Compasses are fascinating things, with much to teach for being an inanimate object. I’m speaking of course, of an analog piece,  little changed for centuries, not the app on your phone.

There can be a number of things that affect the proper reading of a real compass, causing one to lose direction. Unlike your phone, a dead battery isn’t one of them.

The Tru-Nord pin-on compass. Generally more reliable than I am.

Other things in your pocket may be interfering, pulling the needle from true. Take this as a sign that you may have too many things in your pockets, and that it might be time to simplify. Don’t let other things confuse your compass and cause you to lose direction. True direction is the highest priority.

It seems inevitable that cheap compasses develop bubbles over time. These too will affect the needle. Don’t trust your life, whether it be your ultimate safety or only your current direction, to cheap things. You’ll get exactly what you paid for.

Compasses are only useful when you can see them, and the less accessible they are, the less likely you are to use them. Keep your compass handy and refer to it often.

There is an old adage to the effect of, “if you keep checking your course regularly, it’s much harder to get lost than if you wait until you’re not sure where you are.”

Sage advice.


Wind wedges its way between the boards, slowly deconstructing at a pace that could only be observed via time lapse imagery. A place where the roof was repaired with scrap tin lifts up, levitates for a few moments, and slams down in the breeze like a bad combover.  Shards of glass and porcelain and square head nails and the remnants of a kettle litter the yard.

Was it a family that lived here? Did children grow up and fertilize their foundational memories in this eastern Idaho soil, sweating through hot, dry summers, shouldering the bitter winters with tough, rural stoicism? Did the children continue to think about the imprint of this place as they got on with their lives elsewhere?

Was it all harsh, toil and drudgery, or were there days when you could take in that view and feel the heart lift a bit from what was no doubt not an easy life?

Did they sometimes take an evening to stroll these fields in search of a few grouse for dinner, as I’m doing now? Did they venture into the high country not far from here in hopes of an elk to fill the winter larder?

These thoughts swirl around as my attention from the task at hand wanders and I explore the old house, testament to the existence of ghosts. But then I hear barking far in the distance, and a young GSP, who likely held a point as long as a revved-up two-year old pointer possibly can, is trying to leap in the air at three flushed sharpies, and he’s barking at me as much as he is at them, and rightly so.

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