Dirt Man and I are forever rambling through the woods. We usually start off on a trail and then we see the path less taken. Or perhaps there is no other path, but we are drawn to an object of interest. Yes, we have a strong tendency to veer off course, but that is where the most interesting things are frequently found. I tend to have absolutely no idea where I am anyway, but when I get so absorbed into nature and my own thoughts, I become completely lost. Even if Dirt Man might not know “exactly” where he is, he is never quite lost, just temporarily misplaced. He has a great sense of direction and always leads me back home. He is my compass. Without him, I’d roam in circles forever trying to find my way home.
Dirt Man and I were recently hiking a park that we often visit, but took a trail we hadn’t previously taken. Then we saw a sand dune off to the side of the trail. Dirt Man thought it would be a great idea to see where the path led. We headed through the woods hoping to connect with another trail. We (I) got tangled up in greenbrier, and we found yet another lesser traveled path…this led to the ranger’s station. Uh oh! We didn’t think we were supposed to be there, so we (he) decided we’d roam through the woods until we hit a different trail that he knew ran into it at some point. Sure enough, after a bit of scrambling we heard voices which led us back to the bike/walking path. While I had no clue where I was, I had complete confidence in my guide (Dirt Man). I trusted that his internal GPS would lead us out of the woods.
Cairns are stack of rocks that people use to mark a place. Sometimes, it’s used as a means of finding your way back. Sometimes, it’s used as a memorial. It can be used simply as a landmark to remember where something is. We saw some cairns on the trails out west when we were hiking. According to Wikipedia, “In some regions, piles of rocks used to mark hiking trails are called “ducks” or “duckies”. These are typically smaller cairns, so named because some would have a “beak” pointing in the direction of the route. An expression “two rocks do not make a duck” reminds hikers that just one rock resting upon another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking.”
I not only physically lose my bearings, but I tend to withdraw into myself at times and have a difficult time emerging and settling back into the comfort of my surroundings. I am a thinker, a roamer in my head. It’s a place I work out the complexities of life. Sometimes, it’s a soothing place, and I need a gentle nudge to bring me home. Other times, it can be like the teacup ride at an amusement park…I get so dizzy and disoriented I have to return to reality, less I get sucked into what feels like another dimension. I carry a road map in my soul which reminds me of the intersection between my heart and brain…this keeps me from living mindlessly by emotion only, but also reminds me not to follow the road without actually living while walking it. I suppose it keeps me in balance and from wandering too far in either direction.
Wandering, whether in my mind or through the woods, is very much a part of who I am. Having the security of a home to come back to is just as important to me. My daily cairns take on many shapes and sizes. If I am away, it is the vision of home that propels me. If I am home alone all day, it the sound of Dirt Man coming in the front door. During the day it might be a text from one of my kids or a call from my sister. Sometimes, all I have to do is see the sun shining through the window or hear an airplane fly overhead, and I am reminded that I am a part of something much bigger than myself.
There are times in life that chaos rules. I find it important during this times to focus on anything other than the drama at hand. When I am lost or overwhelmed, I sometimes simply close my eyes and I am transported away from the voices that pull me from the peace. I’m sure it seems to some like I am always going somewhere…and I am; I am traveling on the journey of my life.
The lovely and wise Rebecca of AltaredSpaces wrote this incredible piece on cairns awhile back. It has stayed with me, tucked in the back of my mind. Whenever I feel lost I think about that post and look for a cairn to guide me home. It might be laughter, a trickle of rain, the scent of a citrus sage candle, a gentle breeze, or simply the taste of chocolate that delivers me safely to where I belong. How I return doesn’t so much matter as much as the fact that I do come home. I suppose we all need an escape now and then, whether it be a hike through the woods, a memory, or a daydream. And as crazy as it sounds, we can escape the pressures of everything around us by simply being, by not being sucked into the drama around us but living in the moment right here, right now.