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selva oscura
1.
when we forget the path
the path does not forget itself
but endures, in that moment
and in eternity
ready to be remembered.

i remember my path
and my path unfolds before me
and so i endure, on this path
and on every path.


so strange that this is the prayer i started my year with.

i have spent much of my life lost. physically. spiritually. emotionally. socially. medically. financially. lost to a career, lost to the education system. lost to my desires and necessities. lost to my true will. academia is lost on me. publication, too. give me a paper printed with directions of some variety, be they to the forest preserve or a recipe for vegan no-oil pumpkin bread and i will, with very rare exceptions, end up with something that does not even vaguely resemble the expected outcome. sometimes this is for the best, other times it is just as good: quite often it is agonizing, a shame-inspiring waste of always limited resources.

when i was young and more resilient, i made a game of it: set out for blackwell forest preserve. after an hour driving around somewhere in the direction of where i thought i'd navigationally secured blackwell to be that, turns out, was nowhere near even one of blackwell's most obscure tangents, i'd accept that i was probably not going to find any part of blackwell that day and keep an open mind toward what i discovered instead.

so: more than once i ended up in the middle of nowhere or an incredibly bad neighborhood with only a tollway i had no coins for pointing the most reasonable way - not back home, but in that general direction, i... hoped. i made some exciting discoveries. i traumatized myself unnecessarily. i found several relatively astonishing locales i could never, in a million years, find again, even if i really wanted to, even if my life depended on it. i violated quite a lot of traffic laws. still, my first year at the bookshop, getting lost in the general vicinity of a forest preserve i wanted to revisit became a favorite activity for my days off. it was a devotional act in an era when i struggled bitterly with acts of devotion. occasionally accepting a state of being lost, making an occasion out of being lost, this is a kind of offering, a form of kinetic prayer, an eldritch initiation. it's magic. it sure the fuck is uncomfortable like that.

"not all who wander are lost," the bumper sticker on my 1991 burgundy chevy corsica declared: or maybe that was the wagon? anyway, as a personal mission statement, tolkien's infinitely wise insight wasn't exactly a match for me: usually, when i wander, i am lost. and miles to go before i sleep, as it should be, for some of us, at least. there's something here i'm working to learn, and from the shape of it, it's going to take the rest of my life to get there, if i ever do.

one lesson from the chronically lost: if there is a path there, it has not ceased to exist, you are simply no longer connected to it. the path is still there, like it was before, as it is now, as it will be tomorrow. it is obstructed: by your knowledge or lack of knowledge about the region, by your inability to suss out left from due west, by that exit sign that only ever catches up with you three minutes after you've passed your last reasonable double-back. so: sometimes plans change. you do something else instead. go to the record store, if you can find it. see if that tea house is still in business, if you can figure out where it is. stop by a friend's, you might remember the way from here. visit your grandmother's grave, or the general idea of of a cemetery, at least. so: sometimes you cut your losses and turn back for home. if not home, the nearest approximation thereof. sometimes what energy you have left must go into a hard reset. humble up and start over. go back to the store and buy more flour. admit that maybe it's better to explore one substitution at a time instead of several dozen all in one shot. i have time, 2018's imbolc pledge, ambitioning to put down roots in study, in practice, in medicine and recovery. i have time to make the pumpkin bread more than once.

but do i have the gastrointestinal fortitude to consume such experiments? that's another question entirely.


2.


up late i build an altar to orpheus and his periphery, those edges that come up against my own. i'm working our connection, here, making it stronger: not strictly offering tributes of devotion as i am currently struggling - not bitterly, though perhaps with some bewilderment - with acts of devotion. i'm not sure what orpheus wants of me, so i make him altars late at night, hoping when i wander back into the work room some association i've made - one object next to another object, the direction this object faces, that which i forgot to place entirely - will provide an answer, placing me if not where i expected to be somewhere just as good.

the path remembers itself, you see.
 
 
music: dark muse - ophelia's refrain