It wasn’t a bitter argument. We’d known each other far too long for there to be rancor.
It was more of a spirited disagreement. It was the place really that made the conversation unpleasant.
The wind blew a constant thirty. The gusts drove the rain and sleet up underneath our jackets. We were soaked and shivering.
Hunkered between two rocks, we debated which way to go. Sam said the route went east. I was sure it went west.
We had climbed the Armadillo Buttress on Mt. Katahdin, a stunningly beautiful 5.8 ridge rising 1000 feet above the glacial cirque at Chimney Pond. What had begun as a picture perfect late fall day had taken a nasty turn as we had ascended into the clouds, the dense fog and rime ice leaving us feeling a bit unhinged.
The Buttress joins the Knife Edge between Baxter Peak and Pamola Peak. We knew that we had topped out. We just couldn’t quite figure out which direction we needed to go to get down.
Sam said left. I said right.
After nearly 20 minutes of “spirited” dialogue, a lone figure appeared in the mist. Another climber. One who knew.
Turns out, either direction would have worked. Both ways were “right.”
A truth in so many of our Journeys.
We struggle so to get it “right.” And so often, it really doesn’t matter.
As our youngest, a high school junior, approaches the threshold of the college process, I watch as the seniors (and their parents!) struggle with where to go. Where’s the “right” place to spend the next four years? What’s the “right” choice?
Turns out, it doesn’t really matter.
My oldest refused to go to college. Ten years later, she’s finishing her freshman year with a near perfect GPA. Her brother went to two colleges in six years. Tenaciously striving to succeed after nearly flunking out, he was just hired in one of the toughest job markets in history as a project engineer. Their father made all the wrong choices and went to three colleges in four years. Seems he got into a decent graduate program though. And turned out ok.
There’s no “right” path. There’s no wrong way.
Every path will get us there. Each with its own obstacles and challenges. Each with its own opportunities and majesty and beauty.
I am reminded of the scene early on in the old classic The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy comes to a fork in the road. She’s not sure which fork to take to get to the Emerald City. She asks the Scarecrow who points her in one direction. Then immediately points her in the other direction. And then crosses his arms and points her in both directions.
She finds her way to Oz. Most of us do.
But we are all so inculcated with the notion that there is only one right way; and so filled with fear that we will chose wrong.
What if we embraced that every path was our path? What if we believed that we couldn’t make a wrong choice? What it we trusted that no experience was wasted?
How freeing that would be.
Susan Jeffers says it this way: “Start thinking about yourself as a lifetime student at a large university. Your curriculum is your total relationship with the world you live in, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. Each experience is a valuable lesson to be learned. If you chose Path A, you will learn one set of lessons. If you chose Path B, you will learn a different set of lessons. Geology or geometry – just a different teacher and different books to read, different homework to do, different exams to take. It doesn’t really matter… . ”
There is opportunity to grow, to learn, to love, to experience, to find joy, regardless of the path we chose.
And if we don’t like the path, we get to change it. We can always correct our route finding along the way.
I was fascinated to learn that an airplane flying thousands of miles to a distant destination can be off course 90 percent of the time and still arrive in the right place and on time guided by its internal inertial guidance system. Through constant course correction.
We all have an inertial guidance system.