Editor's Note: I've been trying to create unique content for my blog, versus what I'm sharing in my email series (Liminality). But when I sent this one out this morning I knew I had to share it here, too. This letter is a little longer than others in the series, but the takeaways are pretty simple. I hope you enjoy it.
It’s been raining a LOT in Austin. The other day as I was driving down 35 in a light drizzle, I wondered to myself if this rain was the kind of rain my parents warned me about when I first started driving…the kind of rain that pulls oil up from the asphalt and makes it slick even when there’s not much water on the road. I realized there are so many ideas like this floating around just below my daily consciousness. Kind of like the oil inside the asphalt, that emergency knowledge is always there, sitting just under the surface, waiting for the right kind of rain. We’re all carrying around information like this. Facts and protocols we know are important, but hope we never have to use; what to buy if there’s a bad storm coming, how to treat a snakebite, what to do if you’re lost in the woods…
My dad and I spent a lot of time talking about that last one. As a kid, every Summer we would load up his truck and drive to Colorado, to the same canyon my grandmother’s family had been going to for decades. And every Summer I proved to be a disappointingly slow and whiney hiker. My dad worried about me getting lost not because I would run ahead of him, but because I would be so far behind. In fact, sometimes I would just turn around and go back to the car, and wait for him to finish without me. So each time we made the fourteen hour drive up there, he would spend at least half of one of those hours coaching me on what do.
If you get lost while hiking/camping with a group: Stay where you are. If you’re already lost, you’re not going to get any less lost by wandering around disoriented. The people you were with will start looking for you in and around the last place you were supposed to be (or where you said you were going), so if you stay put they will find you. Make signals if you can, but get still. Be patient. Sometimes we can’t figure our way out alone.
If you get lost while you’re out on your own: If you went out by yourself, and no one is expecting you to arrive anywhere in particular at any particular time…well, first of all, don’t do that! Let someone know where you’re going. But if you find yourself in this unfortunate spot, walk downhill. If you can see flowing water, follow the water. The reasons are simple; there are more cities in valleys than on mountaintops, and until very recently it was human necessity to live near water.When you’re lost and alone, take the natural path, follow flow.
Do you see how this is not about hiking anymore? When we get lost, we can panic and make irrational choices. We forget about the people who are coming to help us, or the simple solution. If you’re lost right now, remember: Get still. Be patient. Follow flow. Food for thought.