Have you ever been lost?  I went for a bike ride this weekend with my son out at a local cross-country ski trail area called the “Movil Maze.”  I’ve skied out there on many occasions, and got confused for only a short time.  Today was different.

Bike riding with a younger person is never a sedate experience.  We did a fairly rapid tour of the hills – changing gears on the mountain bikes frequently.  The leaves were a brilliant green; what I could see of them. 

When it came time to leave, we couldn’t find our way out.  Posted maps were torn down and becoming oriented on a gray, misty day was impossible without a compass.  There were very cues to set a course. 

I didn’t really think we were lost – only “disoriented.”  For awhile I thought knowledge acquired during my Boy Scout days about moss on the north side of a tree would help.  Good luck with that after a soggy spring.  There’s moss everywhere.

Looking for the sun wasn’t going to work.  It was daylight but that’s about all we could tell.  What finally developed as we struggled to get our bearings was searching for a cue, or point of reference.  We found ours in the traffic noise from Highway 71.  With that in mind, we began working our self in a line away from the road noise, as we knew the trails away would take us to the parking lot.  Finally, after some trial and error, we found the parking lot and a couple of granola bars to take the edge off hunger fed by prolonged effort. 

Finding your way when you’re lost is not always as easy as this was.  Frequently we don’t have the cues we need. I’ve been lost before – even with good maps – on Lake of the Woods, in fog – and it was with some difficulty, taking many deep breaths and trying various routes, that a course  was set.

If you have the cue – a way of making sense out of chaotic information is possible.  In nature, it can be the sun, wind direction or water depth on a lake or the lay of the land when you’re hiking.

With a cue or point of reference a kind of logic develops as you search for a way home.  There are an unlimited number of possibilities at the outset.  The cue then enables you to narrow the choices.  The direction you set may not be right, but casting about aimlessly is eliminated.

When we are lost in our own quests, we frequently rely on cues for setting course.  Tradition, religion, and a sense of our own selves formed early on enable us to sort through all the facts we must deal with on a daily basis or in a crisis.  With a point of reference we make progress – not always in a straight line, but at least in a direction that gets us back to ourselves.

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