If It Was Easy, It Would Just Be The Way.
Lately I’ve been pouring over maps.
I’m not sure why, or for what, but I keep finding them everywhere.
Plastered to the pages of the books I read, tucked into the behind-the-seat pouches of the Tracker, hidden away in the depths of my file drawers from the times I’d hop in the car with only a map and a foggy destination in mind — the days before Google Maps and those monstrosities known as GPS.
I mean, I know I used to make Geographic Information Systems my career, so it’s not like GPS is too far of a stretch. But I don’t know… there’s something about the crinkling of a map. About the inherent dangers of slitting open your finger as you carelessly run it across craggy lines and mountain slopes and curvy, alluring rivers.
About getting the whole picture, all at once, seeing as far ahead as the map-edge horizon, versus staring at a mindless blue sheep of a triangle that only knows how to point in one direction at a time.
Maps don’t talk back or tell you when you’re going the wrong way, because to a map, there is no wrong way. It won’t yell at you when you decide to try out a short cut or discover a new road. It doesn’t try to conform you to one path — to tell you the way to go, because a map knows. It knows there’s more than one way to go.
And sometimes your chosen path might present a challenge. But really, is that such a bad thing?
“It’s supposed to be a challenge– that’s why they call it a short cut. If it was easy, it would just be the way.” — From the movie, Road Trip
And sometimes there’s not more than one way to go.
And maps know that, too.
Sometimes they can be wrong.
But when they are, they don’t insist that they’re right. They don’t insist that you’ve arrived, when really you haven’t. They don’t claim to be smarter than you.
When we depend only on the narrow sights of our GPS, we only ever learn one habitual path to take. We become stuck in our way, and we don’t ever really learn the way. We just follow instructions, and there we are.
Maybe we’ve arrived, but we’ve missed so much. We might be there, but we’re already thinking about the next place we need to be.
A GPS speeds life along. It’s bossy and enigmatic.
Maps meander and amble.
And I think we could all use some of that, you know? More aimless wander and less darting from one goal to the next.
The tracker is starting to slow down in her old age.
We’ve been together for 10 years, and the thought of road trippin’ without her leaves me scared and confused.
I think something might need to be planned. A summer road trip, perhaps. It’s been too long, and I have the itch.
Does anyone else know how this feels?
Does anyone ever just want to sing, “Hallelujah, I’m a bum, bum again” a la Kerouac with his friend Dean Moriarty in On the Road?
Does anyone else believe, like the ill-fated Chris McCandless from Into the Wild, that “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun”?
Am I really as crazy as I think that you think that I just might be?
Sometimes I’m just not sure.