As my mother puts it, I have been “best friends” with Winnie-the-Pooh for as long as I have been alive. On my third day of life, was brought home from the hospital in a tiny Winnie-the-Pooh snowsuit, and by my 8,093rd day of life I am still sleeping with a stuffed Pooh bear. When I sleep, that is. For my only other life-long relationship is with insomnia, and the two actually work quite well together. Sleepless nights give me a priceless Pooh-Bear-related opportunity that the average Harvard student would by no means have time for: Hunting the Woozle.
To the uninitiated, a brief explanation is necessary. Little is known about Woozles, and even less is known about the closely related species called Wizzles. All that anyone can say with any certainty about either Woozles or Wizzles is that which the great explorer Pooh Bear himself hypothesized: That they may indeed be quite Hostile Animals. The only accepted protocol for a Woozle hunt is demonstrated by Pooh himself, and you must follow it very carefully in order to avoid danger. First, you must pick a central location to walk around. The Yard works well, although Pooh preferred a smaller search radius. For the hunt to be fruitful, you must walk around the central location the following the same path in the same direction at least a few times and, now this is vital, there must be snow on the ground. Once tracks begin to appear in front of you, you will know you are on the trail of a Woozle. If you choose to bring a friend, be aware that this will attract at least one Wizzle, the tracks of which will be unique from, but very close in proximity to, the tracks of the Woozle. It’s all quite a delicate science, you see.
I should mention the most important thing about Woozles to the grown-up Woozle hunter is that Woozles aren’t real. For that matter, Wizzles aren’t real either. Woozle tracks are really Woozle-hunter tracks, and Wizzle tracks are really Wizzle-hunter tracks. It took me a considerable number of Woozle hunts to realize this, and while it has never stopped me from tempting fate and setting out on any given winter night to go Woozle hunting, it has changed the course of my thoughts while I hunt. I’m not really looking for Woozles and Wizzles anymore, and I no longer fear them as Hostile Animals. But I am, on many of my nocturnal Woozle hunts, looking for something which may turn out to be a very Hostile Animal indeed.
I, like nearly every other student I know, face what Pooh would probably call the Great Anxiety: The endless mistakes, false starts, and wrong turns that I and nearly every young Christian make when trying to figure out what God is calling us to do. Samuel, no doubt, was the lucky one, and in my wiser moments I know he should be my model. Somehow he knew what years of restless Woozle hunting never taught me: He knew, as Eliot says, how to care and not to care and he knew how to sit still. He knew how to wait until he heard God’s voice, then he knew how to spring forth and answer. But I’m not Samuel, I am a Woozle-hunter, and I like to read the signs I make myself. I follow and follow tracks of my own making thinking I am following the little signs left by something big and important, so I can have my eyes comfortably on God’s plan and keep it at a safe distance like the ultimate Hostile Animal. Deep down in my grown-up heart I know that the tracks are my own, and that the plan I’m following is not God’s. Maybe I just don’t want to listen to my grown-up heart yet, and maybe I’m not ready to hear God’s voice. Some day I will be able to say to God what Samuel said: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” For now, though, I can only say “Don’t speak too loud, Lord, for the Woozles are listening.”
Tess Fitzsimmons ’19 is a History & Literature and Religion joint concentrator in Lowell House.