Reading the Map

Slipping inside my car, I was overcome with a delicious sense of relief mixed with gratitude. The Christian Writers Seminar in Castro Valley, where I’d had the privilege of serving as faculty, had concluded. Wonderful students, great teaching team. Now it was time to put all that inspiration in my pocketbook and go home.

For some reason, I’d entered town using an unfamiliar off-ramp. But it was an easy entry, so I went back to that end of town to exit. I spent the next hour trying to get out of Castro Valley.

Now I don’t profess to have a good sense of direction. Usually I take the long way wherever I travel. The positive is – I don’t mind. I just enjoy the scenery. And I don’t get lost.

Until Saturday night. With careful but quick consideration, I chose an exit. It took me north to San Leandro. I wanted to go to south toward Menlo Park. “Home” to my daughter’s house.

Taking the first opportunity to get off the freeway as I sped toward Oakland, I managed to work my way back to Castro Valley. There had to be a proper exit near my original entrance. Didn’t there?

I chose a more promising ramp next time around and before I knew it, noticed myself zipping along toward San Leandro again. At least I knew the way back to Castro Valley.

I hate to use the cliché that it was a dark and stormy night, but it was stormy and getting darker with every mile. Panic seemed to invade my formerly serene psyche with every whack of the windshield-wipers.

Desperate to get out of town before I ran out of gas or daylight, I headed back to the Castro Valley Inn where I stayed the night before. And to the only person I could think of to help me find my way. Les, the Inn’s manager and go-to-guy.

“What are you doing back here?” Les joked. He became immediately empathetic when I told him I couldn’t seem to get back on the freeway. That I’d spent an unscheduled hour getting to know the literal ins-and-outs of Castro Valley. And couldn’t get out. I wanted to go home.

Les set me straight in less than two minutes. Soon I turned onto the correct exit, one that I had previously passed by while driving, full of directional doubt.

Heading home at last, I thought about the doubts we wrestle with as writers. How we often aren’t sure where to go next in our writer journeys. And how, just like with go-to-guy, Les, one can get direction in a matter of minutes from someone who knows the map.

I hope I was able to be the go-to-gal for at least one someone at the seminar. So many have filled that role for me.

And I am most grateful.


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16 responses to “Reading the Map

  1. Colleen

    You have been my go-to-gal since I met you! Your inspiration has been invauluable to me and I am so grateful for our friendship. This blog alone has inspired me to write-on. I thank God for you and your creative craft of words, you are a beautiful writer and friend. Sorry I couldn’t make the seminar, hopefully next time.

  2. Cathy,
    I love the joy you share even in the midst of being lost. You are a go-to friend….thanks for sharing what you know about the “map of writing”! Glad the conference was inspirational and glad you are home safe!

  3. Cathy, as you know I was leaving the same writer’s conference. I was your twin! I too got lost, but not totally. I just ended up taking 580 and 680 back to San Jose and then home to Gilroy. The right way would have been 580 and 880. I tried to tell my husband, that my “new” way was much more scenic and peaceful than the other way (true, 880 is a miserable freeway). But he wasn’t buying it.
    I was relieved that I was finishing the “dark and stormy” night, and returned home relieved. Like you, I prayed, and thought about all the detours in life and as a writer, and trusting that God has a reason for each detour. One of my favorite sayings is, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

    • Cathy Elliott

      Oh, how funny, Janneke. Obviously, you can relate. 🙂 Glad you made it home with no other mishaps. I so like your saying! Thanks, lady.

  4. Hannah

    Hi Cathy!!
    You’ve definitely been a “go-to-gal” for me on numerous occasions. 🙂 You’re always so encouraging and excited about what I’m doing. So thanks!
    Sorry you had such a rough time getting out of Castro Valley!! I’m horrible with directions myself, so I can totally relate. 🙂 Wish I could have gone…maybe next time!

  5. Sylvia Thurman

    Cathy, So many of us at the conference could have written your “On a dark and dreary night” story; but you DID!! I kept telling my car-mates that we were on an “adventure” and not lost at all !! Have you ever ended up out in the boonies while using a GPS to help you find your favorite steak house??? Oh, yes, and the GPS voice ended by telling us we were “off road!!” as far as the device was concerned which I took to mean we were on a non-satellite road. Who knows!? Oh, yes, God knows!! He surely knows and He has such a great sense of humor at times!! The Writers Conference was great; and taking your class was enlightening — Write to an Audience of One!! Sometimes it takes just a few words like those to bring us back to what our true purpose is — the Audience of One !!

    • Cathy Elliott

      Thanks, Sylvia, for sharing YOUR story with me. I’d say you and I have a similar case of DCS – Directionally Challenged Syndrome. He-he.

      Wasn’t that a wonderful conference? I’ve gotten something special there every time I’ve gone. I’m so glad you did, as well. And thanks, lady, for coming to my class. I consider it a kindness from the Lord. 🙂

  6. Laurie Woolery

    Oh, Cathy; dear, dear Cathy – I can so sympathize with you. I think there is a vortex akin to the Bermuda Triangle that exists around Castro Valley. I went to Asilomar once (had a friend with me, but I was driving) for a conference. On the way home, I missed the turn off for 80 East. It was a dark and foggy night. Almost ended up in Castro Valley, but we ended up winding our way east via 580. Like you, not lost. We just ended up taking the scenic way home!

    • Cathy Elliott

      How funny, Laurie! I didn’t realize the Castro Valley vortex existed, though I do now, having just experienced the fall out. I feel better. Thanks.

  7. Kimberly Shaw

    That road system sounds like it needs some adjustments after reading the other replies along with yours… I do not like getting lost in strange cities especially on cold, stormy nights, but you overcame!
    Sounds like the conference went well. I bet your class was fun and helpful -just like you. See you soon, friend.

    • Cathy Elliott

      Kim, I think it was me and not the road, even with the comments. 🙂 But all ended well. Thanks for the kind words, dearie.

  8. That was a great analogy! Getting lost is so frustrating! (and I’m there with my NaNo novel as we speak!) 😉

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