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Lost in the Woods

It’s true that when I write I often misrepresent myself with confident declarative statements that appear to stand firmly on a bedrock of surety. But to know me, in a world among things and events as they happen, is to know a mostly quiet man who, when he does speak, usually stutters something about not knowing or the impossibility of knowing anything, which itself sounds much too excessively certain so I return to keeping my mouth shut to revel in the stunned awe of wondering shit.

Like, we’re supposedly these people, right? And we do things and there’s a sun and you lost me. I have always both envied and felt compassion for people who know what the hell they’re doing. When my alarm goes off, I’m amazed by how I just appeared in a bed and I have hands. And then people want to talk about gun control or sports and I just want to show them what happens when I close my eyes. Everything disappears.

I will sometimes say I love a woman named Gwen but I don’t know for sure what that means. I think that perhaps loving her might merely be a stand in for taking great pleasure in wondering and wandering with her. Gwen is a really good wonderer with great hands. A couple days ago we took a walk in the woods to look for a waterfall and got lost and it occurred to me, right then, that I loved her more than I did before. I had no idea why this should be so, but nonetheless I couldn’t deny that the experience I call being in love with Gwen—it grew. I was so purely glad to be with her and this gladness presented itself as a tender increase of fondness.

I am tempted now to describe her as we wandered through the woods but I’m wary of locating the experience solely in her appearance. She, as she appeared, was indeed the object of my affection but my affection itself was an event, an event in which she—being more of an event herself than an object—was entangled, and not just then, but it did however happen to be then when it culminated. She wore these cool as hell burgundy athletic shoes. See? I am not here trying to tell you that Gwen’s shoes made me swoon. But they were super cool and her black yoga pants flared at the ankle where they were bedazzled with gold swirls that really worked with those burgundy shoes.

And her tank top was not as much about her tank top as it was about the revelation of her freckled shoulders, which dip into blades that you can only see for a moment before you think about things like wings and flight and morning light. Gwen is lithe. She makes me want to say things like ballerina and porcelain figurine and wispy. Do you see now how she’s not just an object but a rich field of relational meaning?

We saw a snake. She asked if I wanted her to pick it up and I said, no, that I did not want her to pick it up. And, as I followed her through the woods, I thought about her childhood in the Borneo jungle and wondered if maybe my sense of falling more deeply in love with her was somehow related to being with her in this setting, if I was perhaps now having a more sincere experience of her, for was she not more clearly herself while wandering along meandering trails in the company of pythons (or harmless foot long snakes)? I smiled at the disparity of our childhoods, 9100 miles apart. How unlikely for us to meet. Impossible. And yet there we were, lost in the woods, as I puzzled through what I was feeling.

Is it possible that what we call loving is finding the right person with whom to be lost?