What it really means to blaze a trail 🥾
Passing on wisdom and the way forward. 💫
I don’t know how I’ve missed them before. I was recently reading about an expedition in the Rockies and how the guide kept an eye out for trail blazes—literal carvings in the trees that would point his group in the right direction. In the past seventeen years, I’ve covered hundreds, maybe over a thousand, kilometres of trail here in the Canadian Rockies and somehow I haven’t noticed these blazes. I’ve done orienteering classes and feel well-versed in basic land navigation, yet somehow this simple technique evaded me. Or, it’s possible I’ve seen dozens of them and just didn’t clue in. 🤷
Then, a few weeks ago, I was hiking on a now unpopular trail up to an old mine in Banff National Park and stopped in my tracks when I came upon a trail blaze carved right into the bark. It was an obvious rectangle—very hard to miss! I glanced to my left and saw that another tree, standing a few feet away, had a matching one (I now know this means “keep going straight”). It all clicked. For all I knew, these markings were some of the original ones that prospectors and miners used back in the early 20th century. Seeing these markings brought all new meaning to the term trailblazer for me, especially as I’ve been diving into Mary Schäffer’s story and thinking about people who beat down the path before us.
The term trailblazer has been applied in fields besides outdoor exploration and wayfinding—from science to space and everything in-between. We usually connect this term with a person who does something for the first time. What I realized when I saw the actual blazes, though, is something I had overlooked before. By literally blazing a trail, those to first explore new terrain (or terrain without a clear path) are thinking of the future, of the people who may follow behind (including themselves, at a later date). With time, trails may become overgrown, both literally and metaphorically. Perhaps it takes some time for others to follow. When there is no one to keep beating down the path, all that headway can become lost.
But a blaze will still mark the way.
It causes me to pause and consider what marks I’m leaving behind for others to follow. Now, of course, I’m not suggesting we go carving trees left, right and centre. 😏 But when we find ourselves in new terrain, whether that is in the inner world or outer, are we leaving clues for others to follow? Can we pass on wisdom that might help others when they reach the same fork in the road or stand of trees with no clear way through them?
At this point in my life, at 38, I think that’s what I’ve attempted to do with both Field Notes 📒 and my book, Lights to Guide Me Home. After nearly twenty years of wayfinding off what was a beaten path in my own life, I feel that I have something to share with others who may be skirting the 9-5 life, bucking expectations, stepping into some unconventional parenting, and questioning what they know to be true.
I wouldn’t call myself a trailblazer; I feel that I’m following in the footsteps of many others. But I do hope that, through my writing, I’ve created a series of way markers to help others navigate their own lives off the beaten path.
Because everyone’s path looks different, but where we always come together is at the crossroads.
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What’s caught my attention lately… ✨
I’m all about fiction these days, and I’ve got two on the go at the same time: The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, and The Maid, by Nita Prose. Have you read them? I’m not finished, so don’t tell me how they end!
A wee request… ✨
Are you on Goodreads? If so, please consider adding Lights to Guide Me Home to a shelf! You can also add it to a Wish List on Amazon. OK, OK, even better: go to your local bookstore and ask them about ordering it in! 😊
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Lights to Guide Me Home - Now available for pre-order!
Lights to Guide Me Home ✨ is now available for pre-order!
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