Without a Map

Ski woods Today, New Year’s Day, I took to the woods for some cross-country skiing.  I went to a local farm where you can pay a few bucks for “25 km of groomed terrain”. This my second time skiing there -the first time was only hours after a blizzard and their snowmobile/groomer had broken down -right mired in snow (as we say here in Maine). A friend and I managed to get hopelessly lost as we tried to follow the map and avoid stumbling in the 4 foot drifts.

This time as I set out on a bright cold morning, I was determined to follow the map and learn the trails. I like maps. My brother teases me about my excessive map-looking when we go hiking together. I can’t help it. There’s just something I like about having my path confirmed by a little piece of paper. Today it quickly became apparent that this was not entirely possible. Many trails were miss-labeled or unlabeled. Some were even labeled with two different names. A few trails were labeled with names that did not appear on the maps. It also seemed that whomever did the grooming enjoyed changing the trails at his/her whim.

My first reaction was annoyance. I was plotting exactly what I was going to say when I checked in at the warming hut at the end of my ski. But after a little while I realized that map or no map I was having a pretty good time. The woods were crusted with sparkling ice, the snow was dotted with animal tracks and there was little noise aside from the occasional overhead crack of a pine branch.

(I should add that this is a relatively small farm, bordered very clearly by roads and powerlines. There was very little chance of my getting lost in the wilds of Westbrook, Maine.) It didn’t really matter if I could follow the map. Instead, if a trail looked good, I followed it. If it looped back on itself, well then I chose another way to go. I had a great time and it was a good reminder that even for us type A map-followers, a little time off the grid can be good for us.

2013 has been a pretty damn good year. I look forward to 2014 as the year my first published book will arrive in the world. Along with that comes a lot of territory for which I do not have a map. In fact there are many experiences in life for which we do not have maps, or the ones we have provide, at best, a false sense of security. Sometimes it’s good to choose your way based on the best information you have on hand and a sense of play and adventure.

Me skiing