Went Looking for a Key…Found a Map

A few weeks ago, on a gorgeous day, I went for a run through Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park. I was with a friend of the heart, the kind of companion you know you can veer off the beaten track with. The kind of running mate who also dreams of sprinting headlong down forested paths, leaping over tree stumps, and taking flight.

And that’s just what we did. Path after path opened to us as we sped through the forest, playing an elaborate game of tag, interspersed with conversation and catching our breath. We laughed uproariously as we flew and acted exactly like the children we once were. At the end, we turned for home in high spirits, only to realize that not only had any negative emotions lost a foothold on this magnificent run, but so had the key to the rental car I was driving!

We retraced our steps. This may sound easy, but was hilarious because we’d literally been everywhere in the park. (For those of you who don’t know Halifax, Point Pleasant Park is a 185-acre urban forest nestled on the ocean, full of cultivated walking paths but also scores of meandering trails through the trees.) We must have walked for an hour and came up empty-handed. Strangely, I didn’t feel dejected or upset. I was still hanging on to the magic of the run and I had this sense of assurance that the key was in a safe place and would be found.

I held on to this feeling as my friend and I left the park car-less. Even when the gorgeous day turned to rain and we got soaked through on the trudge home. I even held on to it when I talked to the people from the car rental agency and they told me it would cost a few hundred dollars to replace the lost key!

Anyone who knows me well knows this isn’t the first time I’ve misplaced something as important as keys. I once lost my house keys and considered them truly vanished, until I put the universe on the job and had them promptly returned to me in a most mysterious way. But that’s a story for another time. What you need to know is that when I’ve remembered to ask for help from something smarter and broader-seeing than me (maybe you call it God or source or the divine), amazing things have happened.

So that’s what I did. I turned the problem of the lost (and expensive!) key over to the universe. And with the hope that the key would be found, I left my contact info with the lost and found department at the park.

Over the next two days, it rained. No one called.

On the first nice day after our exuberant run, my friend and I returned to the park. We started walking again, heads down, searching. I tried imagining the key in my hand. I tried telling myself that it would be easy to find, that it didn’t at all feel like a search for a needle in a haystack. (Okay, I’ll admit it. The sense of assurance was fading and I was feeling a little like a jerk for losing the thing in the first place. I heard that voice in my head that said: “This is what happens when you run around acting like a child. When are you going to grow up? Responsible adults don’t lose the keys to cars they don’t even own!”)

There was a spot that my friend wanted to show me, a place that had given her solace when she’d been going through a hard time. So, we took a slight detour down to the beach and she showed me where she had sat and sang to the ocean and collected heart-shaped rocks. She showed me the spot where she had placed the rocks, hoping for healing.

There was some garbage there—two folded up pieces of paper—and I picked them up, thinking I would find a trash can later. Wondering what they were, I unfolded the first and discovered a map of the park. I chuckled, thinking it could come in handy on our search.

And then I unfolded the second piece of paper. It was a typed list of activities and names. Suddenly, my friend pointed to a name at the bottom of the sheet. My daughter’s name! I quickly scanned the other names and realized they were her classmates. My eyes flew back up to the top of the page where I read the title and the date. Field Trip to Point Pleasant Park, October 2011.

I had been on that trip with my daughter and her class. Four years previous.

I couldn’t believe it. What were the odds of finding something so personal on this beach? A full four years later? Beautiful goosebumps broke out all over my body. Adding to the wonder of the moment was the other bizarre and gorgeous synchronicity—the topic of the field trip had been navigation. I remembered the children poring over maps and learning how to use a compass.

Here we were, searching for something lost, and we found a part of my own unique past, pertaining to navigation! The word magical doesn’t even begin to cover it. “I don’t care if I find the key,” I said, out loud. “This is way better.”

Just a coincidence? Some people might say it was nothing more that. But because I had asked for help, I saw this as direct communication. The dirt-creased, sea-wrinkled papers I held in my hand were proof to me, once again, of a most beautiful truth.

We are not alone.

More than that, there is something smart and savvy and responsive on our side. Finding that uber-personal remnant and not someone else’s gas receipt or grocery list, was a reminder that I am seen, I am heard, and I am accompanied.

If you’re thinking, “Well, great, but what about the key?” there is a gorgeous and fitting end to this story.

The park office called the very next morning to say that someone had found the key and turned it in.

I didn’t have to do a thing. Except trust.


Originally published on my blog “This Sweet World”