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