the jungle

25 May 2020

When I first start to write I find myself waving a machete inches from the edge of my nose. There is a thicket of jungle plants in between where I sit now and where I am going. My fingers are arched at the keys of my computer or wound tightly about my favorite pen, and each new stroke is a swipe of the machete through the plants and into some new space.

It is hot, all around.

Mysterious and unknown birds shriek and yodel and instruct me to run far away from here. Indeed, my own body agrees: I sweat profusely and wipe the back of my hand across my brow. I am covered in bite marks from the tiniest of insects, consistently distracting me from my journey through the forest. When I first start to write I am trapped in this thicket.

It is only when I put down the machete and begin wild-walking that I find the words begin to flow. If I can close my eyes, breathe deeply, and allow the bug bites and heat sweats to live in harmony with my body, the distractions vanish. I can step through the jungle as a jaguar might, one foot carefully following the other, hidden in the shadows of the plants that live here, in my mind.

Instead of cutting them down, these plants shape the path I take.

And once I come to this realization I find myself moving smoothly through the jungle, flowing from word to word and sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph until I have arrived somewhere I wholly did not expect: a clearing. Sunlight, at last, reaches my skin. My eyes, so accustomed to the dark, bask in the newfound glow of what the world looks like. My pupils shrink, and take in the subtle colors of the surroundings that were previously obscured by darkness. And yet when I turn to find the path that brought me here, it is completely invisible to me. I long abandoned the machete to get here, and the lack of its destructive sharpness is clear from the thick, undisturbed lushness of the plants encircling my clearing. The way is shut, the trace has vanished. If I asked myself to reproduce the neuron firings that manifested these latest words, I would know not where to begin.

Here and there from the clearing I hear the screams of howler monkeys and the zipping of katydids, each promising a new adventure of discovery, if only I could find the way.

And so inevitably I shall plunge into the jungle again, to seek more sounds, without knowing which of them I will stumble upon, or if my path through the understory will take me somewhere entirely unexpected.