Some, well many, ok perhaps all, might call me directionally challenged. I turn the wrong way out of stores in the mall, can only tell cardinal directions if there is a massive body of water visible due west, rely on the grid systems of streets for guidance and suffered terribly in the curved and redundantly named roads of England. In a more figurative interpretation, I also tend not to follow a straight path anywhere I am headed. The 9000-mile boomerang effect to and from (and back to) Southern Oregon illustrates this well, especially considering the various detours of activities and involvements along the way.
This is in direct contrast to the amazing skills my husband and oldest son have for understanding maps, reading signs, using landmarks – natural and man-made – along with an inherent sense of surroundings to very clearly find their way. In a corn maze last year, my son led us without hesitation on the most direct route between check points, completing the course in record time. The first time my husband visited Washington D.C., he directed me, a visitor of more than a dozen times, and my sister, a resident for more than a dozen years, based on a previous glimpse at a postcard. A postcard! Not even present at that moment for reference!
A frequent runner of the trails in our Michigan town, color coded and with progressive maps at frequent locations, I would often be asked for directions by a hiker and I often had no helpful answer as my relationship with the paths was to run until I found myself out of the woods, look around and make my way back to the most familiar landmark – either on the road or back amongst the trees. Determined to improve my skillset, over the past few months, I would make a point to pause at various check points, note my location and do my best to intentionally reach another landmark on the map. The twisting of these paths is such that there are repeat crossings of colors, varied loops and, more times than not, I would not end up where I thought I was going.
My accuracy improved markedly when I expanded the scope of my awareness, included the prior trail marker in my analysis to better predict the direction of my next turn. Apparently, it is easier to figure out where you’re going if you know where it is you’ve been. In only the way art can imitate (illustrate, illuminate) life, this concept was reiterated for me this past week in the most beautiful, powerful rendition of I Know Where I’ve Beenby Greta Ogleby in the role of Motormouth Maybelle in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hairspray.
We cannot ignore our origins – at baseline, on the day, during the hike, of our health – and accurately navigate forward to the destination we seek. My very limited drawing skills (that whole directionally-challenged status extends into much of the visuo-spatial realm for me) brought me to this visualization: