On a recent trip to Richmond for Pilates Certification training, I visited Maymont Mansion during some free time. As a child, my family traveled there once or twice a year, visiting my two great aunts. They have both since passed away, quickly dwindling my trips there.
I needed an adventure break during training weekend. Saturday was a beautifully sunny day. I always try take in cultural experiences while traveling. I needed a little exercise, too, so Maymont Mansion seemed like a great match. Clearly a community favorite, families and joggers enjoyed the grounds with me. I laughed (to myself) overhearing a dad try to explain to his little girl that this was indeed, a park. She expected swings and slides, not manicured lawns. She kept repeating, “Where is it? I don’t see no park.” I walked most of the grounds before realizing that below a hill lay another garden. I bounded down the winding stone path into a Japanese horticulture homage. It felt like entering a secret garden tucked beneath the great hill.
One water feature included large stepping stones to access a small island. A dad and his son crossed ahead of me, so I paused to watch the little boy’s pleasure at hopping across the stones. His mother and sibling waited on the other side, waving happily. Somewhat frantically, the little boy yelled, “How am I going to get over there?! Am I stuck here?” His young mind hadn’t quite calculated that the whole path formed a loop, or that he could return the way he came. His dad calmly said, “Look, there is a bridge on this side of the island we can take.” Crisis averted! The little boy darted across the bridge eagerly, ready to be relieved of his brief marooning.
His cry and posture reminded me of Gao Xingjian’s The Other Shore. As a senior in college, I acted as house manager for the show. I made the mistake of not fully observing the play prior to managing the late seating policy. I tried to squeeze two patrons into aisle seats just as several cast members came darting up the aisle “on their way to the other shore.” The play reminded me of dynamics on the show Lost, wherein the stress and adrenaline of trying to figure out one’s relationship to the universe made one question every aspect of reality.
I understood exactly how that little boy felt trying to get to the other side. It is easy to bound forward in excitement, target in view. You realize there is something unexpected or impassable between you and your final goal – it might be small, like two feet of water. The focus and commitment to the goal makes looking elsewhere feel like betrayal or a waste of time. But, by taking a moment to look around, the way out might become clear. Or, the voice of a friend with wise advice can be heard. This quick interchange gave me a picture of God, the good Shepherd, walking alongside his beloved. He isn’t in a rush and he isn’t going to join the freakout party. He isn’t going to laugh at our short-sightedness or get frustrated at our zero to sixty desperation. He keeps walking with us, letting us charge forward, guiding our steps.