The US celebrates Thanksgiving this week. The food, well…and for those who are into football, it’s truly hog heaven. Regardless of how you choose to commemorate the day, you’ll probably take a moment to reflect upon that which you most appreciate.
This may sound goofy, but I send frequent waves of gratitude for the navigation system in my car. What a fabulous invention! I hated driving alone into unknown territory with a map or written note to decipher while simultaneously attempting to watch the road. I literally need to turn a map up, down, and sideways to approximate the direction in which I’m traveling. You may have noted that it's unsafe to do this when you’re driving (or walking, as it turns out).
Remember looking at a city map to find the intersection of lines E4 and M2 to locate a specific street? Have you ever been mystified by verbal instructions given as if you could possibly be familiar with local landmarks like "the Gabriel’s house"? My favorite directional phrase from time spent in England was, “You’re on the fringes of it, actually.” With that I knew all hope was lost and I'd be circling for hours.
Uncertainty is banished by these wonderfully (mostly) accurate devices that tell you when to turn. I’ll admit I have trouble with initial commands such as, “Go east to the main road” if I have no idea which direction I’m facing or what the main road is. Or how to gauge eight hundred feet. There are times when my navigator doesn’t keep up and I have to quickly make a choice—or it drops me a block away from where I wish to go while crowing, “You have reached your destination!” Yet even with these hiccups, most of the time it works.
After forty plus years in Seattle, I knew the city backwards and forwards. I could slip onto surface streets with smug satisfaction rather than to sit stuck on clogged freeways. However, I’m still learning my new locale and I’m particularly at sea in Portland. I count on the navigation system to get me to an address—even though I have no clue where I am in the bigger scheme of things. For context, I need a map.
In my early twenties, I drove to San Diego to visit my stepbrother Mike and his wife Pam. It was to be my first visit with the new baby, Michael. I knew the freeway exit but nothing looked familiar when I got to the end of the ramp. I had no idea of which way to turn. During the pre-cellphone era, gas stations were The Lost’s mecca. If the attendants couldn’t direct you, there was a pay phone. But nary a station sign appeared on the horizon. I made a choice then sat panicked at the next intersection. A car went by with a driver's profile that looked a lot like my brother’s. My instincts kicked in and I shot off in an attempt to catch up to the car that was (by now) far ahead of me. I lost sight of the vehicle but my gut told me when to turn. There was Mike, entering his house!
That intuition is my internal navigation system. It has served me well on many occasions. It’s the voice/physical prompt that urges specific action and I trust it. It’s the guidance I carry with me when all external direction fails.
It's good to have goals and maps for their achievement since it's impossible to know where to aim if you have no notion of where you want to go. However, logic and plans will take you only so far before you have to improvise. At that point it's worth listening for your internal guide. It can rapidly provide direction when the conscious brain cannot. If it turns out you've taken an undesired turn, there's always an opportunity for "re-routing."
There is much I am grateful for this Thanksgiving. A big shout out to Lee Strucker for his enthusiastic response to whatever odd request I toss his way and the resultant wonderful artwork—thank you, my friend! I am also grateful to you, dear readers, and hope you will keep coming back! I wish each of you a lovely holiday.