Posted by: Shanna Germain | 08/27/2009

Pg. 148: How to Get Lost

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Deer on the ridge while hiking. Yeah, we scared the bejesus out of each other. But look at those horns!

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Stats:

  • Weather: It has stopped changing every five minutes. Now it changes every day. Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. It’s not so bad.
  • Mileage: Almost seven miles today. I am on the road to healing. Hellz yeah!
  • Food: Avocados! Oh my god! I could write a poem about how much I missed avocados! But I won’t. Aren’t you lucky.
  • Discovery: Scalpsie Bay. So so gorgeous.
  • Media: Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby. Both recommended.
  • Worst Thing: So, I think I mentioned a while back about all the flies in the flat due to the wonderful big windows and no screens. And I also think I mentioned that I went and bought a bunch of fly papers from the Pound Store (the UK equivalent of the dollar store, obviously). These fly papers are very very sticky and they work very very well. Until I did my customary hair flip in the living room… and ended up with the ends of my rather long blonde hair all tangled up in fly-paper glue and dead flies. Yeah. I’d really like to blame that move on someone else.
  • Best Thing: Finally, finally getting to talk to my friend A on the phone, since I haven’t done so in months and months.
  • Word of the Day: I thought I’d do directional words today. These are most often used in place names. Thus: Auchter- (top of); Drum- (ridge); Inver- (at the mouth of a river) and Kirk- (church or fort). Can’t imagine why I’m always getting lost.

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Yes, I know this is an old story by now, but somehow I keep forgetting. When hiking in Scotland, and you come across a sign that says, “Footpath to Anywhere,” it is a lie. Pure and simple. The truth is there is no footpath. There is not even a path at all. There is just a distance of at least six miles between you and whatever the sign is promising.

Having forgotten this (somehow), I decided that today I would take a turn at the sign I’ve been passing for months. The one that says, “Footpath to Loch Ascog,” and presents a very nice wide road (albeit uphill) for you to walk along. For a while. For a long while. Whistle and pant and take off another layer and hope the wind doesn’t stop blowing because if it does, the midgies will eat you alive.

At the top of the hill, take a turn where the sign points. Realize that your wide road is closing in, hemmed on both sides by ferns. Realize the path is a wee bit wet. Think, it can’t be much farther now. Keep going.

Hit a field. You are at the top of the field. You hear water. Aha! It is the Loch nearby! You will round the next corner and see it. You have conquered this.

No, it is not the Loch. It is a stream that must go into the Loch. Therefore, you must be close. Keep going.

Run into an abandoned barn and an abandoned car and a shed full of broken windows and junk. Remember that you are a girl walking by yourself in the middle of the woods and it is evening (if you’re family, pretend you didn’t read that part. I’m fine!). Realize the path ends. Swear to yourself. So very Scotland.

Backtrack. See the little tiny sign you missed on the first go-round. Stand on the soggy ground for a long time, weighing your options. Go back through the mud? Keep going? Surely you’re not that far. Take notice of the sign at the gate that says, “The cattle in this field are not dangerous, but they are curious. If they surround you, don’t panic. Just walk to the next gate calmly.”

Cross over the fence and into the field. See a deer rubbing his antlers on a tree. Take a moment to stand and watch him even as he watches you. Don’t be sad when he bounds off. Keep going.

Realize the field is fucking muddy. Wet up to the ankles. Freak out about ticks. Consider your options. Go forward? Go back? You must be near. Decide to go to the next gate.

Come across an old building, only the walls standing. Stop for a long time.

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Realize you’ve been walking for more than an hour. Realize you’re a long way from home. Realize dark is coming on. Realize your feet are wet.Realize you’ve seen everything you need to see without making it all the way to Loch Ascog.

Turn toward home. Be grateful when you hit dry land. Be grateful for the dog that sniffs your fingers. Be grateful for the slugs and the mushrooms. Be grateful for the friend you talk to on your cell, the one who makes you laugh. Be grateful for taking your soaked shoes off, for no ticks on your legs, for hot showers. Be grateful.

Far and fast, s.

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“Just think how happy you would be if you lost everything you have right now, and then got it back again.” ~Frances Rodman

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