Not All Those Who Wander are Lost
Though I can’t claim to be familiar with much poetry, I do know that I love this one. I think it’s the sense of mystery along with foretelling a brightened future.
The Riddle of Strider
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost, The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall sprint, Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.
- J R R Tolkien
The part of it that’s always captured my imagination most is that second line, “Not all those who wander are lost.” It applies so well to my dear cat, Blue Belle. I first saw her sitting in the grass on the hill outside my living room window back in California. She’d wander by now and again around 4pm, and I began to look for her then. I wondered where she came from. We didn’t have neighbors very near, and the ones we did have didn’t have cats. Over the months, I gained her trust so she’d show up—from I didn’t know where—about the same time each morning and evening and I’d feed her. After a while, she seemed to take up residence under the house. Eventually I was able to pet her, then pick her up, but only briefly.
When we decided to move to North Carolina, I carefully planned how to include her. It was complicated. It took a lot of strategy and, maybe most of all, luck. But we pulled it off. How I worried something would go wrong and I’d have to leave her behind. I didn’t know how I could possibly have done that, and am eternally grateful I didn’t have to.
She and the other cats moved in style in a private van (Royal Paws) which drove straight through to deliver them to a boarding facility nearby. They stayed in those cages for about three weeks while we drove cross country then awaited our furniture delivery. I know it was an ordeal for them, and they were frightened when we brought them to their new home, and for quite some time afterwards.
But something surprised me. Blue Belle showed not the slightest interest in going outside. No, apparently not ever again! When she wandered to my yard in California, she wasn’t lost. She was just seeking her destiny as a pampered, indoor cat. She found it!
critiquing the project
relaxing on the bed
And there’s a lesson for artists here too. Many of us have followed a path similar to mine—wandering all over the artistic landscape, trying out one medium after another. For me, it was china painting first, then acrylic, and drawing, and polymer clay, and beading, and ceramics (which I’d sworn I would never be interested in), and, at various places along the way, gourds, needle-felting, oil, watercolor, mixed media. I visited a lot of places. But I realized I wasn’t wandering. I was trying things out. Where would I find my home? Would there be one? Just one?
Back in 2018 I decided to focus on writing and illustrating my animal fiction books. Those are long projects, and I don’t think I’d ever had finished one if I hadn’t made that ‘focus’ decision. I did pretty well with it, but I found I couldn’t focus 100 percent. That would mean abandoning everything else. I needed those other ways of expression. Not in equal degree, but in some. So, I’ve built time to pursue the occasional shiny object into my schedule, and it’s worked pretty well.
I may have been wandering and may, to some extent, still be. But I’m not lost. I’m just living, living my life and my art. What about you?