1. A very steep, perpendicular, or overhanging place; a cliff. 2. The brink of a dangerous situation.
I have a tale to tell. It's a story about fear and risk and instinct and trust and friendship. It's about facing the metaphor that seems to be currently defining my life and turning it into something physical that I can look at, touch...conquer. Kimm and Jen decided to take me on a journey yesterday, and I'm pretty sure they planned it as an intense therapy session for my soul. Which I desperately needed. And which they instinctively knew.
I can start by saying this: the journey began at the foot of the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park. (click here for a nice column about the trail.) And with me staring straight up at a thousand feet worth of rocky terrain and hanging cliffs, wondering how the hell I would overcome my fear of heights to take even the first step. As for the rest of the tale, it's going to take me days to process everything that happened. I need to wait for the right words to take shape in my head and when they do, they are certain to find their way to The Slant. Along with photos. And a video or two.
Since I don't have the words at this moment, I'm going to lean on Marge Piercy, like I often do, to get this tale rolling. There were many, many moments yesterday during that long climb when a single line of hers kept running through my head...navigating by chart and chance and passion I will know the shape of the mountains of freedom, I will know.
The first thing I did upon arriving home late last night was to find that poem.
The Perpetual Migration
How do we know where we are going?
How do we know where we are headed
till we in fact or hope or hunch
arrive? You can criticize,
the comfortable say, you don't know
what you want. Ah, but we do.
We have swung in the green verandas
of the jungle trees. We have squatted
on cloud-grey granite hillsides where
every leaf drips. We have crossed
badlands where the sun is sharp as flint.
We have paddled into the tall dark sea
in canoes. We always knew.
Peace, plenty, the gentle wallow
of intimacy, a bit of Saturday night
and not too much Monday morning,
a chance to choose, a chance to grow,
the power to say no and yes, pretties
and dignity, an occasional jolt of truth.
The human brain, wrinkled slug, knows
like a computer, like a violinist, like
a bloodhound, like a frog. We remember
backwards a little and sometimes forwards,
but mostly we think in the ebbing circles
a rock makes on the water.
The salmon hurtling upstream seeks
the taste of the waters of its birth
but the seabird on its four-thousand-mile
trek follows charts mapped on its genes.
The brightness, the angle, the sighting
of the stars shines in the brain luring
till the inner constellation matches the outer.
The stark black rocks, the island beaches
of waveworn pebbles where it will winter
look right to it. Months after it set
forth it says, home at last, and settles.
Even the pigeon beating its short whistling
wings knows the magnetic tug of arrival.
In my spine a tidal clock tilts and drips
and the moon pulls blood from my womb.
Driven as a migrating falcon, I can be blown
off course yet if I turn back it feels
wrong. Navigating by chart and chance
and passion I will know the shape
of the mountains of freedom, I will know.