Yesterday, I looked up at the ceiling and there, on the ceiling, was the most enchanting movement and design. It was like a spinning fan. How was it created? I looked around the living room, and saw nothing that could cause it. Then, I realized it was the movement of the water in a beautiful bowl I keep outside on a table on the deck, a bowl, partially filled with special rocks, and a metal dragonfly, and, of course, now, filled with the sparkle and movement of rain water, played with by the sun. If the bowl outside, with the aid of the sun, can create art on my ceiling, then, well, no wonder I feel so strongly what you do for me. I feel the movement of your reflection inside.
I am reading Rebecca Solnit's book "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." It had mixed reviews, but I sprang for it anyway. I am intrigued with the concept. She begins with this quote by Meno, a pre-Socratic philosopher. "How will go you about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?" Ah, now, that is quite the question. So, how do we create our lives to find what we don't even know we are looking for? How do we leave ourselves in openness? How do we get lost in the city as well as the forest, not knowing and, yet, knowing where we are? What is left to explore? How do we open the doors to where we are?
She quotes from Virginia Woolf's book, "To the Lighthouse." The words are about "a mother and wife alone at the end of the day."
"For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of - to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless .. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless."
Solnit goes on to describe a tribe, the Wintu, in north-central California. They use the cardinal directions to describe their own bodies, rather than left and right. Here is "a cultural imagination in which the self only exists in reference to the rest of the world, no you without mountains, without sun, without sky." The last fluent speaker of northern Wintu died in 2003, but there are those hoping to revive a language located in the environment rather than the self.
Today, it might be fun to carry the directions with us. Right now, my right arm is my south arm, and my left arm is my north arm. I face east, and my back is to the west. If I change to my permanent computer, my right arm will be my west arm, and my left arm, my east. Will thinking this way ease our way of knowing where we are? Or will we rely on Mapquest and GPS, and what will we miss in the meantime? In this moment, I am delighted to be facing east, even though the rising sun is hiding in the rain.