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"He freely floats without ever coming close to feeling free."

Stranging should be considered one of the higher forms of art. It could not qualify as a science, for initial conditions inevitably evade scrutiny or systematic analysis. Strangers show up lost and build out from there, taking whatever presents itself, substance generally unknown and likely unknowable. I was blessed with the ability to feel disoriented even when staring at a properly-oriented and obviously accurate map, because North just doesn't always feel like North to me, and my feelings tend to rule. How I feel about a strange place hardly ever influences that place, though, so I wander off in wrong directions whichever way I go. I convene an argument in my head, my feet dishearteningly heading off in what will very likely turn out to be the wrong direction while my head mumbles dissent without even convincing himself. My head will chastise itself, but no argument will resolve the controversy. I might well find my way there and back again, but only by fortunate accident.

Had I tried to be a frontiersman, I would have been one of those whose bones—their story untold but nonetheless obvious—Later Arrivers find mouldering beneath an ancient cottonwood.
He seemed to have mistaken West for North and walked into grizzly territory without realizing his peril. He'd apparently managed to trap a couple of beaver, but had not yet cured the hides at the time of the incident, the product of his wandering also ruined and unrecoverable. He carried no evidence of who he might have been, so we buried what little was left of him beneath that cottonwood beside a narrow seasonal stream, no marker necessary. Nobody ever found much sign of what that stranger might have been up to even when he was alive. He wandered, perhaps lost, nearly as invisible to himself as he might have seemed to everyone around him, if any of them even noticed his passage. His was a passive presence.

Outbound, he's uncertain where he's heading and even less certain he will find his way back. He noticed a thin grey map line which suggested a footbridge across the river. His nagging disorientation remained in magnetic opposition to finding any path to the place. He simply could not quite wrap his brain around landmarks, each seemingly distorted and cock-eyed. His successful prior navigations of other strange places contributed nothing to resolving his presenting dilemma. He continued walking, thinking himself contemplating when he felt only confused. He hoped for contemplation with perhaps a pinch of inspiration from his walk, but felt only dizzy instead. He passes others, each seemingly well-adapted to the place, probably natives who never need to think before successfully navigating the space he finds so damned confusing. He freely floats without ever coming close to feeling free.

He finds that footbridge without feeling as though he's accomplished anything. The footbridge still doesn't seem properly placed in space or time. This convergence between seeker and space, a mere accident and not one of the more satisfying sorts of accidents. He gains no scalp to hang proudly from his belt for he then faces the impossible challenge of finding his way back again. The recently upside down world seems simply backward then. He's utterly forgotten how he came and must rely upon his certified-as-faulty internal compass. He stumbles across grass too thick for this season, avoiding the paved paths so obviously heading off in only wrong directions. That fountain, a clear landmark, appears freshly misplaced when seen from even a ninety degree different angle. He thinks, maybe, that he should head off that-away, but lacks conviction. He deeply doubts that he'll ever make it back to where he started.

None the wiser, he stumbles across the threshold of his latest bivouac, though even his familiar stuff looks odd in this unfamiliar context. He had imagined an exploration but only managed a half-waking sleepwalk producing nothing more than a fuzzy impression of any kind of inspiration. He'd managed to reinforce his previously already deeply-seated notion that he had no clue what he was doing. His survival seems small consolation. He'll hunker in until The Muse returns from her business meetings and they can go meet up with old friends for supper. Even the GPS seems to be misleading them as they drive to the restaurant. The return trip also relies upon the lying navigator, though they somehow regain the hotel parking lot. He'll discover the next morning that they'd left The Schooner's doors unlocked overnight in that Stranging place.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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