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To Be Lost ...

Girl paddling a canoe. A quiet mountain lake. Reflects the sky. Adult camping stories.

Adult Camping Stories.

People ask: Why the book title COMPASS SEASON?

We all must navigate the seasons of our life. Each is, in some way, new. Parts of terrain we recognize. But other things are strangely unfamiliar.

An example: I feel age 50 but my face tells a different story. I recognize I am at a different place in the life cycle. There are new demands - and satisfactions I must capture instead of dwelling on the past.

As fall trips on winter, in the same way, we move from one distinct period to another. Sometimes it is subtle and slow. I notice, with surprise, the sun is rising now at a much different place on the lake every morning.

Sometimes, it is alarming how quickly I must adapt. Friends tell me at my age reps are more important than dead weight in lifting. When did it suddenly happen that my body has changed? That now I must be its servant.

Tony Gonzalez, in his fantastic book "Deep Wilderness: Who Lives? Who Dies? And Why?" spends many pages writing about the relatively simple concept of "being lost."

What is it to be lost? Whole weekends have been spent at Outward Bound and at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) struggling to define this. Is it a place? A purpose? An intention? Lack of planning?

Gonzalez writes that it comes down to this: you arrive at a moment when there are "no identifiable landmarks.

You think you know where you are. You are relatively certain things are as they should be. Yet, nothing is the same.

At that moment, we rationalize. Still in "control" we tell ourselves that small little pond we see in front of us must have dried up the summer before. Now, it appears as just a meadow.

The only problem is we are on the other side of the mountain. We took a wrong turn and relentlessly followed it. And now, in this miasma of mixed landmarks and signals, there is the dawning realization that nothing is the same.

Rarely does anyone turn back to retrace their steps. Convinced, we strike out thinking even the map must be wrong.

Without the guidance of a compass, we trust our feelings. We know our destination must be in front of us because it "feels" right. South instead of south-west is the way we travel and we open up an even greater gap towards our desired location.

And sometimes, unbelievably, we happen upon our tracks again. Against all logic, we've walked in a circle.

Compass Season is my experience of stopping to take a look at lessons that seem to point me True North. I take it from there. These ideas make sense to me. They derrive from nature, one of my wisest companions.

In this seasons of my life, more than just feeling, I need a reckoning tool that can help me through the next obstacles to get me to a landmark. A pine tree. An exposed rock. A compass needs to point me Somewhere.

And if I reach it, then I'll have somwhere else to go. But I know I won't be going in a circle, expending precious time and energy.

To distrust a compass (as some people have done) is not a good idea. Adult camping stories such as those I have written about help me to make sense of this changing and sometimes confused terrain.

And so the question: what do you use as a guide? What helps you to navigate in this season of your life as one phase turns over into another?

As I got ready to launch Compass Season, the following occurred to me. I thought I'd share it with you as a way of opening the conversation about the ever-present dynamic of change in our lives.

How do we meet it? What do we trust when there are no "identifiable markers?" What will get us through? More than our gut instincts? What core principles can you trust? What values point you True North?

Here goes.

In a world of froth and wave, chaos and relativity

I have come to know that the shore can be reached

by following a line - to where the compass points me.

Essays such as this are one kind of antidote.

They remind us of what we have enjoyed.

They can transport us back in our thinking to a

deeper wisdom we knew when life was simpler.

Like any guide, they can help us

to navigate unfamiliar places and settings.

We must journey sometimes

to find our way back.

It has occurred to me,

with even greater fervor and intensity,

that the real purpose (ultimately)

of a compass is to

guide us safely home.

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