Reading Road Maps

edlhctzrr0yfftu0bqar_sylwiabartyzel_themapOne of the small talents I have which many people don’t have a clue about is reading maps.  This ability has taken me down many a strange road to find wonderful places that might not otherwise have been found.

How I gained this skill is perhaps the combination of having a father who was a sailor and loved the art of navigation and having a girl guide leader who made me work to get  the Navigator Badges.

Dad also thought I had a built in compass in my head because I always knew where north was.  It didn’t matter where we went to visit or what direction the bed I slept in was facing, my head would be in the due north position in the morning.  I still sleep best when my head is pointed north.

At age of eight I was often found in my father’s little home made, 14 foot, sailing catamaran, floating about on Lake Erie’s north shore.  In this modest craft it was important to learn how to find home.  A hand held compass was it’s most complicated  equipment but I had to learn how to read the signs to home even without it in case it was lost.  My Dad taught me well.  We never sailed at night but we would lie on the grass of our lake front property with him pointing out stars that might help to get me home if I were lost.

At Girls Guides, Sally Maytham, was our leader.  She was a peculiar woman who was incredibly intelligent and innovative.  She was also a woman ahead of her time and insisted we do things not considered particularly “lady like” in the day.  One of those things was rigorous learning of orienteering.  We learned how to read a compass, to pace off distances, to determine the direction of the wind and gauge distances.  I learned at 14 how to get from A to B by saying the direction rather than whether to turn left or right.  Our final test for the badge was being sent to a particular spot in town and then having to find our way back to the home base with Sally’s directions.  I was the first back and one of the few who actually grasped the concept.

We didn’t have much money to travel far but because I could read road maps and topographical maps (Thanks Mr. Hurst of Grade 11 Geography) I could find places that were interesting even close to home.  A friend who went on a trip with me once to the “near north” (Barry, Midland area) was amazed I could get us to strange and wonderful places and back on the road again.

Now map reading is a simple as knowing how to plug a destination into an app on my phone but my map skills have gotten me out of a couple of mistakes that Google Maps have made.  They are not infallible.

The only terrible trouble I have had with feeling disoriented is when I moved to Ottawa.  I grew up with the lake shore to my south and in Ottawa the river is to the north.  I was all turned around for about two weeks and kept wanting to head to parliament hill instead of to my home further down Bank Street.  To add to my confusion the small single bed in my apartment had my feet pointed to the north and my head going south.  There were no options.

In my work as a supply bus driver over the past two years my skill with maps and finding my way has stood me in good stead.  The only real issue was when the sun wasn’t shining and I had gone around in circles so many times I had no idea which was north.

Finding north when  the sun shines is easy if you know what time of day it is.  If I can determine East and West by the movement of the sun I can use my old saying, “If my left is west, my nose is north.”

Google maps are a wonderful invention and provide wonderful information.  I can not only see where I am headed on the map but I can even look to see what the place will look like.   I can also know about how long it will take to get there, what the distance is, whether I want to take a route with no major highways and if there is traffic to avoid.  On occasion I have an argument with the woman who is giving the directions but for the most part we get along fairly well.

I miss the paper maps.  I even know how to fold them back to their original slim and easy to carry glory.  That was something Dad insisted on.

Have a great weekend and don’t get lost.

Thanks to Jackie for her discussion of maps which prompted my thought on the subject.   Also to the crew of Blogging 101 for the picture prompts which provided the picture for this blog.    


About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (, I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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5 Responses to Reading Road Maps

  1. maddy says:

    Oh I have some issues with that GPS woman. I think she considers me to be a bit of a rebel…

  2. Peggy, This is wonderful.
    I love maps and miss them as well. When I travel (when I was traveling) I always had a state map and my Atlas.
    Sometimes a city map. I like being prepared. I also enjoy reading from a map. I do not enjoy the “Voice” that talks to be on a GPS.
    They don’t seem to realize that they MAY NOT alway know the best ROUTE. Or the most fun route.
    I like scenic routes and never going the same way 2xs if I can help it.
    Like you, I have a great sense of direction.
    My dad also made sure that I was prepared in all ways possible. We went camping and hiking. Tent camping off the beaten path. Well off it.
    I still have the compass he gave me.
    I really enjoyed this.
    Sharing it.
    Love Sarah

  3. Reblogged this on Sarah's Attic Of Treasures and commented:
    What a wonderful post on map reading. This is from Peggy at Spilt Milk.

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