Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood May Be Fictional, But It Offers Real-World Lessons | Opinion


I always get lost. Still.

I have lived, worked and traveled all over the world. I’ve been lost in so many countries that I’ve lost count. Before I even learn to say hello, I learn to say ¿Dónde está? Can you give me directions for…?

These are the first lines I used during the ‘Writ Large Field of Dreams’ live storytelling event at the Collective Snowmass, hosted by the amazing Alya Howe.

It was my first time telling a personal story in front of a live audience. The experience was nerve-wracking but somewhat relieved by sharing it with fellow storytellers, including charming Aspen Daily News columnist Ali Margo.

My biggest takeaway is that if you see Alya’s name pop up on your phone, let the call go to voicemail, because she’s irresistible.

The second lesson is this: don’t underestimate the wisdom of beloved Winnie the Pooh: “When life sends you a rainy day, play in the puddles.” It can turn out to be fun. If nothing else, you can learn something.

In case you thought I was about to use the adorable bear’s other famous quote: “I’m not lost, because I know where I am.” But however, where I am may be lost” – well, that too!

Yes, I did quote Winnie the Pooh. Twice.

Now I don’t mind getting lost. I like to get lost in ideas. I can get lost in books, spreadsheets, or academic journals for days. And I can lose myself for years bringing innovative concepts to life.

But getting lost in the real physical world is a whole different level of stress. For me, the one that is often downright scary.

Since I can’t quite follow directions on a map, my husband Paul, hundreds of miles away, “walked” me through cities from Buenos Aires to Taipei locating me on Google Maps and then using places and landmarks to guide me to my destination.

The craziest moment was when I landed at an airport in Arkansas. I rented a car and Paul helped me find the hotel. He kept saying, “You’ll see X Street on your left and Building Y on your right. My response was, “All I see are fields and more fields.” Our conversation went on like this for a long time—as we grew more and more irritated with each other—before we realized I had taken the wrong airport. Learning from this experience, I later avoided potential disaster by not booking Santa Rosa when I needed Santa Clara.

I now recognize that I am going to get lost, and I accept the adventure that will follow.

Readers of my column may know that I got lost with an Iranian-German dive buddy in the South China Sea off Malaysia. As we hovered, hoping for rescue, we formed a relationship that we might not otherwise have had.

In Geneva, I got lost in a big bank while looking for an office. I frantically knocked on doors asking for directions, panicking that I was late for an urgent meeting (or so it seemed at the time). One of these doors belonged to a senior manager, who accompanied me to my appointment. This encounter eventually led to consulting work—an access and opportunity I wouldn’t have had had I known where I was going.

At the storytelling event, I talked about the time I got lost in the mountains on my run out of Hay Park, towards Mount Sopris. It was a Colorado bluebird day, and everything was perfect until I turned around to descend. But the path was gone. Not gone exactly – there were a few choices. Relying on my limited understanding of the topography, I smartly picked the one downhill.

Only the trail was a false descent which quickly drove up. So, I chose another path down, the one that led in circles. Hadn’t I seen this tree before? Or this tree? Or this tree with these flowers?

The hours have passed. I couldn’t say how much because my watch was dead, and I was so thirsty I thought I might die too. I kept walking, more and more frightened by the rustling around me.

But then the rustle turned into footsteps. I wasn’t in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. Heart in my stomach, I turned around. And I saw.

A vision of beauty and strength. A woman riding a beautiful white horse. I don’t invent anything.

Fast forward to the end of the story. I was embraced by kindness. The woman gave me water and drove me to my remote car.

I decided to share the story of Mount Sopris during my appearance as a narrator because it is a clear metaphor for life. The path to our goals and dreams will be undulating. Sometimes the climb turns out to be easier than expected. Sometimes the descent is a slippery slope. There are false starts. Sudden thunderstorms. Endless miles of winding, winding roads.

When you are lost, you are compelled to listen more deeply, pay more attention to detail, engage, and accept help from others.

Sometimes when you get lost, you gain access to so much more.

Barbara Freeman looks forward to her next unexpected but inevitable adventure. Contact her at [email protected]

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