One Place to Begin

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You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies, the Golden Gate Bridge. Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies. When you're bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance, stop anywhere. Forget where you thought you were going.

Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch. If there's a fence, try your luck—they don't stop cows. Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush trips you, take a good look before you get up. The desert gets by without government.

Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face. When you wonder why you're here, yell as loud as you can and don't look behind. Walk. Your feet are learning.

Admit you're afraid of the dark. Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen. The wind isn't talking to you. Listen anyway. Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart. Remember the terrible song of stars—–you knew it once, before you were born.

Tell a story about why the sun comes back. Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you, a mule deer holds you in her eyes. Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all when a scrub jay shrieks. Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your scattered white bones.

One Place to Begin" by John Daniel, from Of Earth. © Lost Horse Press, 2012.

  • What is the one place you would like to begin again? For the poet, it's the desert. For you? And why?
  • What fences will you need to ignore to live wild and free?
  • What reason will you give to yourself to begin your wilder life? And what advice do you have for that wilder, more earth-connected part of you?