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By Wendy Hopkins

I am a map freak.

Not a freak in a bad sense, if there is a bad sense of being a map freak. But, nonetheless, a freak about maps. I have them covering every wall in my office. Some I own are neatly folded in a file cabinet, so that I may get them out whenever I have the desire to get giddy about what I forgot I had.

"The map is not the territory."

Alfred Korzybski, Polish-American philosopher and scientist
Well, the map isn't the territory. But getting a sense of where you are in the territory you stand in, is comforting in an odd sort of way. You may be lost, but you don't feel lost.

Sometimes I just feel good about remembering where I've been. How far I've come, which translates not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. Sometimes I just feel good about dreaming where I want to go.

I have been called on to help someone who is lost... even if I was thousands of miles away. A phone call and a computer can do wonders to help someone else navigate their way through unknown territory.

My brother and I tease that we learned how to read a map before we learned how to read. Perhaps there is some truth to that. And I credit my mother for subduing the fear of being lost in me when I was a mere child. When we would move to a new place, she would load us up in the car, sans maps, and drive 'til we were lost, and then we'd find our way home. You get to know places better that way she'd say. She was right. But looking at a map, say, before you trek out to get lost on purpose, will (and I speak from experience) remind you that "blocks" in the traditional sense don't exist in Elkhart, Indiana; that you can end up in Michigan without knowing it because there isn't always signs telling you you've crossed the state line; that there isn't a 'pee break' place between Lafayette and Lake Charles; that if you get on any major highway around Dallas (including Beltway), and continue driving, you will end up back where you started; that in Seattle, if you miss your exit (and you will if you aren't from here), it's ok to take the next one, regroup and try again.

What maps can't do is show you what you are missing. The mountains, the lakes, the ocean, the skyscrapers, the pastures, Billings, Montana at night from the highway above the city, the sunrise over the Cascades, the ferns underneath the firs in the forests, the cattle and horses, the rain on the lake, the sunset over Lake Michigan, the smell of the sea (it is different depending what sea you are standing by).

So I hope by telling you about my 'hobby' of sorts, it helps you to remember some about your life and where you've been... where you've come from. So next time you go to the gas station, pick up a map, even if it's where you are now, you will find something new there, I promise. Call it preparation for the next time you 'get lost'.

...and on the next sunny day, get in the car, roll the windows down, crank the radio, breathe, smile, and moo at the cows....

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Nice Hobby! next time at gass station I will definitely take map ;)

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