The Right Direction

Beyond that door lay the only one who could help her, but she no longer had the strength to call out.

Her savior, unknown, unseen, could be anyone – any gender, any age. S/he would have the answer to her question, and it would be the right one. Sure, certain, unflinchingly right, no doubt about it. S/he would know right from the heart how to answer any question of hers.

The only problem is that she didn’t even know the question. How could she, in a place and time that yelled all the answers 24/7 via TV, computer, video chat – all the screens. Their eyes took it all in, flooding the brain with ersatz knowledge, Tinseltown hopes, particleboard homes. Nothing was real, not here, not now.

It was as if the whole world had gone crazy, had started with the joy juice and never quit. Maybe they were crazy – or maybe they were addicted. Maybe there was hope if only they quit – but quit what? Their drug of choice was distraction, in the form of anything visual, anything flickering on their screens. Stillness was rejected. Flat was out. The dancing shadows that played before their eyes hypnotized and bewildered and beguiled. They were told that new ways were better, that they needed to give up their old ways. Flip phones were passé. Only losers and old people used those.

Now, only those who were computer illiterate were safe from the octopus tendril fog that wormed its way into their brains via their eyes.

She wasn’t computer illiterate by any stretch, but her poor eyesight had saved her. She too had been sucked in, like all the rest of her generation. The strain to her eyes had let her know that she needed to make a change. Somehow the hours she lost watching auto play videos wasn’t the turning point. It felt like being stoned, so it was familiar. It was only later, when she’d made an intention, an escape plan, that she had the perspective to see what had happened to her. It was then that she truly woke up.

She tried to call out to the one behind the door, that door, the only door that mattered now. She had learned of it from a book, that ancient technology shunned by her peers. She had returned to the library, searching for meaning or entertainment after her self-imposed detoxification from the news and views, the mindless visual chatter, the one-way train wreck that was the computer screen.

There was no answer. She checked her book again, that book, the one in the thick red and gold cover. She sought out those books, the ones that had been rebound in simple yet understatedly beautiful bindings. These books had stood the test of time. They were so valuable that the library kept them for longer than they would normally last by putting them through the Perma-Bound process. It saved books that would be too expensive to replace with a new copy. Those were the kinds of books you needed now – the ones that were out of print, written before the possession of people’s minds by the screens.

Deep in her heart she knew there would be others who would awaken. Would it be enough? Would there finally come a time when people would properly name this time of mental and vital darkness, the dull lethargy that took over? Those in the Dark Ages didn’t know that was what they were in until afterwards, when the Renaissance, the rebirth, happened. This would be similar, she knew.

Again she knocked and again there was no answer. Perhaps this was a test, to see if she was sincere. It wouldn’t do to have someone find the secret only to turn it against itself. But those who were asleep, who had been lost to the mind fog brought on by electronic infection wouldn’t be standing here before this door. Maybe this was a way to think of it – as a virus. Videos and memes went “viral” after all. So maybe it was truer than they knew. She didn’t have time to think about that now. There were so many other ideas jockeying for position.

She considered whether she should sit by the door in the meantime and think, or go for a walk. If she sat by the door it might be opened, rewarding her for her patience. That quality was in short supply these days, and being able to sit still without an electronic babysitter was a sign you had shaken off the shackles.

But she’d always thought better when she was walking. “Solvitur ambulando” was the motto of a book she’d read when she first began to wake up, to realize her enslavement. “It is solved by walking”. But what is it? How could you know you found the answer when you don’t even know the question?

And that was why she was there. She needed to know what to do next. Her life was a blank slate now – no map, no direction. All roads seemed clear. So which one to take? As she walked, she understood that was the answer. There were no hints as to which way to go because all were valid as long as her heart was set in the right direction.



(Written early June, 2018)

The “Before I die…” wall

I’d heard about this interactive art exhibit for years.  They pop up and are there for a brief time.

And then I came across one in Chattanooga, tucked away in a corner.  I almost missed it.  It was dark, I was tired.  I told my husband that we should come back tomorrow in the daylight.  He talked me into turning the car around and going to see this right then.

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It isn’t exactly on the main path.  Here is the view of the area from Google street view from above.  The wall is approximately in the middle. It is to the left of the bridge.  This is near Coolidge Park, but not part of it.  It is at the blue square, which is a roof for some machinery.

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Here is a view from street images from February 2017, showing the wall in the daylight before the exhibit.  This is a short walk from Sushi Nabe – a very good Japanese restaurant in Chattanooga that is also off the beaten path and worth finding.

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This exhibit was unveiled July 21st, 2017, and is sponsored by Hospice of Chattanooga.  Tracy Wood, CEO of Hospice, said that the goal was to create an opportunity for Chattanoogans to think about life and live every day as if it were their last.

According to the Before I Die website “Over 2,000 walls have been created in over 70 countries and over 35 languages…..The original wall was created on an abandoned house in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang after the death of someone she loved.

Here is the banner attached to the exhibit to explain it.

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Here are some of the photos I took of it.

 

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Several simply said “LIVE”

 

A few defined that as “Sky dive”

Several wanted to travel – namely to France, or Japan, or New Zealand.

Several wanted to marry  – some naming the person.  I wonder if they proposed at the wall?

Some were funny –

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And the last one that I saw was poignant –

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Saying simply “I want to live a clean a sober life” – and dated that day.  I paused, remembering my own struggle to get clean and sober.  I prayed for this anonymous stranger to have strength.  Sobriety is hard but it makes life much more meaningful.  A life spent messed up isn’t really experienced at all.

What would you write on the wall?

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The road less traveled

       The road less traveled isn’t about the road.  It is about you.  It is about the fact that you stopped and thought and decided for yourself where and when and how you are going to go to get there. Where is there?  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is how, and that is up to you.   

Your road might be the highway. That is fine. The way doesn’t have to be a back road or a dusty path.  You don’t have to go on foot, carrying everything you think you’ll need in a backpack. You don’t have to suffer.  This isn’t penance. But perhaps it is a pilgrimage.

The famous poem about the two roads is at the end of this post for your convenience. Read it slowly, line by line, as if you are reading it for the first time.  If you are like me, you’ve heard it so often you miss what it is really saying.

But this isn’t about the road – either one.  This is about you.

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Where are you going?  Why?  Which way will you get there? Why? Consider it.  Be awake, and mindful.  Choose.  The only wrong choice is to waffle so much that you don’t make a choice at all.  To fail to act for fear of failure is the only true failure.

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My husband and I have driven together to Chattanooga many times over the years.  Usually we take the interstate.  I-24 East is a pleasant enough drive.  There are nice views and the trip takes about 2 hours.  It is safe, and that is part of the appeal.  There are places we can stop along the way for a snack or a bathroom break or to stretch our legs. However, it is uneventful, and because of the nature of the road, it inspires mindlessness.  You can get from here to there without thinking at all.  That is a concern.

How much of our lives is like that? Too much.

There is a road that runs almost parallel to I-24.  It is the original road that linked the cities before the interstate was built.  It is US-41.  We’ve seen glimpses of it on our right as we are coming home, going over bridge at Nickajack Lake, just West of Chattanooga. One time we got off at the exit just before there and considered taking that way back.  We stopped at a gas station and got some snacks and a map.  We went to the bathroom.  For some reason it felt like we were about to go to the moon and we needed to prepare really hard for this trip. It was going to add at least an hour and a half to our trip – maybe more.  We weren’t sure.  We didn’t know if there were going to be places we could stop along the way to refresh or refuel.

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We drove a little way up the road and freaked out a little.  We got back onto the freeway as soon as we could.  Perhaps we were already tired from our trip and just needed to get home.

Just going on a road trip can be the entire purpose of the trip.  Sometimes it isn’t where you go, but how you go.  The journey itself is the destination.

Another time we drove down part of the way on US-41.  It was beautiful.  Lots of hidden scenes and sights that you simply cannot see when going 70 mph.

US-41 is Broad Street in Chattanooga. But then it turns Right and is East Main.

It is how US-11 is also Lee Highway.

You can live in a town and not even notice how the road you’ve lived on all your life is part of something so much bigger – that it stretches all across the country.  It takes a while to find the lines sometimes – they merge with named roads, take detours, appear to drop off and then re-appear.

It is a bit like doing genealogy, now that I think about it.  If you’ve ever tried to uncover your family past, you might understand this.

The writer Charles Kuralt talked about this.  That we gain time when we take the freeway, but we lose something else.  We lose our sense of discovery and wonder.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to go faster, but to go slower.  Perhaps 70mph is too much for humans.  We sacrifice part of who we are, part of our nature, when we go so fast that we can’t see what is going on around us.

Life goes too fast as is. We need to slow down to actually live.  Life isn’t about traveling quickly from birth to death, but noticing all the moments in between.

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This time, on our way down, I went to find the maps we’d bought, but couldn’t locate them.  Would the GPS signal work?  We’d discovered that problem in the wilds of the North Carolina mountains.  There are areas where you can get pretty lost, still, these days. Technology doesn’t always serve. We asked for directions at a tiny church in a town called Frank.  Something about going up the road for several miles, and turning left at the dentist’s office. All too often, people give directions by what used to be there.  If I was local, I’d know what used to be there – but if I was local, I wouldn’t be asking for directions.   We wore ourselves out looking for that office.  It was mentally exhausting.  I didn’t want a repeat of that experience.

We went anyway, and I’m glad we did.

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I’ve learned that the route began around 1926, and runs 2000 miles, North to South, across the US, stretching from Miami, Florida to just before Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Maybe one day we’ll take a road trip and do the whole thing.

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The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Pilgrimage, wander

“A pilgrimage is not a journey toward transformation…but a transforming journey.” – Jonathan Omer-Man

Solvitur ambulando /ˈsɒlvɪtər ˌæmbjʊˈlændoʊ/ is a Latin term which means: It is solved by walking.

Sometimes, the journey itself is the destination. It doesn’t matter where you go – just that you go. Get moving. Get going. Moving at all is healthy, for body, mind, and soul.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” – Bruce Lee

Wander kit

What’s in your Wander kit?
What supplies do you need on your adventure?

This is my basic kit – a “map case” bought at a Army supply store.  An assortment of pens.  A small blank journal found at a used book shop.  A bottle of water. An energy bar. A napkin.  A compass. Some reading material.

kit

This goes with me to doctor’s offices, when I go to get the oil changed in my car, when I have to take a class for work, and on every day off.  Simply assembling it gets me in the mood for a wander, knowing I’ll have the tools I need at hand.

Wander poem

Lost your Wander mojo?

Did the cold weather make it go?

Too much holiday, not enough time?

Too many expectations on your few dimes?

Stop what you’re doing and go outside

Stand in your yard – don’t go for a ride.

Look right now – what do you see?

A robin? A cardinal, a chickadee?

Perhaps you notice the trees have buds,

Perhaps you notice more grass than mud.

Its coming – its here!

Our spring has arrived!

So go walk around in your yard

and feel so alive!

Poem – to wander

To wander is to go forth,
eyes and heart open
into the unknown.
It doesn’t have to be in the wilderness.
It can be in the library.
It can be anywhere you have not explored.
To wander is to find yourself
in the middle of nowhere,
not lost
but awake and aware and curious.
To wander is to take the time
to appreciate the journey
instead of just the destination.
To wander is to venture forth
in body or mind
or both
with no goal other than to truly see
what you find
while out there.
There is danger in this
for you might get lost.
There is salvation in this
for you might find yourself.