A child of forest-bound generations,
my mind cannot grasp the infinite savannah
with so many,
The kaleidoscope of futures spread before me
dazzle and confuse with their glitter.
A tossing of trees on gusts of hot wind
and days spent striving
to make arid fields verdant.
Eyes close and tender
as I inhale
my soulmate’s soulbreath.
These and a thousand other fragments of imagination
flicker tantalisingly in a crystal ball fogged by endless clouds.
Predictive arcana are uselessly arcane.
The fresh-cut smells of fields beyond countless fences
Endlessly beckon me to sniff, and roll,
And take sampling sips
of each unique greenness,
abandon the nourishment of stability
a conoisseur of variation.
Sometimes it seems the only choice I do not have
is to have less choices. My forest soul
yearns for the security of close horizons
familiar paths and landmark trunks.
Yet I have seen
the savannah stage perfectly set for migration
felt the seduction of beckoning distance
thirsted for the lushness of mirages
And so I cannot go back to simple days.
Could not bear to have my life and its choices
tethered among the options of a small village
like a blinkered horse.
So I go walkabout,
confused but hopeful,
on the infinite plains of
what lies before me.
This poem started as a writing practice from redravine and readwritepoem, two of my favourite sites – the challenge to spend ten minutes doing uncensored free writing on the topic of “What’s in front of me.” For those who are interested to follow this journey, here is the writing practice:
What’s in front of me – 10 minute WP
Kaleidoscope of options – so many things I could be doing. Right now a computer screen, an office, a scattering of papers and pens. A humming printer. A calendar marking out the deadlines that will shape my working life over the next few months.
But beyond that? I hope sometime to be on a stage again, in front of an audience, pouring out my dramatic soul. My voce finally working for me in a way I am happy with. And a lover so close in front of me that our eyes can do nothing but merge in that intimate stare that is so precious. Different countries, too, perhaps – bright skies, palm trees waving, the hot air of the tropical day. New cities, new people, new places. Lots of beautiful things in store.
There is a blankness too, a feeling of bewilderment at the choices spread out in front of me. No map. No ariadne thread through the labyrinth. It would be nice to be able to predict where I will be, what I will be doing – and most importantly how it will feel. But prediction’s eyes are blind.
Strange to think that for hundreds of years people didn’t have these dizzying choices. My mind is still the mind of someone whose choices were circumscribed, who did not leave their home village, married someone they grew up with, did their parent’s trade. Now the billions of the internet stretch out before me. People all over the world have read my words, seen my face, heard my voice… of all these billions of people how do I chose my friends. It was simpler when people lived in small communities where you knew everyone, and had to find some way to get along. Now the choices are dizzying, bewildering – they hurt and confuse the soul.
And having so many choices, we are hungry for perfection. It’s hard to settle down when there are so many other lawns that could be greener. Yet there is a limit to the number of fences we can jump over in our search – easy to become tired forever chasing a chimera.
And yet I know, in my deepest heart, that I will not settle for less than what I want. Perhaps my expectations are too high. But I think, rather, it’s that the costs look different. When you had to get married to survive as a woman, the cost of being picky might have been too high. But now there are so many other ways of surviving. I don’t need a relationship, so I have time to find the best one possible. I do need a job, but I can change what I am looking for, look for different options, find the solution that suits me best. And while I may not be able to make all my dreams come true, I can head towards them, and make them come true as far as possible. Even if not completely, then in part. And for that I am grateful for the choices in front of me, even if they are confusing, bewildering, sometimes dismaying.
The future before me is a step into the air, each time finding a foothold just as the foot comes down. A journey into possibility.
Once the time was up, I read it through again and felt that there were some images that would work well in a poem. And started writing:
I live in a world of dizzying choices
With a mind not used to navigating them
A mind built from generations whose choices
Were limited, local – simpler
Than the kaleidoscope of alternatives
That dazzle me now.
I see myself walking countless futures. Choosing friends and lovers from infinite…
Which was OK, but felt a bit pedestrian – I wanted to take it to a more metaphorical, poetic level. And then I remembered hearing accounts of tribes who had lived all their lives in forest, and when brought out of the forest were unable to process the distances involved because they were so unfamiliar with this perspective. Which seemed to fit the idea of bewilderment I was trying to convey. And so I went back to the beginning, and produced the poem with which I started this post.
Just to complete the exploration of the process, you may be interested to look at another poem I wrote a while ago, maze, which approaches a very similar theme with a much less positive tone.
Finally – the stunning photo that starts this post is by Horizon at flickr.