A Field Guide to Getting Lost

sue labyrinth s

After “The Owl” by Arthur Sze

I believed I was lost.
Night was on its way–
the path was purple in the dusk
and seemed to have ended.
I had arrived here
without a destination.
I longed for sanctuary,
a resting place.

I saw an owl, perched,
watching me.
I spread my arms,
willing wings to appear
so I too could shelter
on a branch.

But I remained earthbound,
weary and alone.
And when the owl stirred,
a fine dust formed patterns
in the disappearing light.
It was as if a portal had opened.

fell from its wings.  I was
surrounded by the cosmos,
spiraled into a glowing darkness
and deposited in a held breath.
All was silent then.  And I felt
safe, like the arms of the universe
held me in a vast sacred space.

Nothing stirred forever–then I sensed
the owl quaver.  And at dawn, waking,
I saw with clarity the world
becoming new, transforming
into a landscape that never existed
before now.  The path was green
and meandered back into itself.

I could not see where
I was going but it felt
familiar, like I had circled
with the seasons, following
the path of the planets dancing
with the sun and moon.

We emerged
into the
May light.

I’m bringing together a lot of different trains of thought here, so bear with me.

in the middle of now june 2016 grid s

The Kick-About challenge #6 is Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.  Though I have not read that particular Solnit book,  I have read at least one essay she has written about labyrinths (“Journey to the Center” from The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness), and that’s the first thing that came to mind.

A labyrinth is not a maze–there is only one path in and one path out.  Labyrinths have been found in cultures all over the world, and are often used as forms of ritual or pilgrimage–a way to return to the source, to lose yourself in something larger and as a result find yourself again.

Sue Vincent’s photo prompt, above, gave me that feeling too–could not those paths be circuits on a labyrinth, doubling back to the beginning of the journey?

mapping the wind s

Labyrinths have been linked to circles, spirals, and mandalas–all patterns of sacred geometry.  They have been compared to a map of the brain.

Solnit:  “Getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are.”

map labyrinth s

When you walk a labyrinth you are walking the same path to and from the center, yet the journey in and out are not at all the same.  The seven circuit labyrinth is often layered with rainbows, mirroring the 7 chakras, the 7 notes of the musical scale, the 7 sacred planets, the 7 days of the week. The journey creates a bridge from earth to the cosmos and back again. In a symbolic death, you return to the womb, shedding the things you have acquired but no longer need.  Rebirthing back to the entrance/exit you open yourself to finding new patterns, new ways of being in the world.

chakra painted labyrinth s

Lost can mean adrift, forgotten, missing, but also captivated or consumed.  Lost can be hopeless or bewildered but it can also be rapt, immersed.

Solnit: “…to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

owl moon s

This poem is another instance where I spread out the lines of someone else’s poem and filled in the empty spaces with my own thoughts.  You can read Arthur Sze’s original poem here.

Who drinks your tears, who has your wings, who hears your story?
Rebecca Solnit, “The Faraway Nearby”

go make people s

28 thoughts on “A Field Guide to Getting Lost

  1. Absolutely fabulous – I can’t decide which one is my favorite!
    “the path was purple in the dust and seemed to have ended” – and yet…
    It is certainly no accident that labyrinths are found across ages and cultures…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness, I can hardly believe what I am reading. My feature on Monday talks about owls. I had an encounter that felt VERY MUCH like a portal had opened. In fact, I was inspired to write the poem by Nikki Scully’s quote “the owl is the doorway into the unknown.” Do come on Monday, this is amazing synchronicity. All these owls must be visiting us for a reason……….your poem is beautiful, and my heart lifted when you wrote about the world transforming and the green path. Just what we need to hear and envision and dream and try to achieve right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the paradoxical title, Kerfe, and the source of inspiration! There is so much to love and to think about in this poem, I’ll be reading it several times. On the surface, it’s a story of being lost in the dark and a magical encounter with an owl. Diving into it, it is so much more. I particularly enjoyed the use of colour in the line: ‘the path was purple in the dust’, and:
    ‘surrounded by the cosmos,
    spiraled into a glowing darkness
    and deposited in a held breath.’
    Thank you for the notes about labyrinths and the wonderful artwork.


    1. Thanks Kim. The title came directly from Rebecca Solnit, who I highly recommend if you haven’t yet read her. The purple came from Arthur Sze. And the owl. But everything else seemed to come out of the labyrinth. (K)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this – your poem and how you arrived at it. I walk a labarynth at a retreat center near me. It is always a peaceful meditation. I like the mysticism in your lovely poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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