If "it" is an Abbey, it probably will. Most of you will already be familiar with my infamous penchant for getting lost. I maintain that this is because I rely heavily on the sun and stars for orientation, neither of which are often at our disposal in the dead of winter. (Okay, okay - I can hear you all snorting and snickering. ) But take last Saturday. All stoked and suited up for a 6-mile training run in a park just east of Paris, I opened the curtains to...
flat, grey sky.
"Don't worry. Everything will be okay. I studied the names of the pathways. Most of them..." With this shaky understanding, I hopped on the metro in my flashy running shorts - a surefire way to draw disconcerted looks from fellow Parisians- and found my way to the southeastern edge of the city, Bois de Vincennes. First of all, it felt SO GOOD to be back on the trails. (Some of you don't know this, but I injured my left knee and had to take a couple months off to rest and strengthen it. The break made me realize how obsessive...I mean...how passionate I am about this sport.)
Back to the path. And what a path! Vincennes is something like a monstrous conglomeration of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, The State Fairgrounds, several nature parks, Como Zoo, and why don't you throw in Canterbury Park and a velodrome while you're at it. In retrospect, the majority of the park is fairly calm and woodsy, but I really had to wonder during the first stretch, during which I cruised past a circus with a beautiful Great Dane as big as Cerberus, a guy peeing behind a truck (not so unusual, that one), a boisterous family yelling at each other, a police station with shady-looking characters hanging about, and a hippodrome, complete with plasma screens to watch as I plodded by. Strange goings-on, but since I kept seeing other runners, I decided to follow through with my plan.
Until it came to the turnaround point. I knew the name of the correct path, but where was that sucker? After numerous map consultations and squintings at the characterless sky, I circled the same lake several times and landed myself in a Cambodian garden. At this inconvenient moment, I found myself completely tapped - thirsty, hungry, and pretty sore. While I tried to figure out another route home (perhaps one they had decided to mark), I busied myself with imagining the large bowl of hot couscous I would eat for lunch if I ever made it out alive.
Then suddenly, the sun came out. Oh, joy! With renewed vigor, I re-oriented myself, tightened up my laces, and within a half-hour or so, I was trotting into the park entrance. O, what a little sunlight can do!
Karl says it's because I'm heliotropic. Or solar-powered, come to think of it. Of course, the sun can have a hugely damaging effect on things as well. Oil paintings and antique furniture, for example. So, museums are generally short on windows, and I am totally outta luck. Guaranteed to wander.
Last week, Karl tracked down a fascinating (and free!) museum that emphasizes the history of Paris, so we meandered over to the Marais, the oldest part of Paris, to check it out. The Musee Carnavalet, which bills itself as the "most Parisian of the museums in the the capital city", is chock full of treasures spanning from prehistoric times (pots and boats and things found in excavations), to Gallo-Roman remains, to medieval woodcarvings, to oil paintings of movers and shakers from the Renaissance, a dizzying amount of furniture from the various Louis' eras, and trinkets and documents from the French Revolution. Everything is there (except, perhaps, the original guillotine. That would be gross.) In addition, the famous Mme. de Sevigne lived here for quite a while. It's like walking through a timeline, if you do it from start to finish. Which, of course, we didn't do. Per usual, I got distracted by the 16th century, and didn't find my spouse until about an hour and a half later (but not before re-living the belle epoque, like three times. Once was plenty, I can assure you). Still, we both had a terrific time, and compared notes to get the "whole" story.
In general, I've just resigned myself to the fact that I will spend a lot of my life going in circles of various kinds, and the One who directs my path is going to make sense of it. And come to think of it, some of the greatest adventures begin in the middle of wandering journeys. Joshua and the children of Israel, The Apostle Paul, Ulysses, Lancelot, Dante...in the end, they all arrived home, safe and sound. Eventually.