I Wander and Wonder
But I Am Not Lost

This essay is important two me at two levels. The first reason is that I am sure this essay can benefit you in your life. The other reason is a personal issue for me. However, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. I have a friend, and we go back nearly a half century. In fact, we worked together for several years. She is used to me and my style, which is in many ways a bit eccentric. When she happens upon my essays, she will send me a letter or postcard with some famous saying. A couple weeks ago, I received a postcard with the second line from a J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem, which was in his novel, The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings

The rest of the card wasn’t related to Tolkien at all. What was the reason for the quote? Also, I knew that there was more to the poem, but I didn’t remember any of it. Nevertheless, my friend will throw quotes out knowing that I will rise like a trout at the bait, which I did.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

When I googled the poem, wiki provided a photo of Tolkien along with his poem. I was struck at similarities between T.E. Lawrence and J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, as I write this essay, I think that the remembrance is especially in the eyes. Look at their eyes. Piercing and penetrating are the words that would describe them. T.E. Lawrence is a mentor of mine, which caused me to wonder if my friend was trying to tell me something.

Nevertheless, my former colleague surely knows that I would have jumped at the bait. Now, I could go on and on about Lawrence of Arabia, but Tolkien is another story. What’s with the poem? Anyone that has visited my website knows that when I was in high school, I had to memorize a hundred lines of poetry or prose each semester. While in high school, I hated memorizing anything. However, as an adult, even sixty years since high school, I still recall lines on a daily basis. Therefore, I took on the challenge to dissect Tolkien’s single stanza.

Essentially, Tolkien was merely making observations about life. His first observation was not to be drawn to all that glitters. It might not be gold. The second part of the couplet is a warning not to judge wanderers as people who are lost. It is tied to the first line by an opposite insight.

The next couplet is about people who are old. Tolkien has observed that some older people won’t wither but will continue to fight on. He moved to the next line talking about deep roots will persevere the wind and cold of winter.

The third couplet deals with another issue regarding the issue that the obvious isn’t necessarily true. The first line deals with ashes aren’t dead. It is the rebirth of the phoenix issue. Tolkien said that light will emerge from the shadows as fire from the ashes.

Then Tolkien moves to a broken sword, which is remade to function again. Again, Tolkien sees the parallel with the restore monarch.

My little exposition on Tolkien’s poem is obvious. However, is that what my former colleague wanted me to understand? Nope. So, faced with my intellectual former colleague’s quote, back to the Internet I wandered around discovering things about his life. It wasn’t long before I discovered a treasure trove of haunting parallels between Tolkien and myself. While some of the parallels weren’t exact, what was exact were his ups and down in life. From illness, poverty, deaths of parents, to other problems. Those parallels were striking.

So, as you read this personal journey of mine, I know what you are asking, was that the reason why your friend sent you the first couplet from Tolkien’s poem? My honest response is that I doubt it, even though I wish that it was. Even though my friend is brilliant, I truly doubt that she knows as much about Tolkien as I discovered.

As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. My former colleague will read this article, realize that she has missed something, and jump at this essay like it is bait. She will be on a holy terror to discover the parallels. It won’t take long, but, again, I am not sure she will be as engaged with her findings as I am. To be honest, I’m skating on thin ice…. All that I can add to Tolkien’s one liner is “Not all those who wander are lost” is to include after wander the word wonder. Not all those like me who wander and wonder are lost.