“Just because you‘re lost doesn’t mean your compass is broken.”
It was one of those rare perfect days I will remember for as long as I live.
On this particular camping trip, we were in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I was in the mood for an adventure. It was just after dawn and even at 15, I had strong legs and a good head for maps. Having been there almost a week as a family, it was time for me to flex some teen age independence and go exploring the trails in the park.
My folks weren’t against it. Being teachers with their summers off, we’d been going on long camping trips every other summer since I can remember. One year we’d pack up and head East. Another year, we’d head West. By the time I’d graduated from High School we had camped every state in the United States save Hawaii. On other fronts, we’d pretty much ticked off the provinces in Canada too…even a few in Mexico. In short, land or water, I knew maps.
Having announced my intentions, I quickly went about the business of packing my ruck sack with water, some lunch, my compass and the parks’ trail map. The possibility of them changing their minds before I could go loomed large, so I hustled to be away before that happened. An underlying benefit to my rapid departure was knowing the quicker I got underway, the sooner the sounds of my parents admonitions (‘be careful’, ‘don’t get lost’, ‘be back before supper’ ad nauseam) would fall away. It wasn’t long before I’d thrown my knapsack over my shoulder and put my legs in gear. I was on my way.
The day did not disappoint. It wasn’t long before I was with the trees, the views and an occasional conversation with another hiker headed the other way.
When I cleared a ridge and came to a vista, I stopped.
When I was hungry, I ate.
When I got hot, I found a long handled pump or a stream big enough to get wet in.
More than once, I thought about the Cherokee kid my own age who had rounded the same curve hundreds of years earlier and seen the white-tailed deer before they saw (or whiffed) either one of us.
That day brought me up on sunning turtles and salamanders, an owl, a coyote mom and her pups. Turkeys and squirrels were there and I even heard what sounded like Elk moving through the forest, but they were so deep in the ancient growth I never saw them before they were gone. And bears? Yes! From a distance, I peered down into a gulch and watched in awe. I’m still not sure whether the two were enjoying the stream as their own personal water park or they were simply intent of having a good time while fishing for their meal. Granted, I did not have the opportunity to interview the fish, but somehow I doubt they were pleased at the prospect of being on the menu.
As I had learned to do on past adventures, I kept my eye on the position of the sun as often as I’d check my map and compass against the landmarks in front of me. Mother Nature was not someone to be trifled with and I was hiking alone. So as much as I was loving the feeling of the late afternoon sun on my shoulder blades, there came a time in the late afternoon when I knew to begin the final bit of my circular path back towards camp. For the first time all day, parental voices began invading my imagination as I basked in the afterglow of my quixotic adventure. Suppertime was fast approaching. I had done the day and now, it was time for the day to be done in kind. Time to return to parents, siblings and my regular life, but that was OK. I knew I was going to sleep like a Cherokee. It had been a very good day. I was at such peace.
As I rounded the last bit of road back into the campground, I could see our fire going. It was darker than I would’ve liked. Supper looked over. I remembered thinking ‘…here we go’ as I squared myself for re-entry into the family unit. Such a good day and now, time to pay the price. My attempt at a nonchalant entrance was dead on arrival.
“Where were you, young man? We thought you were lost. We were getting really scared. Why would you do that us? You could’ve been killed!”
What I remember of that moment was not what you might think. While they were well within the parameters of the parental handbook, what stuck in my ears was ‘lost’? Funny how I tuned everything else out, but that’s what I remember. It actually made me angry.
“I was not lost, not once, not once all day”.
“Well we didn’t know where you were”.
Brandishing my compass and trail map as the tools of my return, I said, “But I did. I knew where I was the whole time!”.
After that, I don’t remember much except being secretly relieved that my first chapter of punishment arrived in the form of being sent off to my pup tent without supper ‘while we talk about what your punishment should be’.
As I laid back on my sleeping bag with hands up behind my head, my thoughts quickly returned to everything I’d seen and done that glorious singular day…a smile.
Smile leaving as I was summoned back to the picnic table, I was oddly OK with whatever was going to be my lot. It was worth it. I’d heard elk. My compass and map had brought me back richer than I’d ever been.
COMPASS THOUGHTS AND TRIVIA.
Compasses, in and of themselves, are pretty stupid. All they know to do is point North. Doesn’t matter where on the globe you are…Australia, India or in the Yukon, they all point North. Really.
More proof of their simplicity is they don’t even point to true North, but the magnetic one…and it moves. But choosing not to delve into a Bill Nye, Science Guy aside, let’s just say the North they point to is North enough for me.
The next bit of compass insight is once you know North, his sisters, East, West and his other brother, South quickly fall into formation. So it seems North isn’t so stupid after all. Santa didn’t set up shop there without cause. Naughty or nice, he knew he could count on North to always be there; to be true.
As plain as all of this is, things get really exciting when you use your compass in conjunction with a map. Pick up a map, any map, and I’ll show you some sort of indicia showing where North is. Accidental on the part of the Map People? I think not.
But what if you don’t have a map? What if all you know is your compass showing North? In the movie thriller, The Edge Charles Morse (aka Anthony Hopkins) mutters something about how being lost should not be confused with having a broken compass. In his situation, he relied on other navigational hints in the absence of a map. He paid attention to the movement of the Sun through the sky. He noticed moss growing on one side of a tree trunk, but not the other. He understood there was a reason water chose to run in the direction that it did. It was the sum total of all of these things working together that gave him his bearings in a world he did not know, in the company of someone he could not trust.
His plight reminds me of a valuable bit of navigational advice I was given shortly after moving to Chicago: “Know where the Lake [Michigan] is and you can get anywhere”. It has come in handy so many more times than I care to admit. But it has always proven true.
Feeling lost can happen in our personal lives as surely as it does when we’re out in a boat or deep in an unfamiliar forest. It’s usually about then when Fear chooses to attack me in whatever guise it thinks will trip me up. But that’s OK, because irrational Fear is stupid by definition. Scaring us is all it knows how to do. Talk about a one-trick pony!
This week, the gift that visited me while watching Hopkins and Baldwin slog through their post-plane crash drama was remembering I already knew where my True North is. I know it may sound corny, but my True North is loving and being loved. And guess what? The moment I lean on that one point of my compass, things fall into place. My Fear knows it must head South. And while I know it’ll try to turn back North, if I’m watching with Cherokee eyes, it knows it must obey and return to its southern migration. In the meantime, my Past is in the East where the Sun rises and my Future lays to the West where it will eventually set.
I have set out on plenty of bone headed courses in my day. I have felt the terror of being lost. But it all disappears when I remember back to that one singular day when I watched the bears fishing. I was never lost. I just hadn’t returned yet.
If home (whatever that means for you) is where your heart is, then Love will guide you there in ways you will never see on any map. You see, it’s all in the compassing.
Click the album pic and join me in this week’s musical benediction by Phillip Phillips.
“The trouble, it might drag you down. If you get lost, you can always be found…”
Ray Milton Dolby, OBE
(January 18, 1933 – September 12, 2013)
“Ray Dolby died Thursday in San Francisco, age 80. He suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and acute leukemia.
A pioneer in the field of sound, Dolby will be remembered as the man who took the hiss out of sound recordings. With a fortune of $2.4 billion at his death, Dolby truly did make silence golden. He founded his namesake Dolby Laboratories in 1965. His work revolutionizing the immersive experience of movie theater sound started with Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in 1971 and matured with Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. Over the years Dolby earned 50 patents, two Oscars, multiple Emmys and a Grammy.”
Because of his work, we could hear the things that mattered to us so much better than we ever had before. Thank you Mr. Dolby.
Sources: Christopher Helman, Forbes Staff at http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/09/13/billionaire-sound-pioneer-ray-dolby-dies-age-80/; David Colker, L.A. Times at http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-ray-dolby-20130913,0,1038127.story and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Dolby
My VALUE ADD for the week is Linda Ronstadt’s interview with Diane Sawyer as she discusses her secret battle that has silenced her singing voice. No better example could there be for the Grace that comes trusting your own Compass when the landscape of your life gets reworked without your permission. Thank you Ms. Rondstadt.
PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS: Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission. Visit Eric and see his other work at: http://www.ericephoto.com or http://ericephoto.wordpress.com/
The-Edge-1997-e1335880115931 – (Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) and Charles Morse (Sir Anthony Hopkins): http://commentarytrack.com/2012/05/01/on-dvdblu-ray-review-of-the-edge-1997/; Smokimap2: http://hikingthecarolinas.com/smokieshikesmap.php; angry-parents (A WordPress blogger): http://martinezsimon64.wordpress.com/why-do-teens-join-gangs/ and pic at: http://i925.photobucket.com/albums/ad97/Amerkokh/angry-parents.jpg; Simple Compass_6a00d8341cc08553ef01538f468966970b-800wi: http://www.thecraftycrow.net/2011/06/book_and_craft_simple_compass.html; Embroidered Compass_mw6Aa7dFI8biJKBkHdfW0dg: http://thumbs1.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mw6Aa7dFI8biJKBkHdfW0dg.jpg; Man Standing on his Compass: http://www.zt7.net/images/page/service.jpg; 1341750_keychain_compass: http://www.kansascitycaraccidentlawyerblog.com/1341750_keychain_compass.jpg; Compass (Blue): http://www.norcalsurvival.com/how-to-use-a-compass-for-beginners/
IF YOU DO WANT TO BE BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY, YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT IT:
How to Use a Compass: http://www.norcalsurvival.com/how-to-use-a-compass-for-beginners/
Why does the North Pole move?: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/question782.htm
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