The Path Home

The Path HomeAs a child, I loved to wander through quiet woods and to pick wildflowers in meadows, following paths that I pretended would lead me into fairy tale adventures in a long-ago world.  I imagined myself as one character or another from my favorite stories, passing through a dark enchanted forest where ghosts whispered of ancient mysteries and the earth beneath my feet thrummed with the echoes of distant drums—or, perhaps, hurrying home to my witch’s cottage on a bright midsummer morning after a long night of gathering magical herbs and flowers by moonlight to heal the people of my tribe.

Then I grew up, as we all must, and the shimmering world of make-believe slipped away.  In its place I learned to navigate a complicated social maze of expectations and obligations—working my way through layer upon layer of abstract constraints, superficial judgments, and inflexible cultural assumptions.  All of this, I was told many times, was the real world.  Instead of walking through woodlands and feeling life’s magic in every breath, I drove past them without noticing, on my way to mundane errands.

Still, every now and again, a glance at a landscape unexpectedly left me feeling awestruck by the beauty and power of the natural world.  It seemed almost as if something in it had called me personally, demanding on a primal level that I remember some deep-buried truth that I never should have forgotten.  As the call faded, I felt a profound sense of longing—for what, I never quite knew.


I discovered after a while that modern society was not only sticking pathological labels on people who experienced the world in ways similar to mine, but was also declaring war on the very existence of what had come to be recognized as a global population numbering in the millions.  Looking for ways to fight back, I joined lists and forums where my fellow travelers timidly shared the details of their lives from the safe anonymity of their net nicknames, looking for reassurance that they were not as alone as they felt.

One day someone started a thread that asked: What do you say when you talk to yourself?

A few different answers were posted, all of which seemed fairly random.  Then another person wrote: I want to go home.

Others chimed in right away, with a sense of recognition and amazement.  Yes, I say that too.  But it has nothing to do with my actual house, because I sometimes say it even when I’m there.  It’s about something else…

After a few more messages, the conversation moved on to discussing what kinds of places felt most like home.

At times when I am walking outdoors, one person wrote, I feel a sudden moment of joy.  It’s like I am totally connected to the universe.

Yes, someone else replied, and it’s triggered by natural landscapes with no structures in them, nothing human-built.

Like being outside of time, or thousands of years in the past…

By now I had started to get a truly eerie feeling, as if I had somehow found myself in one of those old stories where the changeling fairy-children, all unknowing, were suddenly called home from the drudgery of their ordinary human lives to the magical castles where they had been born.  I knew exactly what was being described, but how could we all have had the same experiences?

A path, I typed, leading somewhere wonderful.

Needless to say, after this conversation, none of us actually vanished away to castles in the sky; and the forum eventually shut down, ending up as just another casualty in the virtual graveyard of cyberspace.  Its former members all went in different directions, some of them writing activist blogs while others chose to spend less time on the Internet.

There are still moments, though, when I feel the deep connection to life’s enduring rhythms.  And I know that the world holds many more like me, a widely scattered tribe becoming self-aware, forging stronger bonds of community and vibrant cultural traditions as our shared quest continues—to find the path home.

— Gwen McKay

on 12/28/09 in featured, The Unconscious | No Comments | Read More

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