Today I headed to the freeway using an old, tried and true way. As the entrance rose up where it had always been, I did not recognize the landscape. I was immediately disoriented, confused, and lost. Nothing appeared familiar leaving me with a strange feeling. My very tendrils were lurching about looking for a familiar landmark to wrap around. A recognition of the on-ramp now disconnected from my senses. The signs were posted and clearly marked but I am in a confusion along with other cars crawling about like lost beetles. The signs make as much sense to us as migrating birds trying to land in what was woods, now transformed into a wasteland. Defining white lines challenge us, corralling us into driving against our wisdom, trust is felled like trees. Yesterday a copse, now an expanded vista of concrete and grey chain link fencing. Yesterday a cardboard sign of blessing and now official signage of help to clarify our bewilderment. It is as if I can hear the screams of departed trees and bush in the chaotic fragments desperately looking to be reformed, to remember, to resume. 


    I notice how heightened my anxiety is and how tense my gripping of the steering wheel is. Feeling into how stiff and painful my neck is, as my head spins on its axis, attempting to make context out of a muddle of choices. Giant signs mark the organization of rational application ordering us into in its place, but for me and others, it creates confusion. I feel like I am being yelled at; old childish sensations of feeling stupid. 


    Painted lines replace the weeded middle. Fences and wide-open vistas replace the tree shelters and migrant tents. Where are my fellow friends with crumpled signs blessing me and asking for help? What of the trillion beings ousted out of their homes in the middle of the night, under bright lights and big noise. My stomach is overwhelmed in strangeness with the sheer helplessness of “progress” and change. And then one beetle comes to a full halt in the middle of signs, painted lines, arrows of direction and honking horns. 


    Within seconds a deeper chaos reigns. We are all lost together as we step into the bigger waves of feeling. Panic can be smelt. Fear of making a mistake is tasted as internal suicide. We enact the cries and patterns of great destruction. Can this happen to me? Right here in the heart of everything happening at once, I take a deep breath. The teachings of the Micronesian traditional canoist, Sesario Sewralur, rise up in the moment.   Indeed how do I connect to my innate navigation skills in a constant shifting ocean of cars and painted lines? I am at sea in a world happening that does not adhere to GPS. I am acknowledging that I have put my faith in an artificial technology outside of myself. Now here in the middle of everything, my external dependency is crash landing into my body who has forgotten where it is. Or has it?… 


    I breathe again, calming the panic and merge with the place center. Center of all that is happening and I lead my canoe out into the river. It is as if everything is in slow motion. The cars weave around me and then an opening arrives and I find myself caught up in a forward current. I am away into the river of the highway. I am sure of myself again. I know where I am. The world is right-side up and I am ready to pretend none of this ever happened. I am restored to order, my internal compass is once again coherent with my 21st century external version…GPS.


    Later in the day, in the quiet contemplation with the bird feeder in my garden, I muse on the bewildering event of change at the onramp. Just in a few days, progress had cleared a swath of land leaving the earth denuded and barren. Progress of light rails, city taxes, and the choking congestion of commuters. The point of great madness felt in the collision of living land and man-made progress. A collision of bone and skin with yelling signs and logical progress. Not even a tow truck service for the swept away sentience. Just for the car who broke down in the middle of someone’s plan. Logic over sentience; plans over organic emergence. 


    Possibly one of the greatest arts that is slipping through our fingers is the connection to the pattern of a place. Through GPS, we are disconnecting from the smells and nuances of our landscape. We have slowly become accustomed on an outside technology, loosing our own innate capacity.  We have a generation growing up who relies on satellites far up in the celestial skies to inform them how to be in the landscape by connecting to the brain and circumventing our bodies. Cell phones, satellites, and many other “things” created by men, crisscrossing our heavens rendering a chaotic web that interferes with the very lodestone in the feathers of migrating birds. Stars replaced with orbiting satellites and our sensory bodies, our ancient receivers, are now reduced to earthbound computers. Our trust is limited to the prison bars of fact that supersede our inherited imagination and magic. A magic where the rocks and trees that we inhabit, are also inhabited within us.


    Can you smell the changing weather, taste the ocean swell through your entrails, feel the responsive messenger in the wind, and observe the communication in the patterns of birds flight?  All of this is still occurring all around us yet we have shut ourselves out of our acute awareness. In being lazy and becoming dependent, we have created artificial intelligence all around us to recreate a connection with all of life. But this connection is hollow, echoing back our voice, our paradigm of understanding. Understanding the joy of true interconnectedness, of living in a world of teeming sentient life is the diversity, the depth of so many different ways of being, be it rock, lake, animal, or plant. Such different shapes of life than our own. Are we to continue to marginalize and separate out that which is different? Indeed, what are we afraid of?


    Disconnected in our fear, we talk with others about growing inclusiveness. We go to workshops to learn how to integrate the devious contributions of our ancestors. We enter spiritual paths that teach us transcendence. Yet exclusion is still the language spoken, a sense of superiority seeping into our dialect, as long as I walk on the earth (as opposed to with the earth) I live in the numb confusion of disconnection. We can literally get lost in our fear of differences and lost in our impulsive reactions to “different”. For our original ancestors and the earth wisdom tribes, lost is not a concept they know. It is not a word in their living-vocabulary. Long instilled into their very bones are the movements of stars, of currents and changes apparent in the wind and waves. Instilled not as outside of themselves, but a living interrelationship where the ocean and land is a felt sense within the liver and the blood. It is a living landscape that is awakened in their veins.  Living in a world of singing stars and flying fish, the nervous system beats with the larger ecosystem. A sense of being in the center of all things happening all at once is how it is. Navigation here is ancient and sensory, the very knowledge is embodied. It is an alignment that allows the wisdom to also be expressed in wind and sound. It is where waves and spray recognize themselves within the one paddling the canoe.


    The human family has gone so far from its source and now reaches out for connection through an internet web. A cell phone telepathy system that mimics an ancient way, yet it differs because it is an exclusive system, unable to include the conversation of Oak Tree, Windsong, and Raven. Our GPS denies us the experience of lost. A place where, when felt, articulates the very moment in heightened senses and an ancient form of sensuous mapping now allowed to rise to the surface. Bone connected to stone, wherever we are, we can find our way home.


    Directions in North or East are losing context for our grandchildren. They have only experienced technology and direction is held by the “GPS god”. I check in with myself, who has evolved from dial-up black phones and mailmen on bicycles, to unlimited cell phone time and instant messaging. How is my panic level when I can’t find my phone or find I am without it for the day? Do I resist entering the curious isolation and unease it gives me? In the location of missing, I am pushed to tell time by the light in the sky. Pushed to allow text and email to gently fall like leaves into my phone, unanswered. My day opens up and spaciousness walks in. Past the restlessness, past the fear of just being, I find a franticness is removed and I sit in the silence of less human contact and more connection with the pulse of life that lies just outside our technical awareness. It tugs on ancient threads within. Now past the unease, I am back in a magical world where information unfolds into the moment one needs to know it. Now it is my fellow human beings that appear to act in a vacuum. My dependency on myself comes alive and I find myself very capable, as we all are, to walk into a larger world of deep breath and wonder.  I can hear the birdsong over the traffic. The water fountain in the birdbath creates space between my ears. I vow to put down my phone as part of my daily practice and pick up the oar of my canoe. 


    I am on my horizon of land, sky, and sea. I wish to listen to the shape of water, and with small adjustments, learn to navigate my experience in the heart of everything happening all at once.




    Art Credit: Georgia O’Keefe Blue & Green, 1960

    Copyright 2019 Sarah MacLean Bicknell | Photography by Jenn Whitney | Illustration by Nikki Jacoby