From the Ether
On Getting Lost
I am otherwordly bad with navigation. I get lost even when I’m with other people. Just last week, I met a friend for a walk in Volunteer Park—it’s a large park and I’ve been there only a couple times before so it’s not as though I should have known my way around, but it was uncanny how even as I walked alongside her, she steering and guiding me around can’t-miss landmarks like the Asian Art Museum or the reservoir, I found myself not recognizing where we were or how we got there. It didn’t help that the brilliantly sunny day had brought crowds of people out like an ant infestation. Everywhere we went, there was something different going on: ultimate frisbee, a sword and shield battle in full medieval costume, a drill team swinging and shouldering wooden rifles painted white, a flash-mob rehearsal to a Lady Gaga power theme, a circle of guitarists lazily twanging, kids scrambling toward an ice cream truck whose music-box tune shambled out of the speakers in a charmingly derelict and broken way—for a moment, I wasn’t even sure what time I was in, much less what place; for a moment, it was Tokyo a few years ago.
Some summers back, I visited a friend who was teaching in Japan, and I also had gotten lost then in a park. What I’d intended as a 30-minute jog to and back from a recreational area near the house where we were staying ended up becoming a haphazard hour-and-a-half tour of the park, the adjacent cemetery, a river, a soccer field, a few arterial overpasses into bordering neighborhoods, and a strange plot of about 75 newly planted young pine trees behind a commuter train station. Though I was alone and couldn’t speak any Japanese, I somehow got pointed back in a generally correct direction and found my way home.
You’d think that as a person who gets lost frequently, I would be comfortable with it, that I’d have grown used to that feeling of not knowing where the hell I am. But I’m not, I haven’t. No matter how many times I get lost, or even if I get lost in the middle of being there next to you, there’s always that tangle of fear, adventure, terror, surprise, distraction, confusion, wonder, panic, questioning, and home. That is, there is alarm and anxiety, but there is also revelation, also the unexpected field of pines in the heat and that startling moment when you realize you are somehow back on the street where your friend is housesitting for that Japanese professor, or on the corner where you parked your car.
I hope you’ll get lost in this issue in that same shimmery way. I hope a poem strums at you; I hope a series of lines flash-mobs you, makes you gaga; I hope you stumble on a surprisingly familiar face, a guide—perhaps our featured poet Carolyne Wright’s strange and willful Eulene can show you a way; I hope a stanza leans out of its window and offers you something sweet and cool to lick; I hope a mysterious image from our featured artist Aida Schneider makes you think of a lost summer, or an image in a poem makes you panic, makes you think of cemeteries and highways and not making it back; and I hope the errant frisbee of a phrase, some strange but familiar word, helps you make it back.
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