It happens pretty frequently when I’m hiking or driving in an unfamiliar place that I get turned around and can’t figure out which way I came from and exactly how to get back to where I started. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were taking a leisurely walk through some gardens alongside the beautiful Willamette river and at one point I’m completely puzzled because I think to get back to the head of the trail we have to go west, but the river is flowing east, which doesn’t make sense to me at all. Well, it’s good to have a boy scout for a husband, because he knew exactly where we were and pointed out that we’d been past this little meadow before and crossed over the foot bridge that’s in front of us and if we keep on going that way we’ll be on the other side of the river and back to the trailhead in no time.
These last few weeks have been very much an experience of standing at a crossroads with a dozen different signs pointing in as many directions and me spinning around trying to decide which is the “right” way to go. Eventually, mostly from sheer exhaustion, I sit down and close my eyes, go inside, until I finally think to reach in my pocket and pull out a compass for guidance. The answer I find there is not exactly what I was hoping for: “Wait,” it says, “it’s not time to move yet.” What? Not only does this leave me hanging in a state of directional limbo, it’s unnerving to know that I don’t have control, that I’m to be still in my mind and tune in, to be patient for the signs to show themselves, cluing me in to whether I should head for the seashore or the mountains, the city or the countryside. I have to admit that, for the time being, I’m lost and have no choice but to reach deep inside to my inner “girl scout,” the one who has the wisdom and experience to read the signs, chart the stars, and hear the whisper of the wind when it finally says, “Now, you’re ready. Come this way.” That’s when I’ll pick up my walking stick and move on down the road, the destination a little hazy, the purpose a flickering candle in the dark. One thing I will know is that if I keep consulting that internal compass and checking those cosmic signs, then I’m headed in the right direction, the only direction I can go–onward.