Ramifications of travel

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Creeper-festooned oak, White River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas

Coming home after ten days away that culminated in two sleepless nights on the return bus, one finds that things are not quite as one had left them. Were the woods really so bare and the field so drab when I left? Well, probably not. But chances are that my house had been just as small and lonesome as it now appears. I sure don’t remember my writing table being so cluttered, though. And where the hell did all this dust come from?

Only ten days, and I find myself groping to recover familiar habits, wondering at myself for doing things in such odd ways. On the morning of my second full day home, I can’t find my daypack, which I had just used the day before, and I rush all over the farm looking for it. When at last I find it, I’m completely baffled at my idiocy. It’s in the chair beside the door, right where I always leave it… I think.

One thing’s clear: it will take me a little time to get back into the writing groove. I am trying to resurrect an idea I had down in Mississippi, just before surrendering to wakefulness on the morning of the day I left. The phrase “decision tree” came to me, accompanied by a literal image of a tree branching downward, into the earth. With each arbitrary life choice, it seemed to me, the clarity of the open sky recedes and one becomes more and more enmeshed in particulars. Then a little later, when I sat outside drinking my coffee, I was struck by the way the large oak tree across the street appeared to be trapped in a maze of electric and telephone lines. Isn’t growing right-side up, after all, a far more hazardous and adventuresome route?

The fabled decision tree
dangles head-down,
rootless on the blackboard
in my dream. Each new
pair of twigs reaches
like a tuning fork
into silence.

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Old-growth bald cypress, Bayou DeView, Arkansas (photo by Mark Bonta)

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