Orienteering1Orienteering orange, that is.  I completed an orange course at Frisco on Sunday.  It took me three hours, which is hilarious, but I don’t care.  I couldn’t find control #5 but I was absolutely not going back until I located it, and finally I did.

And what does that have to do with the writing life, you ask (as well you might)?  Plenty.

Orienteering for those who have not been following along, is a sport that teaches map reading.  I know, I know, it sounds dull.  The reality is much more interesting, and highly rewarding.  It’s highly empowering to use a map to navigate to a position deep in the woods and locate a particular position at the top of a hill or behind a boulder or at the top of –my favorite orienteering word–a reentrant. I felt ten feet tall when I finished that course.  I have a skinned shin and sunburned shoulders, but it’s all mine, that finish.  I was alone in the woods with a map and a compass and I found the flags. All of them.  Every last bloody one.  With no help from anyone.   

CR, naturally, did two courses while I did one and was sitting there, changed into his regular clothes and worrying about me by the time I returned. (I think he took firsts in both courses.)   But he’s a master, and a natural endurance athlete.  I am only an enthusiastic participant. 

There is a lot of endurance and patience (stubbornness) required to complete an orienteering course, or a book.  It’s all in your head, too, thinking you know something that may or may not be true.  There are always those spots when you could give up, and feel frustrated. 

But mainly, the link to the writing life here is that I love being outdoors in the mountains, or on a beach, hiking and moving and seeing and feeling the air.  I am happier there than almost anywhere, which feeds my love of putting things in words.  It’s also a great balancing activity, which all writers must have. We live too much in our heads if we’re not careful.  Being outdoors puts me in my body and in the world.   It feeds the well, which is so very, very important if we are to continue to have new details to feed the work. 

You don’t have to be an outdoor girl to have passions.  Maybe you like going to the symphony and you’re happier there than almost anywhere.  Or on a cruise ship.  Or at Nordstroms.   What do you love to do? What puts you in your body and into the world? 

7 thoughts on “ORANGE!

  1. I love this post, Barbara, about balance and being in body as well as mind. I’m a distance runner and cross country skier, and I draw mental power and inspiration from the endurance aspects of those sports, as well as just being outdoors and connected with things wild … this in turn feeds my writing. In all the ways that you mention.

    Thinking of trying orienteering now … the decision would be just a tad easier if I was less concerned about the cougars and bears in my woods. They’ve been a bit too hungry for comfort lately 🙂

  2. PS — Congrats on the Orange!

  3. Oh, give it a try! If you’re a distance runner, you’ll probably really enjoy the challenge.

    Luckily, though the bears and cougars are quite…um…abundant around here, they’re also quite well fed this year. This morning, I was writing about a soltice I spent in the mountains during a drought year, and it was brutal.

  4. Oh man, I would love to try it! I’ve had a hurt foot for a year. I can’t do anything fun anymore. 🙁

    Maybe soon! It sounds like a blast!

  5. Great analogy, Barbara. Congrats on finishing an orange course!

  6. I love being outside on the water. I also like walking and short hikes in the woods. I have to say though I’ve never heard of orienteering and it appeals to the puzzle solver in me. I’m curious and wonder if it’s something I could do. What an adventure! No wonder you felt 10 feet tall.

  7. A friend of mine said today that she thinks orienteering is so appealing to writers because it’s the opposite workout of trying to puzzle out a novel. It’s so very concrete, the map, the land, the flags themselves. You know they are there–unlike the puzzle of a novel. Does this go here, or there? Or anywhere?

    They have events all over the country, and there is usually a white (easy) course for beginners, which is all on trails. If any of you give it a try, I’d love to hear.

    Next week, I’m taking a training course. Maybe then I can do an orange in a more normal amount of time.

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