I have never had much use for a compass. I would never think to bother with a global positioning system either. For me, that is the kind of data that leads me astray.
I do however remember a few exact points on the planet where my life condensed and refracted the light of the universe at an angle that demonstrated exactly where I stood. As certain as a compass point, I knew who and where I was.
The Austria-Slovenian border.
I stood outside the rest stop. It was 4:00 A:M. I stare at the space recently occupied by my Hrvatskan bus, now empty. Gone- with my passport, my money, my bags. My rumbling guts wanting to void my tired and drained-out bowels. A bloody bandage crusted to a foot swollen with stitches. I felt murder in my heart for that Ustasha bus driver.
I can close my eyes and stand in that parking lot anytime I want.
Munson Hills Tallahassee, FL
It was the coldest day of the year, windy and in the 20’s. Stevie and I rode about 40 miles, so bundled I could hardly free a finger to change gears. We stopped in the forest and built a little fire. Its modest warmth was so reassuring it revived us beyond expectation. We sat there laughing and joking just as comfortable as if we were in a nice cozy den. You can truly get used to anything.
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Moving back to Florida on a road trip from Oregon. Todd and I set up camp and went searching for a swimming hole. We found one with all the local native-american or chicano kids. They were jumping off a small cliff into the water. It was probably 40 feet. Todd peeled his shirt and went straight in. I tried and tried to muster the courage, but I didn’t do it. If I went back today I wouldn’t hesitate.
Capital City Youth Services, Tallahassee, FL
Full pandemonium under the flourescent lights. My first day working at a runaway shelter. I had no idea what to do. I stood flat-footed until someone mentioned lunch and I thought, “Hey, I can cook lunch.” I made potato salad and grilled cheese sandwiches. That was the first of thousands of meals I prepared in that place. I still love to visit that kitchen and eat chicken nuggets with ranch dressing and tater tots with hot sauce.
Sackets Harbor, NY
The city basketball court after midnight, just me and a going flat basketball. Shooting free throws that plopped through the net like sloppy scoops of ice cream, I realized I had to get out of that town right away. I was through with restaurant work forever. I packed my bags and drank a bottle of wine. I was gone two days later.
So I do not have the urge to record my exact path in linear reds and blues and overlay it with aerial photography. The route always changes, and the points on the map that matter, I remember where I left them.