What’s Your Orientation?

Don’t get excited. I’m not asking you about your sexual orientation. Not only is that none of my business, but I really couldn’t care less. You be you.

No, I’m talking about… what should I call it? Your compass orientation. How you visualize yourself in the world.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because my husband and I have a difference of opinion as to how a GPS should be set up. He likes his maps pointing ever northward, regardless of which direction he is going. I, on the other hand, greatly prefer to have my maps move with me as I move. I’m way too dyslexic to have to figure out if that turn is a left or a right based on where the sun is sitting in the sky. Show me, for heaven’s sake, which way to turn from where I’m facing right this minute. Otherwise I’m completely lost.

Recently I heard a story on NPR about how certain languages are compass oriented, and others, like English, are not. We describe things as being to our left or right, or in front of us or behind us. But it seems that some languages describe things as being to the North, South, East, or West. It doesn’t matter which way that person is facing when they have their discussion. They say, “You left your keys on the table to the north of you.” If plopped down in that culture, it would take me an awfully long time to find my keys. But I’m sure that if you’re born into it, that’s the norm.

The way I imagine it is that some people’s consciousness is inside their head, looking out of their eyes. That’s how I see the world. It’s faced in whatever direction I am faced in. But other people must have their consciousness floating slightly above themselves, and always oriented to the compass, as their body turns beneath them. I can’t relate to that at all. Not at all.

I wonder which is more common. What’s your orientation?

Vintage COmpass by hourglassthorne on DeviantArt

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Ever Northward, Ever Westward

Back in 2013, I wrote about My Four Compass Points. In other words, the farthest North, South, East, and West I’ve ever traveled. (And of course, I was talking latitude and longitude. I’m not going to debate about the curvature of the earth or have an even more absurd discussion to convince you that the earth isn’t flat. It stuns me that people still believe this.)

But I’m proud to announce that this month I broke two of my records: I’ve now been even farther North and farther West in one vacation. My world is expanding. I find that exciting.

Now, the furthest North I’ve ever been is Fairbanks, Alaska. Sadly, we did not see the Northern Lights, and I really hoped to. But it’s still a very cool town, and I’ll be blogging more about it in days to come, so watch this space!

My new Westernmost compass point is Anchorage, Alaska. We weren’t there long. We stayed in a hotel overnight and had a few hours in the morning to explore the fun and artsy shops downtown, so there isn’t much to write about there.

I think the most memorable thing that happened to me in Anchorage was slicing a 4 inch gash in my leg by walking past a chair with an exposed piece of metal sticking out from the corner. So I guess you could say I bled for my Western compass point. I left a little DNA in Anchorage. Thank God for tetanus shots.

Anyway, here are a few Fairbanks and Anchorage photos from our hotel rooms. We’re still organizing our nearly 2000 photos which is bound to take some time. Bear with me, dear reader!

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Fairbanks, Alaska
Anchorage
Anchorage, Alaska

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Rooting for the Home Team

When I was 10 years old I moved from my waspy, upper middle class New England house and wound up living in a tent in the rural South. It was quite the culture shock. But the biggest shock of all was finding myself in a public school where only 1 percent of the students looked anything like me. This was something I had never experienced before, and I got beaten up quite often as a result.

I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the backward Florida school system. It was several years before I started learning anything that I hadn’t previously been taught in Connecticut, and when they tested me and determined that I was reading at college level at the age of 10, they weren’t nearly as impressed by that as they were that I was voluntarily reading anything at all.

At one point my mother asked me if I even had textbooks. I told her yes, but that I did my homework in class, as it only took a minute. No reason to lug those books home.

Once, my teacher was talking about the Civil War and she asked whose side everyone would be on. “This is easy,” I thought. “Union, of course.” But I was stunned to discover that all the children of color around me chose the Southern side.

I was normally quiet and kept to myself to avoid the inevitable beating. But this… I couldn’t handle it. “Are you guys crazy??? You’re supporting the side of slavery!” None of them changed their minds, however. I was speechless.

As an adult looking back, it’s a bit more understandable. In that school system, they were taught virtually nothing about history or human rights. Most of them were so poor that they’d probably never stepped foot outside the backwater town in which we lived. They were simply rooting for the home team, as if this were a football game. I have no doubt that every one of them came to their senses when they entered the real world.

It wouldn’t be the last time I felt like the only voice of reason in an insane situation. I feel that way now when I see people supporting Donald Trump or denying global warming. Forgive them. They know not what they do.

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[Image credit: theblaze.com]

My Four Compass Points

I’m recovering from a cold and completely devoid of inspiration today, so I’ll leave you with the 4 extremes of my travels.

The furthest west that I’ve been is Santa Monica, California.

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The furthest east that I’ve been is Göreme, Turkey.

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The furthest south that I’ve been is Mitla, Mexico.

Mitla Decor

The furthest north that I’ve been is Saint-Siméon, Canada.

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How lucky am I? 🙂

Reliving the Battle of Olustee

On February 20th, 1864 the battle of Olustee was fought here in Florida. It was the largest Civil War Battle in the state, and the second bloodiest battle for the Union. 296 soldiers died that day, only 93 of whom were Confederates. In the end the Union soldiers retreated 40 desolate miles back to Jacksonville, their collective tail between their legs.

One weekend a year each February, thousands descend on the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park to observe a reenactment of this battle, and in 2005 I bore witness to this event myself. The irony is that I live in Jacksonville, so heading out there I sort of experienced a reverse retreat. And I’m here to tell you that that section of Florida is still pretty darned desolate. I could only imagine the hellish journey amongst the snakes and swampland and sharp-leafed underbrush.

And the thing about that part of Florida is that the deeper you get into, well, absolutely the middle of nowhere, the more you can’t shake the feeling that you’re traveling back in time, and not in a good way. There’s this feeling of free floating anxiety that you can’t quite put your finger on. I wouldn’t want to be there after dark during that weekend. And I wouldn’t want to be there even in broad daylight if I were black. And indeed, amongst the throngs of people and reenactors I only saw one minority face, that of a black union soldier. This just isn’t an event you want to attend if you’re not a WASP, because for this one weekend a year, people who are proud of the south and its history, in all its ugly and misguided glory, get to celebrate. There are confederate flags everywhere, and there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. That’s never a good combination, if you ask me.

I must say, though, they really pull out all the stops. While you’re there, you can visit the confederate and union camps, and check out a lot of the historic armaments and medical tools, which is kind of interesting. There’s also an arts and crafts fair, a fun run, and even a square dance.

I’m glad I experienced this once, but have to say I’ll never go back. Not only because I came down with the worst case of sun poisoning in the history of mankind, complete with turning a dark purple and vomiting for 48 hours, but also because, more than anything, I got the feeling that here was a crowd of people that were longing for those days, wishing they could have back what so many feel that the south lost when they lost the civil war. Instead of witnessing a battle and thinking, “Never again”, they were thinking, “Yeah Buddy! The South will RISE AGAIN!!!!” And that sort of made me sick. You’re supposed to learn about history so as not to repeat it, not revel in its darkness and long for it to return.

So would I recommend that you go to the Battle of Olustee? Yes, with caution and a rather large companion. But that’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures I took while I was getting sun poisoned.

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