For the last two weeks, I’ve sorta kinda been participating in the Scintilla Project. I’m trying to get caught up as I can. At this point, I’m kinda picking and choosing which ones I want to do in effort not to get caught up but to just finish. To that end, a prompt from Day 9 of the Project:
Talk about where you were going the day you got lost. Were you alone? Did you ever get to where you meant to go?
I’ve never really been afraid of getting lost. I’ve driven through some pretty isolated areas all by myself, and not really been panicked about where I was going to wind up or how I was going to get home. My philosophy has always run along the lines of keep going straight. Eventually you’re going to run into a road that will eventually lead you home. That’s always worked for me. I’ve never been so lost that I haven’t been able to be found.
I was going to write about the time I got lost at Fort Campbell because that was probably the most spectacular, and funniest in hindsight, moment of being lost I’ve ever faced. The really short version of it is that I was camping at Land Between the Lakes, and I was out exploring for the day. In the days before GPS, I was using my atlas to navigate. The atlas said there would be a highway to right onto, but I didn’t find the highway. The map showed the current road ending at Fort Campbell military installation. But there wasn’t a gate. So I just kept driving forward.
Until I found a gate. With an armed army guard. When I very politely asked him where my road was, he very sternly told me I needed to turn around. Now. And head back to town. Where I would find my road. On my left.
OK. Yessir. Rightawaysir.
So I turned around and went back to town (like 15 miles back to town). Never found the road I was looking for but I did turn left. Eventually made it back to my campsite.
That’s not the most powerful story of being lost. Have I mentioned I’ve been lost a lot? I have.
The more powerful story of getting lost happened my third summer in Mississippi. Frequently I can’t sleep. And when I can’t sleep I want to drive. Because driving helps me think, and there was a lot of turmoil for me in those first summers in Mississippi. So some time after midnight, I got in the car and headed west out of Hattiesburg. Alone. Because that’s where the best thinking happens and sometimes the best thinking needs to happen alone.
Rest assured: I had my atlas with me. (because this too was in the days before GPS)
Not that my atlas did me much good in the dark. And it was dark. Not many street lights out that direction.
I wanted to eventually make a big circle and come back into Hattiesburg so at some point I made a right turn off of the highway. I had the radio cranked, although lord knows what I was listening to. Perhaps the mix cds a friend had made for me. I can’t remember that bit of the story now. The minutes ticked away and I kept driving. Making the occasional turn, always staying straight or heading to the left.
I wasn’t paying attention really. I was thinking. Working through some heartache or something.
I didn’t notice that the the two lane highway had turned into a road. I wasn’t thinking. When the tires hit unpaved road and gravel started to fly, it was a rather nasty surprise. I pulled the car to a stop and looked around. I had no idea where I was. I flipped on the car’s interior lights and opened up the atlas, but I couldn’t remember how many right turns I’d made or when I’d actually made them. I thought about turning around and retracing my steps, but I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. I knew I’d passed up roads that I could have turned on but in the dark, I didn’t know which roads I’d need to turn on to make it back.
I looked down at the gas gauge and knew that gas wouldn’t be an issue for about 250 miles, so I had time to get even more lost. Lack of fuel wasn’t going to be an issue. Having had a run-in with someone out in the wilds of Mississippi that scared the hell out of me, I was worried about where I might wind up and who’s yard I could be driving through.
I do panic really well. Even when I’m alone. When it’s OK for me to fall apart, I hold it together. I probably bit my lip. Cursed at myself for being stupid. I probably called myself a lot of unflattering names because that’s what I do when I screw things up. But other than that, no ripple in the stillness that is my soul.
I decided to keep driving straight. I had no idea if the dirt road I found myself on was going to take my anywhere I needed to go, but I was thinking about my childhood and all those dirt roads that we took that always eventually led you somewhere. Yes, they could lead to someone’s house, but those dirt roads usually got you from point A to point B. I took a chance that I wasn’t going to wind up at some isolated farm house in the middle of nowhere.
After about 30 minutes, the dirt road intersected with a road. I made a right onto it. Going straight or going right. Because that’s what I do. I followed that road until I saw a junction sign. That road wasn’t on my map. Probably because I wasn’t looking in even the remotely right location.
When I finally got to a town, I was in Prentiss.
I have no idea how that happened. I pulled into a gas station, topped off the tank, grabbed some water and made my way towards Magee and then back to Hattiesburg.
It could have been worse. Much, much worse. But I guess that we are never really lost. We’re just looking for our way. And if we keep moving, no matter the direction we head, we’ll eventually make it somewhere. It might not be where we were intending to go, but as long as we are moving, eventually we’ll be either were we were aiming and or perhaps somewhere better.
How about you? When were you last lost? What did you learn from your time in the wilderness?