Mapping out where to go, working out where you have been or perhaps where you are going requires some orientation. First you need to know where you are. You need to be able to recognize a symbol, sign or perhaps a landmark. When you don’t know what to call what you can see, or are searching for the word from a time gone by it can add another layer of complexity to the challenge.
There have all kinds of maps around me lately from the yellow arrows of the camino, to the new AR of google maps, maps embedded in memories and others drawn on the soul. Maps to guide me away from locations that may no longer serve me and others to pull me towards destinations that are on a horizon not yet fully in view.
The humble map of a bus route on a guided tour in a city like Berlin, that reveals polarities and integration around every corner is the kind of map I find encouraging. Just enough information to support discovery and not too much so there is still room for error, to get lost and find your own path.
Where others can see you going and go calling out to you to go this way or that, and for another to pull you back from a kerb when you don’t see a truck coming, and another to hold the map for you and take you with them are the kind of sojourners with map reading skills I need around me. Recognising these people as part of the landscape, signs and supports in my map of life also requires some knowledge of knowing where I am.
I begin this week as the last of the first in my sixth decade, knowing there are less days ahead of me than behind, more settled and unsettled in real and metaphorical ways than I have been for this past year. I have inner maps so well worn and frayed at the edges it is hard to read in places where there are tears and repairs, faded print, where new lines are being drawn and some of the signs are yet to be properly interpreted or named. I have new maps which are waiting to be unfolded and perhaps some that never will.
The sparks of light flitting off the device to guide me sometimes takes a while to catch up with me or tells me where to go a different path to my intuition or what I can see in front of me – it knows about things I can’t see, like road blocks and traffic jams. This would be quite a helpful feature for my inner map!
The poet Hafiz says ‘the place you are right now, God has circled on a map for you‘. The birds know when to sing, the clouds know when to hide the moon, the tiniest of ants follow the sugary path to gather what they need for their nest, the stars have provided maps since the dawn of time, and remind me they are the original sparks that fly. Soon, I will be piloted from this hemisphere to the next where familiar signs will give an edge to my navigation. No guarantee however that I won’t get lost.
I will be aiming to keep open to reading maps made just for me and ones that others will introduce to me, keeping the pilgrim’s way ready to accept visible and invisible help and to be guided in equal measure by curiosity and clear directions.
Over the Alps en route to Berlin.