Underground, along Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, the guide asks us which way is the castle. I haven’t a clue.

They say we actually have a sense of direction, like birds, if we are in tune with the earth’s magnetic pulls.

I am out of tune.

I lived in a house with a winding stairwell for years before I realized that the top floor had been “twisted” another 90 degrees in my head.

I sometimes wonder if it is because I focus on details: I miss the forest for the trees, the face for the line of the upper lip,

the shape of a life for the single edge of trauma.


I’ve had 11 days away from home. I saw 6 theater productions. I read a novel, and a book of non-fiction. I ran a half-marathon in snow and gale winds. I froze shuffling along cobblestone streets, and I sweat in a sauna. I made love on down duvets. And my heart skipped a beat in the UK’s left-lane traffic. More than once.

I took a notebook with me. But did not write a word.



Last year I spent a few days in Brighton to attend to a course on dealing with trauma.

One of the exercises for calming oneself in unfamiliar surroundings was to focus on the details of one’s surroundings.

A dirty windowpane. An uneven plank of flooring. A painfully thin woman’s hip bone jutting against black fabric.

I took a photo of a robin that morning. I listened to him sing.

I took a notebook with me to Brighton.

But did not write a word.


A notebook is not a compass.


The truth is that I know nothing really of magnetism or of gravity–only that gravity is the stronger of the two. The earth pulls on us.

And we
pull on the earth.

Perhaps the sense of direction I need may well be more of a sense of my own pull.


2 Replies to “Direction”

  1. I love the idea of us pulling on the earth (and it’s true that we do). Thank you, Ren, for your sharing so much here, and again.