September 18, 2021
My entire life i have been drawing a map in my brain.
It started when i was a small child.
My father had me lie in the back of the station wagon and close my eyes.
As he entered our neighborhood he said,
“We are headed north. Each turn we make tell me what direction we are going.”
When we turned left i yelled out “WEST.”
Then left again, “SOUTH.”
And so on zig zagging through the neighborhood streets.
It did not take long before i had a mental map of my neighborhood, complete with a compass rose.
In my dreams as a child, i could fly.
i could bat my arms in my dream and lift my body above the trees outside my house.
Using my mental map as a guide i imagined the streets, rooftops and people below me laid out in a perfect compass oriented pattern. i knew my neighborhood better from the air than i did from the ground.
As i grew older i learned to orient to the north by the location of the sun, moss on trees and the cast of shadows.
If i knew a compass direction in the morning, i subconsciously kept track of my compass direction throughout the day.
My memory is visual. I like driving directions which use landmarks and milestones rather than street names.
i see my route on the map in my brain.
This makes it easy for me to give directions with landmarks:
“Drive about 6 miles to the white picket gate and turn in left. Go past the lake on your right, over the creek to the stop sign. Turn left at the stop and drive to roads end, turn left, then left again and look for the wagon wheels on the left. This is my drive. You will see my barn red farm house on the hill above you.”
Some more visited areas of my map are three dimensional. i include storefronts, the interior of buildings, parks with trees and boulders and sometimes the people that occupy these spaces.
It is difficult for me to get lost in places that i frequent since i can see around corners in my mind.
My iPhone has tried to replace my mental map. The All Trails app will show me popular routes on trails near me. It will even map my course as i walk it. This is useful for first encounters, but i prefer to follow my mental map once familiar with the trail.
Apple Maps will suggest routes that are not the best or safest. i will often take my own route.
Siri likes to nag me with “RETURN TO THE ROUTE” or “MAKE A LEGAL U TURN.”
i forgive her. Sometimes she knows not what she does (Luke 23:34).
Some automobile GPS will show a ground view video of the road in front of you, but i find this distracting. i would rather depend on my own eyes and ears for navigation.
All this is useful to me because the older i get the fewer words i seem to retain.
Turn by turn directions don’t seem to stick as well any more.
The map in my brain, however, has an automatic update feature and is good in the long term.
i generally know where i am at all times.
It is harder to get lost if you always know where north is.