Picture yourself right now. Close your eyes and visualize where you’re sitting, standing or lounging. Now zoom out. Do you have a map in your head of where you are located on this big, beautiful earth?
I do. I’m a visual learner, and I feel disoriented if I can’t picture my place in time and space. For instance, when Rob and I went to Philadelphia last month to visit his family, I had absolutely no visual map. I was in unfamiliar terrain with no landmarks to guide me, and couldn’t have found north if my life depended on it (good thing it didn’t!).
For the past decade, the map in my head has been framed by mountains and rivers. My place in space right this moment is bracketed by Stuart Peak to the north, Mount Jumbo to the east, the North Hills to the west, and Lolo Peak to the south. I follow Rattlesnake Creek as my north-south axis when I’m navigating from home to downtown Missoula. I’m guided by the Clark Fork River as I head west or east out of town. My body can sense which knobby ridge the sun kisses as it rises, and as it sets.
But my body is about to leave the ridge lines, rivers and creeks that create my central axis. My frame for pinpointing the cardinal directions will be fuzzy and out of focus as we shift between new horizons and new shores. I’m going to have to accept the fact that I won’t always have a map in my head of where, exactly, I am — physically or mentally. That feels overwhelming. Exhilarating. Terrifying. Liberating.
Luckily, I know we will always have a well-marked and special place waiting for us in Montana, nestled squarely between the hills and creeks that so clearly define space and time.