Wednesday, March 22, 2006

pinecones aren't the clearest arrows

When, as a child, my family went camping with other families, there would be a herd of us children—sleeping in tents and vans, making fires, canoeing across lakes, rolling down sand dunes, spying on each other. In the evening our parents would be eager to be rid of us, and would without fail suggest we play the arrow game. It was a suggestion greeted with enthusiasm because it meant more time without parental supervision. We would split into two teams, one to seek and the other to hide. The first team set out from our camp site and fabricated arrows out of sticks, rocks or pinecones pointing in the direction we were headed. Then about every fifteen to twenty feet we'd make another pointer. The second team waited for 10 minutes, then set out to find us, following our rustic signs. The trick for the first team was to make the arrows clear enough to keep the second team on track, but vague and staggered enough to keep things interesting. The arrows were often hard to find, as they blended easily with wooded paths or crumbling campsite cement. As time went on, and the first team needed to find some place to hide (in drainage pipes, under roads, up trees, behind dunes, in docked canoes, in campsite shower stalls), the more ambiguous our arrows became. Sometimes we would just draw them in the dirt, and by this point we'd leave wide spaces between the our signs. This was a clue in itself to the second team: you've almost found us.

This was by far my favorite camping game. If I was in the first team, I was usually the one constructing the arrows. If I was in the second team, I was out ahead, nose to the ground, diligently seeking the next clue.

All the information I need is before me, the task is to heed it. The twiggy markings and odd pinecone-contructed arrows of life lay at my feet.
Last night I dreamt of children whose torsos were locked inside wooden boxes, with just hands, heads and legs below the knees protruding. The children were indentured servants, they had some sort of debt or duty to pay off. I attempted to help one little girl—to carry her up the stairs because walking was so difficult—but was reprimanded: she must do the work to free herself.

This dream, like Varda's The Gleaners and I, or meeting Gabe, or my current financial woes, are no coincidence. They serve pinecones arrows. It would be foolish to stop following them, more foolish to assume that because I haven't recently seen three sticks configured arrowishly that I can give up the game altogether. The game is being played, and I must continue to walk in its direction.

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