Are You Losing Your Way?

Take a very honest look at yourself right now… go on I’ll wait. Do you like where you are and where you are headed? Have you lost sight of the goals and ambitions you set out for yourself last year, this new year or even this month? It is so easy to lose our ways and get off track with what we aim to accomplish.

We think we have it all mapped out. We have taken the time to determine where we want to go (our destination), figured out how best to get there (directions), and more likely than not started off on that path. However, like with most people in our society we have gotten lost along the way. Either taking the wrong turn, gotten distracted by the cool roadside attraction, or just ran out of gas.

I’ve started this post so metaphorically but as I was thinking about how to go about this week, I realized it fit perfectly with the way I have been feeling and I am sure a lot of you have too. I have so many goals and ambitions for not only myself but my family and Raven and Oak. Raven and I constantly are having discussions about what we want to see from Raven and Oak but also what that will mean for our family. So, we have picked out some points on the “map” we would like to get to and now figuring out how the hell we are going to get there. Now this post isn’t about explaining how are going to do that so much but highlight two of the skills I have developed over the years and still aim to improve upon.

For some reason, I have always had a great sense of direction. I have some internal compass to be able to guide me in the right direction and I tend not to get lost. I know, lucky me, for I have met a lot of people who get mad because they lack that entirely. But one thing that you can do is get to know the lay of the area you are in. This is particularly useful in an urban environment in which the vast majority of us will be. Certain towns are laid out in a particular pattern or design. By scouting out maps of the place you live or the place you want to go you can see that this particular town had laid out its streets, avenues, drives, and all the other names used for streets in a certain way. For instance, in New York City the city planners designed Avenues to run north and south and Streets to run east to west. In Washington D.C. the city planners laid theirs out centered around the Capital as the focal point with quandrants of NE, NW, SW, and SE which numbered streets running north and south and lettered streets running east to west.

These are a couple examples from bigger cities but each has been laid out by city planners and reviewing maps and becoming familiar with your surrounds will help you navigate with confidence. There are so many tricks to pick up on these to understand ascending and descending street numbers to know if you are going north, south, east or west. So, my first tip is to review the map to become oriented.

Now away from the urban environment, it drives me crazy being among the cities. Out in nature knowing how to navigate becomes much more crucial and could save your life. Once again I say get to know your map if you have the chance to have one to get to know the lay of the land to include major points of interest such as high hills, peaks or other points of recognition. This could include bodies of water, draws (feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between them. The area of low ground itself is the draw (defined by the spurs surrounding it) or spurs (a short, continuous sloping line of higher ground, normally jutting out from the side of a ridge. A spur is often formed by two rough parallel streams, which cut draws down the side of a ridge) in the terrain. This is kind of technical but it is important to get to know terrain features as well. Now I am a little “lucky” in that I was taught a lot of this in military training but is not too hard to pick up on with a little study and the desire to learn.

However, let us move beyond maps because if you have a map you are doing better than some. Another important aspect to understand how to determine your direction based on the sun, moon, stars or trees. When thinking about the sun you need to think about what part of the world you are in (i.e. hemisphere). By understanding where you lie in relation to the equator you can have a better understanding of how to read the sun or moon in the sky. I would love to provide information here to help you but in fact it is a complicated matter to explain. We learn in school that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This is right and wrong in the same sentence. It is true the sun rises somewhere in the east and sets somewhere in the west but this all depends on the time of the year. To explain just slightly, on the equinoxes March and September, the sun will rise due east and set due west. However, knowing the Earth tilts throughout the year to affect seasons, the tilt will also affect where the sun rises and sets in the sky. This will be the same for the moon.

With the complicated nature of this I recommend finding books to read or even more fun take classes. ****Shameless plug, I provide classes on primitive navigation and other skills**** By taking classes you get to have the enjoyment of being out in nature learning with others but also get to experience the lessons firsthand to help cement the knowledge.

With this I will provide a couple cool tricks to navigating. The first technique to learn is beautifully simple and extremely quick. Although not perfectly accurate, it can be an excellent guide for getting your general bearings. Using a crescent moon, mentally draw a line that connects the points of the moon and then extend this line down to the horizon. In the northern hemisphere, this will give an approximate indication of south. It works best when the moon is high in the sky, for when it is lower there is a greater variation and leads to error. This is why it works equally well in the southern hemisphere and can be used to find north.  

Another technique is using the stars. I think everyone has probably heard of the North Star (Polaris) and the Big Dipper (Ursa Major). Fortunately, there is one star in the night sky that does not appear to move and that is the North Star. As the name implies, the North Star is the true north and is so important for natural navigation for that it sits directly over the North Pole. Therefore, to help you find North using the North Star is a surefire way to do so. However, first you need to find the North Star, while it is a bright star, there can be many in the sky. Therefore, a great way is to find the Big Dipper and use it. To do so, find the cup portion and drawing a straight line up from the end of the cup you will lead to the North Star. The North Star is about 5 times the distance up from the tip of the cup (see picture for demonstration).

Now I could probably go on and on about navigation but hopefully this bit of information gives you a few tools but also a desire to learn more. There are a lot of resources out there between books, videos and classes. So I encourage you to go out and learn and I’d be happy to help you along the way.