by Barry Verigin

Finding our Way

Have you ever been lost? 

There have been times in my life when I’ve experienced that uneasy feeling of not knowing which way to go.
It’s happened to me being alone in the depths of a remote forest.  It’s happened to me in the middle of a strange city.  Of course, in a city being around other people you could always ask for directions - unless you don’t know your destination.

I remember my first trip to the Soviet Union, back in the early 80’s.  Wendy Voykin and I traveled there as part of a Canada/USSR group to attend a youth conference in Zaporozhe.  On that trip, I got separated from our group while we were in Kiev.

It all happened so fast, during a walking tour of the city.  I strayed to take a few photos as the group entered a passageway beneath a street.  Later, when trying to catch up, I realized it was no simple passage but more like a maze leading off in several directions.  I couldn’t see the group anywhere.  To make things worse, I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel nor its location, from where we’d be leaving for Moscow.

I started to get anxious. Would I miss the departure? They would surely be upset if my carelessness caused a delay.  I began asking people if they knew of any hotels nearby and began a process of elimination, checking one and then another. I covered a lot of ground.

In a way, the irony of the situation calmed me down.  Here I was surrounded by people speaking Russian and yet I was lost.  Back home, that would never have been the case.  The mere sound of the Russian language would be like a beacon leading me to familiar ground. 

After covering several blocks in a variety of directions, I was making my way to yet another hotel when a black Volga pulled up beside me with a familiar face smiling in the window.  “Vasili, you’re on the right track. The hotel is just up ahead” chuckled one of our guides.

My sense of relief was accompanied with a great deal of embarrassment.
Fortunately, the group was still there at the hotel.  No departure was missed. No schedule disrupted.  Some valuable travel lessons learned, I thought.  Make sure you know where you’re going, less lingering and straying from the group that you’re traveling with.

Many years later, I experienced that dreaded feeling of being lost again.  This time it happened while roaming the bush in northern BC picking mushrooms.  Although I traveled there with a friend, each day we’d split up and go our separate ways scouring the forest floor for pine mushrooms.

One day we chose to check a new area.  After a long drive down a barren dirt road, we parked the vehicle and set off on the hunt, as usual going off in opposite directions to cover more ground.  Like always, I checked my trusty compass to get my bearing from the road before disappearing into the bush.

After a few hours of wandering over ground that looked promising, I still hadn’t found any mushrooms.  Even worse, I realized that in my hasty meandering I forgot to keep checking my compass.  I yelled out as loud as I could, hoping my friend was somewhere nearby. Listening carefully, I heard nothing but the sound of the trees gently swaying in the breeze.

Oh well not to panic.  After checking my compass again and locating the position of the sun through the tops of the trees, I decided on a probable course back to the road.  After what seemed like hours of hiking and occasionally yelling, I still couldn’t see the road, or hear back from my friend.  Again, that anxious feeling of being lost began to creep in.  Was my sense of direction that askew?

I was ready to turn around and head back in the direction from where I came, when suddenly, I heard the sound of a vehicle coming from the thick brush just ahead of me.  In minutes, I was back on the road walking to our vehicle, still parked where we’d left it, feeling relieved that another vehicle just happened to be passing by at that moment.

After some more yelling, my friend also returned and we agreed to stay within earshot and make better use of our compasses.  After that we had no other problems and did much better finding mushrooms.

Since then, although I haven’t felt lost in the physical sense, there have been times when I’ve had trouble finding my way.  Occasionally, my direction is altered by my ego, my pride, my anger, my fear...  It’s during these times I try remind myself not to panic, to use my head, follow my heart and listen to my conscience.  I guess this could be likened to a “moral compass”.  I am sure each one of us has one.  It’s set by our beliefs, our understanding and our faith in a power much greater than any one of us, yet a part of all of us. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of how to use it.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful summer.