(listening time: 4:12 minutes)
From time to time, Asha and I explore new-to-us trails. Last spring we headed down one such trail. We walked about a mile, then turned around at a rickety bridge because I felt the trail was taking us far from home.
I was curious to see where this trail would have led us had we continued, so I stopped into our local mom & pop store and asked about a map of the snowmobile trails. It was spring and they were no longer available. When winter rolled around I remembered to buy the map. I noticed that a few of the trails we’d explored in the intervening months connected in a loop. I like loops.
This morning I tucked the map into my pocket and headed out with Asha to see if we could walk the loop.
We crossed the rickety bridge onto new territory. (Asha chose to go through the stream rather than over the bridge.) The path continued uphill and meandered through the trees until it brought us to an intersection. I didn’t see any trail markers and the map lacked the necessary detail to guide me.
As I stood there, wondering whether to turn left or continue straight, I knew I’d be okay whichever direction I chose. I felt confident I’d eventually end up on familiar territory and, if need be, I could retrace my steps.
I chose to go straight.
Before long we came across trail markers. Oh good, I’m on track, I thought. After a few more minutes of walking, I realized I wasn’t where I thought I was. But I recognized this section of the trail, having walked along it with other friends and dogs.
In the end our adventure brought us back to our road – almost two miles from where I wanted to be!
I like maps. I like visuals of where I’m going.
The other day, when I drove to Falls Village, Connecticut, I looked at a map of the route rather than relying solely on the GPS. I didn’t examine every twist and turn of the backroads. Seeing that I was headed more or less diagonally southwest was enough information for me to lean in and enjoy the drive.
Falls Village was a clear destination. In the woods, I’m not trying to get somewhere (although I do need to return home). I have no agenda other than to enjoy my walk.
I like looking at an occasional trail map to figure out where I’ve been or to discover other possibilities, especially satisfying loops. But I’ve come to see that while I might want a map, sometimes I’m better off without one.
A map changes the experience. It takes me out of the moment. Rather than staying in the present and letting my curiosity lead the way, the map becomes the focus. My thoughts shift from Let’s see … to Am I doing it right?
I don’t want a map to rule my walk.
I want to open to discovery.
It’s okay if I miss a turn and end up somewhere else. Or if a side trail calls to me and Asha and I venture off to see where it takes us. Not only is it okay, it’s more satisfying. These experiences add to my knowledge and fill out the trail map in my head. They teach me when to use a map and when to set it aside and find my way, decision by decision – in the woods and in life.