I have a lousy sense of direction. So lousy that, when I look at a map my instincts urge me hard go the opposite way of what the map right in front of me says; so lousy that if I stay in a hotel for a week, I will walk out of my room and go the wrong way to the elevator every single day; so lousy that when I used to travel every week for work, my mother (totally justified) worried like crazy; so lousy that I once went hiking with a friend and our dogs in deep new snow and our one hour turned into three-plus because both of us thought the other was paying attention and all of the markers were buried in a sea of white.
If I’m in the city and park in a garage, I have to look behind me several times as I’m leaving the car to mark the landscape for later, for when I’m coming back. Look for this, I think, and this … I once lost my car in the Minneapolis airport garage: did I park in green or gold or up or down? It was ten o’clock at night and I could not, for the life of me, remember a single point of reference, and I was so embarrassed and so exhausted that I finally hauled my luggage back inside and down to the rental car counter and rented a car, drove home, and came back the next morning to drive around the entire garage to find my car. And wow, there it was, right where I left it.
All that said, getting lost and being lost is something I’m used to. Getting lost rarely bothers me. I don’t panic much. I don’t get mad. I stop to get my bearings and try a new course. And if the new course doesn’t work out I stop, recalculate, and try again. And again. As fun as this is *not*, I realize this is what I have to work with, and so I work with it. I surrender.
Writing on the sprawling blank page is so much like this, isn’t it?
This morning I loaded up the dog and went for a hike in an unfamiliar wilderness preserve. I pulled up the online map and studied it, then saved it to my phone. It turns out the preserve is relatively small, and on this gorgeous Sunday in October there were hikers and dog walkers and bicyclists and even horseback riders. Not enough to feel crowded, but enough that I wasn’t worried about getting a little lost. Which, of course, I did. For about a half hour.
Many people passed as I checked and rechecked and triple checked my map. But I didn’t ask for their help. I wanted to do this myself. I knew I could if I kept at it. I wanted to see if I could figure it out, if I could follow the the right signs, if I could focus hard enough on the winding trails to find my own way out and, of course, eventually I found the right trail and the parking lot and my car.
And doing so reminded me that even a girl with a lifelong lousy sense of direction can find her way. She sure as hell can.