Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 1, 2011

Predominantly right-brained

Yesterday my heart was in my throat. Tricia and I were out in the boondocks monitoring nests and she asked me how I would find my way back to the truck without a GPS. I waved in a general southerly direction and said, “It feels as if it is that-a-way, but I don’t recall how we came or over what terrain we traversed.” With a sinking feeling, I realized that “that-a-way” is utterly inadequate. My very poor memory did not register many landmarks on our way in, so trying to remember them in reverse to get out was not going to work too well.

Welcome to my brain.

Tricia wisely had me take the lead and try to work my way the mile and a half (as the raven flies) back to our truck. There are all manner of washes, ridges, seams, ravines, etc., so nothing in the desert is ever in a straight line… like a GPS shows. One also cannot walk in a straight line because of the fragile biological soil crust which must be avoided.

Let’s say that it took a collaborative effort to get us back to the truck, even though I was in front. You may ask anyone who has ever driven or hiked with me: I need explicit directions, always, to anywhere. Navigation is NOT my forte’. Navigation skills happen in the left brain, and I live in my right brain. For a fleeting moment in the backcountry, I asked myself whether my boss had hired the right person for this job; I was THAT stressed out about my lack of skills.

Perhaps this is what it feels like to have a learning disability — “Everybody else can do it, so why can’t I?!?” Has that ever been your experience, in any area?


  1. Yes – in two areas . . .
    I had always had a terrible time with math – at least until I hit geometry and trig. These I understood almost without trying, but it wasn’t until many years later that I came to realize that my head is wired for pictures and not for numbers. If I can form an image of an equation or a situation, I’ve got it and can manipulate it. If not, I’m in deep doo-doo.
    The second area was in knowing what you were going to be when you grew up. I never had the slightest certainty about a dozen alternatives, but all my friends seemed to know – some as early as grade school. I finally chose a profession, but purely for pragmatic reasons and now, after 15 years of retirement I am still no closer to knowing this seemingly important piece of information.
    C’est la Vie. ;-?

    Comment by leroque — April 1, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

    • I pragmatically majored in nursing but, as you know, am pursing my REAL passion in mid-life. Thanks for modeling freedom, Dad…

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2011 @ 7:47 am | Reply

  2. Kathryn, you are a woman with so many incredible gifts…too many to even try to enumerate. So, if you should have one or two weaker areas…well, you are so smart that I know you can train your brain to navigate better.

    Comment by kathy lewis — April 1, 2011 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

    • Only a dear girlfriend would say things like that. Thanks, K. I’m working hard on this!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2011 @ 7:44 am | Reply

  3. Kathryn, with a little bit of hearing loss myself I find it difficult to obtain certain jobs and actually keep them. Soft voices I have a very hard time with. Deep voices no problem. Still working on trying to over come that area. I can do it and will eventually.

    Comment by Chris — April 1, 2011 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

    • Me? I’d try to look for a job that didn’t require phone work or maybe even voices! How about library work?

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2011 @ 7:45 am | Reply

      • Actually my very first job ever, outiside of baby sittine was working for the library in West. St. Paul. On the corner of Emerson and Robert. It was part time and I did enjoy it a lot.

        Will have to check into that. Thanks for the idea.

        Comment by Chris — April 2, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  4. Kathryn,

    Clearly you have huge faults! I doubt you will ever be able to overcome them. Quit now while you still can! GET OUT! the wilderness is not a safe plae for you…..

    Having said that, here is some advice. GPS devices have a mapping app. You don’t need to return in a straight line. you can follow your route backwards almost to the footstep. My GPS can be scrolled to the point that the screen represents about 20 feet. If you can’t maste, or don’t trust a GPS, buy one of those emergengy beacon locator devises. if you become really super lost and you think you are a gonner, or if a boulder pins you by the arm, press the little button and you will have the whole United States rescue system by your side in minutes 🙂

    Comment by john — April 2, 2011 @ 7:27 am | Reply

    • 1. My GPS from the park is old and doesn’t have that cool exact-route device, but I’m managing. 2. I am required to carry a Personal Locator Beacon at all times in the backcountry. The U.S. military is my back-up. I never want to use it, ever.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2011 @ 7:43 am | Reply

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