THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS - Following the White Rabbit (Because I Can't Not)
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, the archer gladiatrix from the sticks, has grabbed a backpack and raced into the woods, away from the bloodbath at the Cornucopia where all the food, weapons and supplies are stockpiled--along with the pile of bodies from those Tributes who did not survive the opening minutes. The Gamemakers, led by Seneca Crane, loom safe in their surgically clean hub, watching these teenage gladiators battle the manmade arena as much as each other for the entertainment of the mob.
Gamemaker 1, scowling: Sir...she is almost at the edge. Two kilometers away from the nearest Tribute.
Seneca Crane, plotting: Let’s turn her around.
You know about Sagittarians, don't you? We're called the Explorers of the zodiac. We are the Mutable Fire Sign--you know, the changeable ones, ever shifting, ever altering course. Ours is a sign of inspiration, philosophy, adventure, idealism. Those of us who are stereotypical (like I am) are constantly on a quest to discover Truth. We also like laws & principles--naturally, we are ruled by Jupiter.
As such, we may also have a tendency to be just a little extravagant, arrogant, rabid about our overblown ideals, and BIGGER THAN LIFE!!! Ahem.
I'm a Capricorn cusp and have a bunch of other stuff in my chart...like we do. So there are some ways that I'm not the ideal Archer, but one of the most quintessential qualities of my Sag nature shows itself every time I go hiking alone. It never fails. If there is a smaller, twistier, less explored path than the one I am on...
I just can't not.
This has led me to some of the most nifty sights I never would have found otherwise. It takes me down into ravines, scrambling under brambles, and up onto secret overlooks where I can perch and spy--I mean people-watch everybody still trekking the concrete path. It's quiet up there, and secluded. Not many people go there, which has always called to me. For example, if there is a way to use a dance prop that I've never seen anybody do, I want to do it. Why?
'Cause. I do.
It's a Sag thing, just go with it.
I also love to get my nose down on the ground and scrutinize all the teensy goings-on of bug life. Fascinating...
Now here's where certain phobias and traumas intersect with my inquisitive nature, because once the unexplored path becomes too infested with creepy-crawlies that could do things like send me to the hospital, necrose my flesh, or kill me...mmmmmm, I'm out.
I also have an extreme aversion to letting my catly curiosity so far off the chain that it risks legal consequences. Remember that Law & Principle thing up there? All my frolicking comes to a screeching halt the moment trespassing, fines, jail, and arrest records come into play. I have never been that person who, just because they say it's against the rules I suddenly have to do it, where I once didn't have the urge.
As an innovator and gravity defier, I only chafe at the rules when they make no sense, especially when some "authority" has slapped the word "impossible" onto something I just know can be done. You know, like dancing with my injuries, writing about champion gladiatrices in 1990, or effectively combining belly-modern-jazzy fusion with martial arts and storytelling.
Don't even get me started on "should/n't."
It's not breaking rules that gives me the thrill. That's actually kind of a pain in the butt to have to do, but I will if I believe strongly enough in it. For me, the thrill comes from proving how sound my gut instincts and imagination are and then getting to do the thing, no matter how many times They said I couldn't or shouldn't because of outdated, judgey, narrow-minded beliefs or personal preferences.
I get why it's against the law to go poking about in that construction zone or wander on this person's private property or enter other people's homes or closed workplaces. I mean, *I* know that I have no interest in vandalism, theft, harming people or their animals, obtaining and divulging people's private secrets, or any other general fucking-with. All of that has never appealed to me. I have way too much art to make and way too much interest in discovering new things because...I want to discover new things. Always have. *I* know I would just be exploring, learning, and gathering creative fodder, but I get why The Authorities don't trust all those bad apples who have spoiled it for the rest of us. I don't trust them either.
So the idea of being caught on camera poking about where I have no legal business poking, only to find out that some other asshole came in behind me and stole a bunch of stuff or did something harmful so now I need to be hauled in and--
As such, I'm a strange blend of "can't help it can't help it can't help it" curiosity and straight-laced, Prissy Perfect rule-follower. It's actually quite annoying because I'll be zipping and zapping along, chasing after the White Rabbit with my horse's ass on fire, and then BOOM.
No shit, there I was today, sproinging awake from the afternoon brain reboot. I looked at the clock. It was 2:30. A few days ago, I had reeeeeally wanted to get out in the woods now that the weather is cooling off, but I'd napped from 4-5 p.m. By the time I was dressed, coffeed, fed, and watered, the approaching dusk was already threatening to make the exploration of unknown trails on my questionable knee dangerous if I wound up lost and the sun set.
But there was only one place I'd wanted to go. This place has been calling to me for weeks, so I held off until the perfect storm arose today.
GO. GO NOW.
Off I hied to the lake. My mom and I sometimes walk the concrete trail and head down to the river, but there are other trails around that area. One level up they've put in some mountain biking apparatuses. That's not what I wanted. Today I wanted the cliff walk that is two levels up.
I haven't been on the Sally Trail since before I hurt my knee the first time, but I feel good right now, and I can tell that all this Covid-induced Butt In Chair has not done my body any favors. Neither has three rounds of oral surgery to correct one stupid chipped crown. It keeps interrupting my home-based workout motivation.
I need to stride. I need to feel thighs and butt doing the big centaur horse-flank thing up an incline. I need to navigate surfaces that aren't my carpet and make my smaller muscles work for balance. I need naturrrrrrrrrre. (That's nature that makes me purr.)
So I popped up onto the trail this afternoon and started hucking myself into the hills. Ahhhhhhh...what glorious Work Bitch sensations, along with the greenery and rocks. I'm a sucker for an aerial view as well as rocky ravines and overhanging cliffs, and this trail has many.
With the ease of getting up onto the cliff walk, and with how stable the trail actually is, I started to wonder if maybe Mom could manage it, too.
Recon Mode: engaged.
But then the trail branched into an unfamiliar path. No. Noooo! An unfamiliar branch? Anything but that! The tugging began. Tugging didn't last long. It swiftly devolved into a full-blown Siren Call. The Unknown...ooooh, and I had no ropes with which to tie myself to the mast. Why would I wanna do that anyway?
Then I read the sign names:
Yeahhhhh...if you know me at all, then you know I just...
So I did. Off the chain the Sagittarius darted into explore mode. In this mode, I'm like a bloodhound named Alice chasing the scent of the White Rabbit--or signs of something even more interesting. Although how that could happen with such synchronistic trail names, I had no idea, especially considering the fact that the latest blog series I'm editing begins with a post called--I shit you not--"A Yin-Yang Rabbit Hole."
When the Muse speaks this overtly, I have learned to obey Her.
This siren loop took me up deeper into the hills, but I didn't mind. I had plenty of time to get myself nice and lost.
Which I did.
Sorta. I mean, the eventual neighborhood bordered me to the fore and the left, while the lake and the highway remained somewhere yonder on the rightish. Eventually, the Sally Trail pops out near the decline that leads to the other end of the concrete walk and the river. If all else failed, I could always about-face and return the way I had come. The Explorer's anal-retentive stat-keeper kept one eye on the hydration and energy reserves, and another on the angle of the sun so that Alice could trundle off Through the Looking Glass.
To my shock, but no genuine surprise, I quickly came to this:
If you know anything about Northwest Arkansas, then you may be aware of our latest intention. The regional powers want to turn this area into the premier forest trail and biking destination in the country. And ohhhhh, have they been busy little beavers in the woods out here. While I've been on injury recovery for the past years, they've put in mile after mile of interconnecting, intricately woven trails for walkers, hikers, bikers and mountain biking enthusiasts. Locations from the urban woods to the toolie bushes are now pockmarked with jumps, switchbacks, and obstacle courses galore. You can't go a month without a new ramp popping up.
Generously, they have marked the most high-flying courses with warning signs for we bipedal non-pedallers.
So how the bleep did I stumble into a bike tricksters' lair? I have no idea. But I did. My first clue pinged when I suddenly found it easier to walk off the trail than I could on it. Then I found myself headed down into a jungle gym, rather than around it. Ruh-roh...
But nobody was out there, I heard no whir of bike wheels, and the trail led in the exact direction I needed to go so I zipped through. Alas. I wound up in the death-defying switchbacks.
Well, crappioka pudding.
This was a gentle, walkable curve at the end of the course:
The rest vacillated between steep ravines I had an easier time jogging down than striding--correction, slipping--and U-shaped gouges filled with gravel-to-rock sized beds. I did not relish the idea of being splattered by a mountain biker or having to scramble up a crumbling ravine into possible snake-dens to escape being run over. I was also keenly aware of what an obnoxious and needlessly hazardous obstacle I made, blundering about in my shoe-canoes.
In circumstances such as these, we do not pause to whip it out and take photos of the groovy obstacle course to share with y'all. We extricate our tortoise-slow selves in a hare-like fashion. See, here is a rule that makes sense, therefore, we do not enjoy accidentally breaking it.
"Gawwwwwwd, take a valium! It's just a stupid walk. Chilllllll, man. You're such a tight-assed, scaredy-cat prissy-pants."
No. We simply value bodily safety--and not only our own. We actually care about our biking neighbors and guests, so it's not very nice to take a leisurely afternoon stroll along their paths, Precious. Not very nice at all.
In trauma therapy lately, it keeps coming up that this type of conscientious concern for others is not automatic and overwhelming to everyone. It...I mean--bzzzt!--that kinda melts my brains. How can you not--?! Really?? Huh. Okay. I hear this is one of those Theory of Mind issues.
After I finished tiptoeing through the tangle, the sudden smooth trail and an interconnecting pathway alerted me to the fact that I had stumbled out of the danger zone. So did this sign, once I got to the other side of it:
Okay, where the heck was my "Downhill Only" warning when I needed it? I dunno. But that's the risk you take while chasing White Rabbits.
Apparently, my patron Jupiter has been pleased with my offerings of late, because the Sagittarian Lucky Charms were in full force. You know about that, don't you? That's something else we're known for. I could feel the Lucky Rabbit's Foot at work today. If you've been paying attention throughout this blog, you may have noticed that this isn't always the case.
Or is it?
Has my life just been one big trail system full of fun, exciting obstacle courses meant for someone traveling on a very different vehicle than the one I was born with? It sure feels like it sometimes. Some days the zoomers and I surprise each other and one of them creams me. Some days their buddies smunch me deeper into the ravine. Other times I skip through the obstacle course free and clear without mishap. Some days I squeak through, only to get booted off the cliff.
But I'll tell you what, my path never fails to lead me to unexpected water features, breathtaking vistas, magical villages, lush foliage, faerie friends, wise teachers, flower after flower, and the most wondrous curiosities.
Curiosities from the past 2 months:
I get the grooviest patio visitors while I'm outside writing.
This whole Looking Glass adventure provided the perfect metaphor for life, like my nature walks usually do. Because that blundering detour through the obstacle course led me to where I knew I ultimately needed to go: the Sally Trail. I knew its general direction. I just had no idea how to get back onto it.
Once out of the Zoomer Zone, the forest calms once more. The Looking Glass trail starts leading me in the generally desired direction again. Until it doesn't. My hydration alert pings: SOON. I had only intended to walk a long-lost cliff and then head home, not venture off into the unknown toolie bushes today, so I need to heed the alert notices. I start scanning the woods and feeling into that question of, "Do you really want to continue down this path? Or should you go back and see where that Spades trail will lead you? It was headed more in the right direction."
Hunger Games flashes in my head. Probably all these gladiator posts I've been drafting for weeks. Whatever it is, the Gamemakers watch me on the big screen as I pick my way through the woods, heading farther and farther away from where I should be.
Gamemaker 2: Uh…she’s heading toward the left flank.
Seneca Crane: Okay. Can you give me a tree right there?
GM2: Sure. Cueing tree…
Fascinating... Now whether this trespassing alert is referring to the rest of the trail or the woods off the trail, I have no idea. Either way, it's still a bwong on the head from the Muse, so that makes my decision for me. But I am still a Sag, so I have to peek around a little. And there it is.
Sunflare: straight into the eye socket. Another Hunger Games image flashes through my mind. It's the fireball whooshing through the woods at Katniss. To confirm, I am struck by a sudden and violent sneezing fit, so I take that as the Gamemakers seconding my notion to about-face. I return to where the forks were, and lo and behold, where does the Spades trail take me?
Not only my Jedi Mindtrick Trail ("This is the trail you are looking for...") but a glimpse of civilization. I chuckle and wink at Synchronicity, then skip onto the trail. It deviates back into the toolie bushes. Dammit. I follow it just to see if it will switch back. Nope.
Gamemaker 1: Cueing another. On my count. One...two...
As if in reminder, I start sneezing again, so I turn around to head the other way, wondering if I've actually wandered so far that I'm beyond the rainbow wall where the Sally Trail leads down to the river. The path forks in two, with the upper trail skirting the cliffs. Ahah! I know where I am! That path leads up to the pretty water feature, and from there it's only--
Groovy cliffs. Groovy caves. No mini waterfall.
Seneca Crane: Let's turn her around.
At this point, I'm laughing about receiving such rapt attention from the Gamemakers, but I can take a hint. I do another 180 and wander back down the hill to where the path forked. I take the lower, less picturesque path. It suddenly veers left--woot.
Gamemaker 3: She's almost there.
For all my wondering and wandering, I am treated to all sorts of lush beauty, a groovy bridge, and my eventual gold star for listening to the Muse: the downslope that leads to the familiar concrete path.
I am on my way back home. But first, a water feature detour.
In between those sunflares, I had some walking to do, and all that Hunger Games forehead-jabbery got me thinking about the Gladiatrix posts I've been writing, especially the ones I am currently trying to edit. I'm really frustrated right now, because each round of editing sends me careening off into another equally important direction. I keep remembering more pieces of the story, so these chapters keep getting bigger. I've had to cut them into multiple posts.
They're tangled and trixxy, and I keep stumbling into obstacle courses I didn't realize were there. Everything I've written in the past week is starting to feel ranty and enraged, which tells me as blatantly as any fireball in Katniss' forest: it's time to head in a different direction. I need to push pause on this subject and journal more, instead of trying to prepare these posts for publishing. I may even need to come to full stop and let them bake for...
Well, until they're done. Some topics are like that.
It makes perfect sense that this is one of them. I'm working with material I have never written about: the thirty-year adventure of NO and YOU'RE CRAZY and THAT'S STUPID while writing my Gladiatrix. Since this subject is completely interwoven with my experiences of being a female martial artist, it comes as no surprise that I've opened up several squirmy-wormy cans of festering crap.
In EMDR last week, we also arrived at processing those nine months riddled with repressed memories from 1992. This nasty Tupperware box was one of the biggest reasons I started writing my Gladiatrix story and why I felt driven to become a martial artist in the first place.
So it's time to tap out on this project and do something else for awhile. We'll come back to it. The last sight on my way back to the concrete trail confirmed it. The series I've been trying to edit starts off with these words: "My friends, we’re about to tumble down a rabbit hole, and some of it is a bit volcanic."
It has everything to do with:
Where do we go when our prayers are answered but the answer is NO?
Onward. Because even if we about-face on the trail and return to where we started, we can't ever truly go back.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN RABBIT HOLE
--UP NEXT: THE MUSE IN THE MOON - I was gifted with a streamed music concert the other night, so I'd like to tell you about how one of my most influential and inspiring Muses saved my dancing, along with a whole bunch more of me. She is an artist who was sniggered at for daring to think she could combine dancing, playing violin, and telling deep, powerful tales all at the same time. Yes, this is an ode to Lindsey Stirling.
--OR: If you like it when the Muse speaks to me and my camera while I'm out in nature, there are other adventures like this one HERE.
--OR: How did that whole thing of combining belly-modern-jazzy fusion with martial arts and storytelling work out for me? I dunno. You tell me.
--OR: I've already written about some of my obstacle courses, switchbacks, and unexpected water features: