I have a thing for arrows. I know, they’re everywhere, on everything, and I have a Pinterest board full of them. Even before the hipster arrow design craze, arrows have long attracted my attention. If I’m sitting and listening to someone, something, somewhere, I’ll inevitably pull out a pen and find any scrap of paper and start doodling; arrows.
There is part of me that loves making my own way, blazing my own trail, eschewing all directions, and throwing abandon to the wind! And the other part of me, she likes maps. And trail guides. And compasses. Fellow travelers. Arrows are really nice.
I think the times it’s easiest for me to be free from constraints and completely confident in the direction I’m headed (whatever it is!) is when I find things have been consistent. I am content. My family is calm. And my life is on course. (A course I like, of course.)
The more years I’ve walked this earth, I’ve found myself craving that freedom, not just of time, but of mind and spirit. The more I taste of that me, the more I search for her.
Perhaps, because those inconsistent times, they have left me like the coals of a campfire the next morning. Dampened spirit, charred soul. This is the me so unsure of my every step. Stopping at every marker on the path. My pace slowed by the backpack I carry, filled with compasses, maps, supplies, flashlights, extra somethings useful for every what if.
It is almost unbelievable that almost thirty years ago, all the phones in my life were still plugged into the wall, and attached with (a thirty foot) cord. We still used encyclopedias and newspapers, and the Dewey Decimal system. Compasses and folded paper maps curved with lines along the terrain. I couldn’t have imagined all of that, compressed into the shape of my I-phone that I cannot imagine living without now.
When I met my husband in college, twenty or so years ago, he introduced me to hiking, camping, backpacking. I was truly a novice. But up for anything. Any challenge, anything I’d never done or experienced before. All to spend time with him. The pictures I have from then are developed from film, from a camera, without a screen. (So half of them have been recycled since.)
I’ve spent the past few days packing up pictures to scrapbook at (the best retreat ever!) on Lake Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. It’s very easy to get lost in pictures. I’d tossed so many years of pictures into boxes and envelopes, waiting patiently for me to have the will and time to pick them back up again and bring them into the light.
It has been sweet, and achingly so, seeing the faces of loved ones now gone, of babies turned boys, and two college kids turned middle-aged marrieds.
I’ve gathered many more groups of picture themes to scrap than I will get stuck on pages this week, but in looking back, I saw something I didn’t see then.
Then, when I was moving in the direction I felt I knew, we knew, was the right one, the one God had for us to travel. There weren’t always signs along those years. But, that was ok, we had/I had planned a pretty detailed course. If we just followed it, not deviating, we’d arrive, on time and even ahead of schedule.
I took a necessary walk after dinner last evening. (The food up here is. so. good.) It was dusk, and cloudy, but I judged from my vast (in)experience with evening walking on nature trails that I had plenty of light left. I arrived down at the beach and after soaking in the trees meeting water meeting sand, turned to the trail I planned to walk. It winds along the rocky beach, and then disappears bit by bit up into the trees.
I do mean disappear literally, at least last night. Walking in the half-light, the trail did not look familiar at all. I’ve walked it many times in daylight, during many seasons, both directions. I started thinking, “Well, maybe some of the trail has been rerouted because of water runoff. Or fallen trees. Or maybe, (then I started thinking crazy), I’m not on the right trail at all. I must have missed a turnoff. It’s been way too long heading this direction!”
I wasn’t lost, and I wasn’t going to be. I could see the cabins up above from where I was, the thing I couldn’t see were the curves of the trail’s switchbacks. In the nearly dark, in the trees, it started to feel like I had blurry vision, everything looked fuzzy, and all the same grainy color.
And I didn’t bring along a flashlight.
Finally I reached the first turn headed back up the hill I’d nearly skipped down many other times. By the second turn, though I knew I was on the right path, going the direction I needed to at the time, I started to doubt again, that maybe I’d again taken a wandering trail off the path. This was way more steep of a climb than I remember it being. I do live in the city. It takes a few days out here to develop muscles to climb again.
None of the trails I took would have led me very far astray from my destination. I might have been a bit more tired out, a little wetter, but not at all hurt.
My perception in my dimly lit journey was clouded by fear. Not as much about the journey itself. Much more about my ability to make it through what I had to walk to complete the journey.
The roads I’ve traveled the past twenty years looked nothing like the map I started following. And what I see now, that I didn’t then, is that the Navigator of my heart was working all the people, places, moments and time together for good. And my map wouldn’t have led me even close to the incredible place I am now.
The scale was all off, I took a lot of wrong turns, some that led to unexpected joys, and some that led to places I never should have been.
I lost traveling companions, but have found them replenished, seven fold. I’ve walked many proving miles alone, and found my time with some of the best people on earth have been far too small.
Detours, avalanches, washed out roads, flat tires, blisters from ill-fitting shoes, unwelcome signs, expensive tickets, and finding myself lost.
And, then, at times I found myself at a place I had no idea existed, and wondered at the beauty of the Map Maker moving his heaven and earth to bring me there, at that time, that moment.
Time either tempers us, or burns us out. It’s shaped me both ways, consistently pushing me into inconsistency.
And reminding me that we are not merely dots on a map, walking a flat line free of stumbling.
It’s ok to want arrows, direction. Sometimes, it’s literally a life or death necessity. And when we face a decision too big or beyond us, we seek signs to point us to a very unknown future destination.
The journey, the destination(s), the path, they are all what it’s about. And really, the best stories from our adventures are ones that are filled with mistakes, missed opportunities, trial, and overcoming challenges you could not have seen in fine print.
The thing I’ve found about getting lost, is that it forces you to communicate, to reach out, to ask for help. That’s when I’ve found my endurance grow, my heart muscle strengthen, when I have been blessed to share the journey with others.
So, brave or unwilling, I will find my arrow shirt, my arrow earrings, and toss my journal covered in arrows into a bag, and hit the road.
I hope somewhere on our storylines, our paths will cross, or we can take a road trip together~until then, travel well, and blessings on your journey~
It’s time for me to get to scrapping now.
Just one more molasses cookie first.