A Hidden Joy

One fall day, I was walking at Westside Regional Park in Jacksonville, Florida. I had decided to take a break and was sitting on a bench enjoying the late sun filtering through the trees. In the stillness of a windless day, I could hear a shuffling in the woods. Usually, that sound means an armadillo digging for insects or a small bird making a big noise. But this movement was different. Decidedly human. When I peered through the trees, I could make out a man in camouflage, rooting around in the leaves not far from where I was sitting. Always curious and never one to fear talking to a stranger, I eased my way through the trees to stand near his left shoulder. “What are you doing?” I asked, and he jumped. The man was John DiFiore and we are still friends to this day. He explained geocaching to me. I was fascinated by what he was saying. It seems that in nearly every place on the globe, someone has hidden something they are dying for you to find. The pleasure isn’t what’s in the cache, but the seeking and the finding. Just this morning, I was in a local park after having moved back home following a fifteen-year absence. I’m sure the cache is hidden in the row of bushes behind the dock, near the parking lot. I’m rooting around in the shrubs, not sure whether I’m looking for a small cache or a large one. I find more spiders and mosquitoes and trash than hidden goodies. Is this it? Nope. It’s just a Mountain Dew bottle. Is this it? Nope, it’s an empty container of purple Bubble Tape. As I’m rooting around in the bushes, just about to give up, I hear a man’s voice say, “It’s in there somewhere!” I turn and find a middle-aged couple looking up at me from the sidewalk. I ask them if they’ve found the cache. They say no, but they’re sure it’s there. So I keep looking. Moments later, as they’re walking away, I find it. It’s an old Parmesan cheese container, painted green so as to be hidden among the bushes. I pull it out and call to them, excited that I found it. They want to sign the log, like me, so I hand over the pen. I place my business cards inside and close the container. The two tell me about other caches hidden in nearby parks. They ask me if I’ve found those. I tell them no. I tell them I’ve been away from home for a long time. The joy of geocaching is this: miles away from big city life, at eight o’clock in the morning, I can still find people who share common interests. I can always find a friendly face, even when I’m performing an activity that looks genuinely suspicious. While hunting caches, I miraculously find other gifts: determination, friendship, the joy of striving toward a common goal when everything else seems divided and hopeless. Finding a cache is not about winning or about the treasure inside the container. It’s about all the treasures that happen while getting there.

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~ by ImaginaryCanary on March 27, 2012.

One Response to “A Hidden Joy”

  1. Ummm… yeah… That’s a nice story and all, but I had a brief experience with geocaching. It’s not for me. Of course, I didn’t own a smartphone at the time and my friend had some kind of gps thing she was trying to use on her phone with little success. For whatever reason, I just didn’t enjoy it.

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