All that is gold does not glitter; Not all who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
The second line of this poem is commonly printed on merchandise directed toward we who love the outdoors. In fact, my husband gave me a vanity plate for my Jeep with this line on it. It invokes the idea that when we are out seeking new experiences on the trails, that we are not going about it aimlessly or without purpose. We may appear to be wandering to those who don’t understand this penchant of ours. But we are indeed not lost at all.
I love this quote not only for the reasons just stated, but also for the wider context of this poem. Kudos to anyone who identified it as coming from Tolkein. Specifically, it is from the Riddle of Strider from The Fellowship of the Ring. It helps Frodo identify Strider (Aragorn) as the person he is looking for in Bree and as the true heir of Isildur at the Council of Elrond. This quote has a rich literary history that ties it to adventure and triumph.
I believe that we can apply more than just the second line to how we live out our ambitions to be more connected with nature. “All that is gold does not glitter” means that there are plenty of seemingly ordinary things in this world that are valuable. Think of a time that you’ve had a personal triumph on the trail. Maybe you beat your best time on a run or bike ride. Perhaps you reached a milestone for time outside or miles hiked or ridden. It could be any personal goal reached or moment savored. You stand there on the side of the trail sweat dripping into the dust celebrating your achievement. Even if that moment is not particularly noteworthy for everyone else, to you it’s gold.
Ask yourself what keeps you grounded. What are your deep roots that are not reached by the frost? For me it is my faith. My desire to love, preserve, and enjoy nature pours out from my belief that all this was created for us to do so. I don’t have to struggle with how to answer my children when they ask why we do what we do. I’ve already thought these things through as the roots of my worldview grew deep. It is a comfort and a strength to be grounded.
I love literature and I love the outdoors. You would be surprised how often those passions meet in a spectacular way. Great literature is always dripping with wisdom about life and who we are as humans for those who have eyes to see. So grab a great book and head out to a beautiful spot to read. You’ll be glad you did.
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