Introduction to Pathways
I have been going to the woods behind my parents house since I was five years old. The woods are where I first learned to meditate, and to dance, and to sing in sewer drains. We used to set off rockets on the Fourth of July if the leaves were wet enough. I used to drink my parents’ liquor and wander around the trees and feel less alone.
About twenty-five years ago, my mid-sized mixed-income town on the edge of farmland changed ownership and began rebranding as a defense and tech hub. Population and property taxes rose accordingly, and after thirty years, my woods have changed. Upon my last visit I found myself mourning the foreclosure of unexpected detours, covert encampments, wild turkeys. Pathways are more clearly marked now, and this means the woods are more exposed. One could say the woods are Open for Business. In any case, they no longer feel like my woods—but I left first, didn’t I, not the other way around, which is a good indicator that perhaps I loved them only as much as one can love a possession from which one can be distracted.
Now, the woods are familiar but strange. Unknown people populate routes that did not used to exist, and I feel less safe (a form of self-dispossession). Who are these men who come here now? These women with their dogs? I don’t recognize these people, but they think they run these woods. These aren’t my people, but they are crawling all over my place.
During my tenure as Columnist in Residence with Open Space, I’ll be writing on Pathways and Dislocations. How do we make pathways in our places by wandering? Where do we find familiarity and the familial—no matter how unexpectedly or begrudgingly? When and how do we become dispossessed of those inroads and offramps we worked so hard to cultivate? How do we mark these transitions, and what tools do we employ to recover from these losses? I left the San Francisco Bay Area eight years ago, and yet it continues on without me: It re-makes itself and is continuously re-made. I want to understand better this desperate clinging feeling I have to root something in this place that increasingly does not exist here. This is about home and the unfamiliar.