We went for a walk yesterday afternoon. My wife, my daughter, our dog, and me.
It was a little after 3:30, with an hour or so of light before the too-long-dark settled in. We were in a nearby town forest, with a few clearly marked trails. There was no reason to end up lost. But we did.
Happy to be outside, we headed further back into the woods than we’d been before, and before we knew it, we were roamin’ in the gloamin’, as Sir Harry Lauder wrote in the early 20th century. The terrain hadn’t changed much, and we were still on a good trail. We’d gotten turned around, though, and we didn’t realize our path was unmarked.
The path brought us out in a hay field about three-quarters of a mile above where we’d expected to come out. Fortunately, the main road was at the edge of the field, and the passing headlights guided us there without any difficulty.
Our walk back to the car was a struggle, though. Due to some trauma that preceded her adoption, our dog Ziti is terrified of large trucks, and we encountered a few of them along the road. She was a good, brave girl, and with encouragement from the three of us, she got through.
Then we were in our car and driving home.
My and my family thought we knew where we were heading at the start of the walk. Winding up in unknown territory threw us off course, and we had to make our way back on a completely different and somewhat difficult path.
In the middle of the night I woke up and thought about how much that walk represented life over the past nine or so months.
Each of us was pretty confident that the trails we were heading individually and together were built on solid ground, with trusty signposts to guide us as we went. Then it all changed. To the point that even just spending a day at home, things get confusing and uncertain, and we need to stop and reorient ourselves.
Sometimes we feel lost before our feet hit the floor in the morning.
That’s probably why I’ve had a certain song stuck in my head for a few days now.
Lost Together is the title track from Canadian country/rock band Blue Rodeo’s 1992 album.
I was working on the farm that summer, just weeks away from starting my freshman year of college. I’d hear the song once in a while on CHOM 97.7 or Mix 96. For whatever reason, the radios in the tractor didn’t pick up local stations, but the ones out of Quebec came in crystal clear. It was a good enough song, but it didn’t amount to much more than being just another love song.
Nearly 30 years later, Lost Together works in a completely different context.
The chorus is simple, yet deeply comforting:
And if we’re lost
Then we are lost together
Yeah, if we’re lost
We are lost together
One line repeated with just a bit of difference. But that central idea .. We are lost together.
There are a million reasons to be anxious and depressed and terrified in this moment. But there isn’t a single thought that sets my alarm bells to ringing like they do when I consider the possibility of going through this without my family. It is literally unimaginable. My brain shuts down and won’t let me go there.
Yesterday afternoon we were physically lost in the woods, but there isn’t a day that’s passed since mid-March when I haven’t felt lost in one way or another. And it can happen sitting on the couch, driving my car, waking up in the middle of the night, or cooking Saturday lunch at work.
I’ll be doing whatever, and a reminder or a headline or an environmental trigger will show up, and suddenly everything’s changed. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how I got where I am, or I don’t know how to get to where I need to be.
Fortunately, I have my familial lightning rods to ground me. Alison and I get locked in a gaze or Jenn throws a little gentle, late-teen sass my way or Ziti slobbers on my face, and I know exactly where I am.
I’m exactly where I need to be. With them.
And I know they struggle, too, feeling like they’re in unfamiliar territory. I hope with every fiber of my being that I’m able to ground them in the same way they do for me.
And at the end of the day, we’re all still lost, maybe, but not alone. Lost together.
Postscript: I thought I was done with this piece, but then I did a little research and learned something amazing.
Back in the spring – the early days of the pandemic and shutdowns and sheltering in place – the CBC put out a call for listeners to suggest a song that the country could sing together. The Great Canadian Singalong.
And the song that got the most votes was, of course, Lost Together.
Listeners recorded themselves singing, and the CBC put a video together, with Blue Rodeo’s own Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor joining in.
It’s amazing. Check it out.