June 2, 2022
Pride Month always gets me thinking about the paths we take on our personal journeys. My own path has been meandering, probably like yours.
First, let’s take a short detour...
Recently, I finished Wendy Hudson’s The Island Between Us, and I loved it. Wendy knows how to write books about survival, loss, love, and, ultimately, finding a way back to living—and in more authentic ways.
As I read Wendy’s book, I kept flashing back to the time I got lost in the woods of Kentucky. I had been working at a girls’ camp, and on my days off, I’d solo-hike the forest, my only companion being the camp dog, a Golden Retriever that adopted me that summer. Most of the hiking trails were clearly blazed, and I could follow along without much thought.
One day, though, I found another kind of trail.
It was more rugged dirt-ribbon than trail, one crisscrossed with deer paths and frequently disappearing into dense undergrowth. My boots had hit the trailhead early in the morning, and there I was: a woman on a primitive path with a dog that followed me everywhere. At some point, I got terribly lost. Thankfully, the dog stayed with me, grounding me and keeping my creeping panic at bay. Hours into the hike I debated turning back and trying to retrace my steps. But that would get me back to camp after dark — or further lost.
Growing increasingly nervous, I pushed ahead.
Eventually, I came to the banks of a lake and hitched a ride with a local fisherman to a convenience store. And yes! I insisted that the camp dog be rescued with me. Once I got to the store, I waited to be picked up by my fellow camp counselors. Turns out that my eight-mile hike took me through the forest to a lake some 30 miles away (by road) from the camp.
That day, I both lost and found my way. It was a meandering, exhausting journey, one I now take pride in because it mirrors my life.
I don’t take clear paths; I don’t think I was born to.
Throughout the first part of my life, I wound between interests—career and love. Perhaps a bit cliché, I left a seemingly straighter path during that summer at camp when I fell for another woman, both of us nascent adults. Alas, while she and I shared some moments together (that will stay between us), she didn’t fall for me the way I did for her.
Again, I got lost.
Since that summer, I’ve repeatedly lost and found my way. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to Wendy Hudson’s characters and books. Now, I take pride in my meandering ways, and all this gets me thinking about Unwind, a song by Cheryl B. Engelhardt.
“I am not lost just because you can’t find me,” Cheryl sings.
I’ve walked many paths, and I have many more to come. Some will run straighter, and, delightfully, others will be lusher snaking routes that leave me sublimely dizzy.
Oh, but what a gloriously twisty journey it is! And I take Pride in that.
Ana K. Wrenn is a writer and professor who calls Southern Appalachia home. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking in a forest, hanging on the deck with her two dogs, or snuggle-reading with her three cats. Fly over to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and https://anakwrenn.com/ to connect with her.