It was just a little pothole. Well maybe a few potholes. I didn’t see them.
I looked down at the floor inside my camper: all of my clothes heavily slumped over my bike—the pole I used to hang up my clothing had broken away from the wall where it had been glued and screwed snuggly (“Nothing will knock that down,” Glen had said proudly after he put it up for me.); tins of food strewn all over having fallen out from the cupboards; two of my last ceramic coffee mugs smashed amongst the tins; and my dragonfly and dream catcher lay lifeless wedged under the garbage can.
(This was what things looked like AFTER I had tidied a bit.)
“Oh dear.” Should I cry, sigh, or just clean it up? After a few seconds of disappointment, annoyance, regret, and anger flowing through me, I decided to just get on with cleaning it up. It happened. It was done. Yes, I should have been driving slower.
I had come into the Olympic National Forest to camp for a couple of days before taking the ferry into Canada and to get some alone time with nature. It’s called “dispersed camping” where people can camp for free outside of paid campgrounds. There are usually no amenities, only a fire ring and maybe a picnic bench. I spotted a site by the river beside the bridge. It had a fire ring and just the right space for my camper. The river was flowing away right in front of it. I loved it. But the GPS indicated that the actual site was another mile up the road.
I knew my GPS had sometimes led me to the middle of nowhere, or had indicated that my destination was somewhere else other than where it really was, but at least the GPS got me to the area where I needed to be. Maybe this was one of those times.
What’s one more mile? Maybe there’s an even better site. It would be disappointing to settle for the first site if there was another one just up the road that was perfect. As soon as I drove over the bridge, the smooth paved road turned to dirt. I saw the pothole too late. I eased on the brakes forcefully as my truck bounced over the holes. I scrunched my face. This wasn’t good.
The one mile was all dirt road filled with potholes deeper than I could tell until I was in them. There was no better camp site. In fact there were no further camp sites at all.
I bounced, as gently as I could, back to the site by the river. (This was right beside my site.)
My hand rested on the camper door briefly as I took a deep breath, preparing myself for what I might see inside. It was worse than I thought seeing all of my clothes drooping over my bike.
Reflecting on it now—after a night’s sleep and with a plan for what to do with my clothes and how I’ll get my clothing rod fixed—reminded me of a Michael Leunig cartoon (a famous cartoonist from Australia). The character in the cartoon walks down a road that has a pothole. He doesn’t see the hole and falls in. The next frame of the cartoon, he walks down the road, sees the pothole, falls in the hole again and rolls his eyes. The next frame, he walks down the road, sees the pothole, waves his finger knowingly in the air and steps aside avoiding the hole. The final frame, he sees the road with the pothole, and he walks down a different road.
Having done what I had just done I wondered which frame of the cartoon I fell into. I rolled my eyes.
You know what was missing? I didn’t listen to that initial feeling I had when I found the first camp site by the river. I was excited and it felt like the site was waiting for me. There were two other camping spots but they were both taken. This was the only one left and it was right there for me.
My thoughts over-rode my feeling, “What if there’s something better??”
It wasn’t a matter of settling for what could be ‘second best.’ If that initial camp site hadn’t felt right, I would have easily carried on. I have done that before. But it DID feel right.
But on the other hand, what was wrong with carrying on one more mile just to check things out? It wasn’t as if it was ten more miles.
Sigh! Maybe I was meant to fall in the potholes—clearly it was because I did—and that was exactly where I was supposed to be.
What were the lessons? I wanted to avoid those potholes or choose a different road next time.
#1 – listen to initial feelings and follow them
#2 – pay attention to the change of environment (pavement to dirt road) and adjust accordingly
#3 – slow down and be present with the current journey rather than being solely focused on the destination
Great lessons. Although this wasn’t the first time I’ve had these lessons. Maybe the question was more about: Am I listening to the lessons? Am I keeping them alive in my awareness?
I so want to be perfect!! “If I learn all the lessons and never forget any of them, then no bad things will happen to me and life will be great!” Right??
What if I paid attention to only lesson #1 – listen to initial feelings and follow them – ? That would be all I needed. My feelings would guide me to be at the right place at the right time and if that meant I needed to be in the right place to experience a lesson, then wouldn’t that be the way it was supposed to be?
I can remember one lesson! Well…maybe not. I will forget sometimes, even that one lesson! And that will be okay, because I will get to have another lesson—the one I needed for that moment.
And isn’t it true that when we learn a lesson…again, that we sometimes learn it even deeper the next time? And isn’t that a good thing?