not. This is nice because it’s comforting to know that we’re traversing a path that isn’t completely unpaved. But what’s even nicer is the option of taking these directions with a grain of salt. Because there are times when the path we want to take is exactly the one that is not paved. A path that worked for someone else may not at all be the path I’d like to walk.
We see walls more often than the path. With bales of hay stacked higher than human height, our vision is blocked by eight-foot walls, giving little clue as to whether we are traveling in the right direction. But every hay bale maze has a way out. No matter how many walls into which we run. And, though our immediate vision may be obstructed in a maze, our larger vision need not be. We don’t need to lose our ability to see the big picture just because there are walls in front of us.
It can be frustrating. Once our sense of adventure wanes, a hay bale maze becomes so not fun anymore. But why not see this as a golden opportunity? Instead of losing it, why not tunnel through all that hay, make a new path and create a new exit outta there?
My son, naturally, found his way around the maze. In fact, he went through it again, and again, and again and came out of different exits. By his last go round, I think his lesson for me finally sunk in. That I should be happy he’s thrilled to walk an unmarked path; a path he’s never walked before. It may not be safe. It may not make sense. But I suspect that by doing so, he will continue to discover surprises along those paths. And, though it may take him a while, he will always find his way out of a maze if he continues to walk, following his metaphorical inner compass, one step at a time.
I will think of this the next time I forge a new path. More importantly, I will remind myself as often as necessary that walls, boundaries and mazes are never absolutes nor endless.
- Do you tend to run more into real walls, walls thrust upon by society, or self-made walls?
- Do you sometimes stop even though there’s no visible stop sign? Even when you’d rather continue?
- What tends to make you keep going?
- Do you like hay bale mazes?
Image by makelessnoise