Friday, December 20, 2013

160. Blazes

I can't say I've ever had a good sense of direction. It's not terrible, but it's not great. I can figure out cardinal directions based on the location of the sun, which I suppose will be a helpful skill if the world ever ends and I have to "GO WEST" for whatever reason. However, I have specific trouble with understanding how to get somewhere specific, even I have been there multiple times. This is particularly difficult if someone else is leading me. I get baby-duck syndrome, wherein I retain nothing about my surrounding environment but remain completely transfixed in engaging with the person who is leading the charge. On the plus side, time passes quickly while I am going somewhere, because I am having lively conversations. On the negative side, as soon as I am left alone, I look just like how you'd imagine a baby duck would look if separated from its mama: confused, and very likely to get run over by a car.

This was somewhat worrisome for me while we were preparing to go on the trail. There would be no GPS, no way to find my way to safety if I were to be separated from Dumptruck, who is very good with direction. However, after about a day on trail, I realized that the AT was the first time in my life that I was actually -less- likely to get lost.

When else in my entire life had the path to my destination been frequently marked with big, clearly defined swathes of paint? NEVER. I'm sure that I never would have gotten lost in my previous life if there was always someone a day ahead of me, marking the path I needed to go with big painted arrows. Don't get me wrong, there are innumerable places along the trail that are very confusing, and there are a lot of ways to get terribly lost. Seriously, a lot of ways.

I began to appreciate the blazes. They were my safety. They let me know that I was doing the right thing. There are so many times in our lives when we're not sure that we're making the right decision. We don't know if the choices we're making, or the philosophical direction we're taking with our lives will bring us where we want to go. Even if we are heading in the right direction, we often don't know that we're doing it correctly until we get there. There's no omnipotent person on the sidelines cheering for you, "Yes, you did the right thing to quit that job, it's a dead-end! Take that job, it'll be rewarding! Make friends with that person, they'll be a perfect person for you!" No one can tell you the future, thus it's impossible for anyone to push you back onto the correct path every single time you start to stray. But the blazes know the future, at least so far as Katahdin.

I hesistate to say that the blazes encouraged mindless compliance, but in a way, they kind of did. They took all of the second-guessing out of my general behavior. Of course I still had plenty of choices and ways to completely make a buffoon of myself, like choosing what towns to go into, how many miles to hike in a day, or whether it was safe to sleep with my food inside my tent.

But in general, I had a single pursuit: go North. And I had a reminder every 50 feet or so that I was doing it right. The blazes could tell you that even if what you were going through was hard or difficult, it was going to be worth it, because you were headed in the right direction There was something extremely comforting and good about that.

Now I still find myself looking for blazes sometimes, and maybe the trail taught me to find them in other ways and places in my life.

You will go through this boulder now.

You will go up.
Clever Girl

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