a silhouette of a hill with some bare trees and a small figure in the distance, and a text overlay with the chapter title.
a silhouette of a hill with some bare trees and a small figure in the distance, and a text overlay with the chapter title.

THE GARDEN, PART 1: Perched On The Edge Of The Valley — TEXT VERSION

Music — a clip from ‘may avalon heal you’ by drone artist witchknife. it fades out.

Welcome to… THE GARDEN. A malleable story in four parts.

A note from the author:

Hi, everyone. This is V- I’m the author.

I wanted to take a brief moment to provide some context for the work I am going to share with you, from my lips to your ears.

What you are about to hear is something between a game and a story. at its heart, this is an active, breathing abstraction of the deep processes that drive internal change, and stands partly as an attempt to translate some of my experiences with this unknowable complexity into something that can be shared, somehow, despite incomplete understanding. But, whatever this is, it requires you, listeners, just as much as it requires me. this piece is something that can really only exist in the space between us.

There are many aspects of this journey which are malleable- I left them that way on purpose so that we could all shape them together as they unfold. I invite you as listeners to think of yourselves as a sort of divine collective- able to hear and guide the story by transcending boundaries that may not be entirely comprehensible. Each part will close with an opportunity for you to have some influence on the story- I’ll be back at the end of each part with more instructions. THE GARDEN also has a webpage that will also have some instructions- it can be found on the CJTR website.

finally: I would like to take a moment emphasize that this piece is an experiment, the ultimate outcomes of which are unknown to me even as I dream it up, create it, and share it with you. I have many questions about the boundaries of storytelling- what it is and what it is not, what it has done, what it might do. this piece is in some ways a very early (and public) attempt to respond to some of that inquiry.

That was all I wanted to say. thank you for listening.

And now…

I hope you enjoy this journey into THE GARDEN.

Music returns- it is the same as before. It plays for a while, then fades.

Part 1: Perched On The Edge Of The Valley

A tape recorder clicks on. We hear the STUDENT speak- an animated, semi-feminine voice.

uh… hi. hi? (she laughs)

I have no idea how to start something like this, so. you know, I wasn’t sure if was even going to be able to do this — write this, that is — but I realized that if I didn’t at least sit down and take a crack at it, then it definitely wouldn’t happen. so…

I’m… here. I made it through the gate

It really wasn’t how I thought it’d be. I know you were worried about whether I could make it to the gate safely, but it wound up being fairly straightforward, in its way. I mean, anything ever found in reference to this place has all pointed toward a ‘difficult journey’, so I felt prepared… but…

The hard part wasn’t finding the right location- that happened relatively quickly, though it was definitely not an easy climb to get there. What I really struggled with was just being able to see it properly. I knew, I KNEW I had the right place, but for the longest time I had nothing I could point to to say ‘Yes, this is it here!’ I just had this raw, vibrating feeling in my bones. this feeling that said ‘yes. you perceive things correctly, this is where you’ve been led, and this is from where you must depart.’ I felt like a dog, sniffing around and around and around, but unable to turn up anything.

So I just… stuck with it. I mean, you know me, right? I just felt so… (she can’t find the right word) I couldn’t let it go.

Anyway. By the… I dunno, the third night, I guess? I was nearly at the end of my tether. I’d spent the whole morning narrowing down the precise spot where I thought the gate should be, and then I spent the whole afternoon searching every blessed inch of it- poring over every branch, turning over every stone, parting the grass every which way. but there was nothing. nothing to indicate a gate, nothing to indicate passage, or direction even. (she laughs. it’s rueful) I imagine I looked wild, a worn out little thing, so defeated. I didn’t even light a fire for my supper, I was so exhausted and frustrated… I just piled myself into my sling, ate some cheese and the last of my fresh bread, and called it a night.

I remember… I was thinking about… you. Thinking your hands turning dough as I laid there and ate in the dark, marinating in some really well-earned self-pity. I thought about the dusting of flour on your dark apron, the light catching that new silver in your hair. I wondered how different you would look the next time I saw you. If I saw you. It kind of cracked me open, in the same way that thinking about you usually does. It made me thankful for the bread.

It’s just… It’s so hard, being apart.

Anyway, anyway. I was so bone-tired from searching all day, but my brain would not stop spinning. I couldn’t stop thinking about the gate- I couldn’t move, but I couldn’t sleep. So I hauled myself out of my sling and folded it up so I could sit on it and meditate.

And… and then I guess I must have meditated, or fallen asleep or… something. I honestly don’t remember. usually I can recall the general shape of things when I meditate, but I couldn’t remember anything. Just closing my eyes… and then a vaccuum.

When I opened my eyes next, I was still sitting in a very upright posture, but I felt so disconnected from time. How long had I been there? Minutes? Hours? It was still dark out, but… was it still the same night? The same week? Something felt very different than it had when I had initially sat to meditate. The moon was so full and unusually large, like a great coin hanging in the night, but… had it been that way before? I honestly couldn’t remember, I’d been so distracted in my search up until that point that I’d lost touch with the lunar cycle. I had no way to make any sense of it as a sign, and the uncertainty left me feeling very vulnerable. and the light all around me felt so greasy and strange… do you remember the eclipses from last season? How the shadows made everything look like it was underwater? Like that, almost. But oily. Slick.

in any case. When I opened my eyes, they just happened to fall on a tall stand of berry bushes and rose brambles about 200 paces north of where I was sitting. earlier in the day they had formed part of the boundary I used while looking for the gate- I’d tried to search them a bit but the growth had been way too thick and snarled to pass through.

But in the middle of the night, with the moon wrapping everything in this viscous, silver light… I realized immediately why my search ’til then had been so fruitless. I’d been looking at the right place… just at the wrong time.

I packed my sling back in my bag and approached the stand. As I got closer, everything grew really, really muted. the air felt… velvety as I moved through it. I felt the pressure of it on my skin.

I...

I’m not really sure how to describe what happened next.

When I had first gazed at the stand of bushes in the moonlight, the thing that struck me was seeing this perfect arc of shadow cast from the highest branches blocking the light of the moon. I’m not sure if it was just the quality of the light or if I was just… exhausted and delusional and hopeful for a sign. but there was something so compelling about the shape and the form and the… completeness of the shadow as it led deeper into the bushes. I felt invited to explore. I felt… obligated to enter.

I marched right up to the edge of the stand. My low-light vision is pretty good and I think normally I would have been able to make out something in the shadow. but looking into into the depths of the season’s last berries and roses… the darkness that I saw there was truly formless. thrilling, and terrifying. Like looking off the edge of a very, very, very great height, with no rail for safety.

But still, I wanted to enter. I felt my whole body race with fear and desire, and that raw, vibrating sensation I’d felt earlier when I’d first arrived. This was the gate I’d been hoping to discover. And I was about to pass through it.

The consequences of what was happening — the implications of the gate being real and active, of actually going through it, of being right this whole time — they didn’t occur to me at all until the very moment I lifted my hand and slipped it into the shadow. And then it all hit me, all at once… but by then, it was too late. I’d chosen to go. I was already in transit.

As my hand went into the darkness, I was reminded of the feeling of being in a perfectly tepid bath. where the temperature of the water is so perfectly matched to the temperature of the body that the sensation of every movement rebounds on itself like an echo. the boundary between light and shadow slipped over my skin like a material thing.

During the day, the density and the sharpness of the bushes had immediately stopped me from moving into them- like the earth had sprouted a great, tangled, mass of barbed wire, alive and blooming. But now, as I stepped forward fully into the shadow, I slid right into the growth, easily slotting through the smallest, narrowest gaps. The boundaries of my body moved perfectly along the boundaries of the bushes, and I found each step to be… easy. Effortless. I didn’t snag on the thorns or trip on the roots, though I could feel them all around me.

But I could not see anything. Everything was so black-velvety, so inky- any little scrap of light that found its way in was quickly siphoned off into a complete nothingness. But I felt quite fearless! I never really stumbled or hesitated as I moved… I felt supported and protected by the branches and the bushes, now that they were no long blocking or hurting me. They guided me along a path- showing me a way forward as I moved. There was something about it that was… playful, almost. Like a game.

I’m not certain how long I travelled like that, to tell the truth. It was a while, though. Time melted even further away as I went into a meditative curiosity about the sensations of my movement- feeling my bones and muscles pulling around one another, the inside of my clothes rasping over my skin, the slide of my pack’s straps as they shifted with each movement. There was something uniquely unreal about it- feeling both the complete form and complete formlessness of my body, layered perfectly on top of one another.

Anyway. There came a point when I noticed, as I moved, a faint difference in the darkness across my field of vision. There seemed to be some gauzy, early pre-dawn light coming up on my left, and I noticed too that the spaces I was moving between were becoming a little bit bigger with each step. The darkness grew brighter, and the bUush grew thinner.

And then… it gave way to a vast openness. The sun was just rising high enough that the first beams were able to gild the outermost edges of the bush in a beautiful, golden light. I stepped into the openness and I saw myself reintegrate before my eyes- converting from the shape I’d taken in the void back to the recognizable boundaries of my physical body. I did feel woozy — I hadn’t slept, and holding up my own weight after the strange, supportive constriction of the bush was disorienting — but otherwise I appeared to be myself.

I came out from the shadow somewhere in the middle of a tremendous line of trees. To my left, it stretched out and forward and came to a point beyond which I couldn’t see. To my right, it swept out in a much more gradual arc. At the far end of my vision it seemed to dip into the early-morning fog that the sun hadn’t yet burnt off, but it was hard to tell.

And before me was the crest of a small hill, free of trees, backing onto pure openness. a shore of grass, a sea of sky. I took it in in a big, beautiful breath. I hadn’t realized how close and still the air in the brush had been until I felt the breeze move over my face.

As I was looking up at the hill, I noticed a large, rough shape near the top of it, like a stone. and another one, leading down towards me — and another, and another. seven altogether, beckoning me upward.

There seemed to be something familiar about the shape of them as I approached, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I looked back at the stones as I arrived at the top of the hill- my perspective had shifted enough that I could recognize that they were grouped loosely in the shape of the Pleiades — a sign for safely setting sail, once upon a very, very long time ago. it was welcoming and reassuring.

I turned back around to the openness, and got my first good look the Garden.

What had appeared to be a small hill when I’d first emerged from the bush was actually a bump on the rim of a large, sweeping bowl. It felt a bit like being in the middle of a distorted lens- the valley that opened up before me seemed to smear off into the distance, while the edges of it swept up and around my periphery like a wingback chair. It felt like standing at the pulpit of some grand sanctuary.

It clicked for me why this place had been referred to as the Garden — I wasn’t sure what I would come across as I ventured through it, but I understood that this was a space meant to foster possibility. Where any number of things might grow, go to seed, rot, and rebloom over and over and over again. An infinite unfolding.

I thought about the state of arrested development that I had been caught in for so long, and how diligently I had worked to finally be here, to reach this place… and here it finally was, all around me. I felt ancient with how exhausted and alone I was, and I broke down- I sank to my knees and everything. Corny, maybe. But earnest. I was so grateful to be there, but I was so resentful of the whole process. And I was so homesick… for my memories, for you… I would have given anything to have not had to witness that great expanse alone. To be honest that’s part of why I’m writing this to you- I want to document my experience… but I need to share it.

And I… I don’t know. It’s hard to cope with being disconnected. I know that there’s wisdom in the way things are, even though it separates us, but… I just… sometimes it’s hard to ground myself in the balance I need to strike between desire and reality.

Anyway.

I sat there for a while and cried myself out under the rising sun. I tried to gather myself and look out at what was before me in order to decide what to do, where to go next, but my vision swam. I was beside myself with exhaustion, just doing my best not to be overwhelmed. It was hard to focus.

Directly in front of and below me was a sharp drop from the hill I was standing on, studded with a cascade of large rocks set deep into the earth. It wasn’t a cliff… but it was steeper than I cared to try.

On the left, the steep slope of the valley swept out and forward in a long curve. There were some flatter areas like little terraces and clearings here and there, but was otherwise covered with trees- some bare, some still leafed in beautiful colours.

And to the right, the valley softened down into a wide, grassy field glowing brightly in the high sunlight. It was spotted with some trees and bushes towards the outer edge where it joined the rest of the valley, and on the far side it bordered on some growth that implied a water source somewhere. It looked easy enough to get to, so I went.

My memory washes out a bit at this point- I remember the walk down feeling like some beautiful painting. Like percieving the world the way Van Gogh might have done while he was alive- everything arranged in short, soft strokes… the grass, the leaves, the breeze in the air. My body felt so solid and heavy in and amongst all that lightness.

Arriving down at the field was like falling into the softest feathered nest. There were a few trees, but it was mostly covered with a lush grass, long and golden at the end of its season. the field reached out into the emptiness of the valley for a short distance, then rolled off into a hillside leading down further into the valley below.

I remember wandering down into the middle of the it, feeling amazed by this gorgeous, golden sea shimmering all around me. I plunked myself down like a little stone, curled up on my side, and I tucked my arms under my body against the crisp breeze moving over me. I felt the sun pouring down all around, and the warm earth and grass underneath. I felt welcome and comfortable. Safe, almost.

I immediately fell asleep.

Actually… it’s… it’s quite late now. everything’s gotten a little too dark, and I have yet to sleep properly. I’ll pause here, for now, but I’ll be back in the morning to finish telling you the rest.

Good night.

Tape recorder clicks off.

INTERMISSION/AD BREAK

Theme music fades in, plays for a moment. Fades out.

Welcome back to THE GARDEN.

Tape recorder clicks on, a soft hiss from the cassette.

Hi. Good morning. I’m back.

I was… I was talking about the golden field. I’d fallen asleep, tuckered out on the ground like a four year old.

When I woke up from my nap it was quite a while later. The sun was low behind me, but the long shadow from the rim of the valley hadn’t quite crept all the way down just yet. I thought back to when I was still teaching myself how to camp properly- evening always made me a little bit anxious. Had I done everything I needed to before dark? Was I ready? Was I prepared?

I held my fingers up, stacking them horizontally the way I’d been taught in the space between the horizon and the descending sun. I managed to squeak in 3 fingers- so, a little bit of time, but not a lot. I started walking toward the far end of the field, where I thought I might be able to find some water. In any case, there would certainly be wood for a fire.

There was a band of trees bordering the edge of the field, and underneath it I could see the ground roll off into a brisk slope. There was a narrow, overgrown path which seemed to go more or less in the direction I was hoping to head, so I followed it in.

Thankfully, this walk into the bush was much more mundane than the previous one had been, although after I got further into the trees I started to notice some odd path markers and little trails branching off the path. The trails were barely more than scuff marks and the markers were mismatched and indecipherable, but they were so curious to me. It hadn’t occurred to me, but of course there would be imprints left by previous travellers. I thought about all the hands and feet that might have left them. I tried to imagine what they might have looked like.

And then I saw a very, very peculiar thing.

It was a pin, just like mine… just like the one I keep pinned to the inside of my cloak. A small, pointed, golden ellipse, delicately elaborate with lots of little negative spaces where the fabric it’s pinned on shows through. And in the very centre, a small, black, oily-looking stone.

It was hooked delicately to a naked branch right at around eye level, angled just so it flashed the last of the afternoon light. At first I was a bit stunned- I turned my cloak lapel over to double check that I still had my pin, and then I compared the two. They were identical as far as I could tell. It was really unsettling to see a perfect duplicate of something so personal… so I kept moving. I resolved to come back and investigate things more completely once I’d had a chance to rest properly.

The path widened and swung around to the right so it travelled more parallel to the elevation line rather than cutting down across it- which was good, because the slope of the hill dropped into a steeper bank. the density of the growth around me cleared, and I saw where I was going.

The path dropped down gracefully in front of me for about 300 paces. It followed naturally along the curves of the bank, with trees growing obstinately here and there. Then, the path opened up into the flat pan of an old riverbed, set neatly into the space between the rise of the bank and the bowl of the valleyside.

There was indeed a water source right where I thought there might be. Two little streams that came from higher up in the valley poured into a large rock formation set into the far side of the riverbed, and a big, beautiful scoop was smoothed into the stone right where the waters met. From there, the river came down in a sharp little line then veered off deeper into the valley, away from the path I came down on. It was narrow, and fast — I wondered how deep it went.

As I scouted the long, soft teardrop shape of the riverbed, I kept an eye out for signs of previous travellers. There were a couple of stone rings that looked like old campfires, but they were too weathered to tell when they’d been used last. Certainly not recently. I was grateful to find them though- night was really starting to set and I needed to build a fire before it got too dark.

I’d gathered some kindling as I’d walked along the path down to the riverbed, so I picked the biggest of the stone rings and piled it nearby. I went along to the far end of the riverbed where it was a bit more wooded and collected all the deadfall and dried branches I could find in the fading light. I built a fire out of some of the smaller pieces and set about chopping and splitting the rest.

As I gathered and built and chopped, I wondered about the people who had come through here before me. I wondered how many times the campfires had been used. I thought about who made them- who was the first person to set their eyes and hands on this place? And I thought about who might come after, if they would discover this particular site the way I had. Would they see the marks of my passage, and wonder about me, the same way I was wondering about them? It was hard to imagine. Impossible, almost. I knew in the bigger scheme that I likely wouldn’t be the absolute last person to find their way into the Garden, but I also felt so disconnected to the possibility. But maybe I’m just being defeatist.

Who’s to say, really. Anyway.

It was quite dark by the time I’d finished, but the fire I’d built had grown quite nicely. I gathered water from the river in my kettle, made myself some camp supper and spent the rest of the evening at half-speed- eating, writing, crashing slowly. The heaviness in my body kept mounting and mounting as I wrote out everything that had happened, and the relief I felt when I finally allowed myself lay down to rest in my sling was so complete. I fell deeply, completely asleep.

Which brings me, more or less, to now. This morning was like a rewind of the night before, though I was much more rested and coherent. I woke up, re-built the fire, continued to write. I ate some breakfast. Washed my kettle out in the river. I kept writing. I drank tea. I collected wood for the fire. I laid in the heat of the sun. I rested.

I know better than to think of this morning as wasteful just because I spent it recuperating, but part of me wants to anyway. Old habits, dying hard, ha. it’ll be nice to spend some time this afternoon scouting around- I don’t think I’m ready to leave the riverbed just yet, but it will be good to have a sense of where I might go once I’m ready.

I’m going to go back up the path and take a closer look at the trail markers I saw on my way in. I might also go down and follow the river a little while, see if I can find somewhere to cross it.

I’ll be back though, to tell you about what I find.

Tape recorder clicks off.

A brief silence, then the tape recorder clicks back on.

Ok. I’m back. It’s… been a bit of an afternoon.

I took a while to tend to camp after I finished writing you- I banked my fire, cleaned my kettle, put everything back into its place in my pack. I was gonna come back here to camp for another night, but I didn’t want to leave anything behind.

I took off along the river.

I originally thought that I’d go back up along the path to the field to get a better look at the markers, but as I came to the end of the old riverbed I felt a really strong desire to stay with the water. I felt curious to see where it might lead and what it might look like as it tumbled down to the valley floor.

The bank was, of course, quite steep once I got past the end of the old riverbed. At first I didn’t think I would get very far, but my feet managed to find a flat little lip of scuffed earth, disguised by some long grass.

I moved along it, carefully. slowly.

The river curved around to the right for a while, then back to the left as it followed the lowest, widest contours of a hill formation, the one holding up the soft golden field I’d landed in earlier. The river stayed relatively consistent- the bank on the other side stuck close, but never close enough to really be worth the risk of trying to jump across. I’d felt how cold and fast the water was running as I’d cleaned and filled my kettle- not something I wanted to goof around with.

I was starting to think about going back to the riverbed when the water veered sharply to the right, away from the formation, and the riverbank I was on melted down into a flat, open space.

The crest I had arrived at when I first emerged from the shadow soared up into my vision, beautifully framed by the rise of the hill on my left and the sweep of the valley rim on my right. When I had approached it from the other side it had seemed like just a bump on a rim, but from this lower perspective it was the massive peak of a great spine. Something about it was visceral and ominous- the huge stones cascading down looked like the bones of a gigantic animal, fossilized and half-exposed. I gazed at them and let my eyes trace and re-trace their shapes. They were so vertebral. It was breathtaking.

I thought about the stones on the other side of the crest. The ones that welcomed me up, and brought me to my first views of this place… something about this countering perspective was thrilling. The two sides of a coin standing on its edge, a welcome and a… I wasn’t sure.

I felt something in my heart scramble to re-balance itself.

I kept on walking the way I’d been going, though I was more or less on autopilot- my brain was swimming. The riverbank had become much more walkable, so I didn’t really notice what was going on around me until quite a while later.

But then: I saw a bridge.

In the distance between where I’d seen the crest and where I saw the bridge, the river had widened to about twice its original size. It seemed a little less intimidating now- it ran a little more slowly, and there was a little more peace along the river’s edge. There were some loosely grouped trees around — enough for a canopy, but still quite open.

The bridge itself was startling, mostly because I wasn’t expecting to see something so… engineered. Or permanent, maybe? Obviously there were the old campfires I found at the riverbed, but this was different

It was a wooden bridge- straightforward with a simple rail. The timbers looked a bit rough and the whole thing was pretty weathered, but it seemed sturdy. It was a little bit creaky, but it held my weight solidly.

As I stepped onto it and looked out across it, I saw a bizarre parting. The other side of the bridge led out onto simple, packed path that split my view in half with a long, straight line. The trees that grew along it seemed to follow with this- their branches always coming just short of arching over the path directly, so that a clear cut of sky appeared as a mirror to the path below.

If circumstances were different I probably would have crossed that bridge without another thought, but I was on edge- I felt a taut wariness throughout my whole body. it wasn’t that I was afraid, or that I didn’t want to cross the bridge, but I felt unprepared, somehow. I needed… something. I suddenly wanted the familiarity of the riverbed. the comfort of camp.

I immediately turned around and headed back the way I came.

I was relieved when I got back to the riverbed. The sun was still quite high, just hot enough to warm up the ground a little bit.

I took my sling out from my pack and spread it on the ground and laid under the sun for a little while. I felt my brain poring over everything I had just seen. A foreboding sense of warning came over me in the same way I’d felt warmly welcomed earlier, and both feelings tightened around me like a great, snarled knot. Something deep in me panicked and my body froze. There was Fear, trying desperately to draw me back to where I had come from; and there was Desire, pulling me inexorably forward. I felt caught perfectly between them, totally unable to move.

I laid there for what felt like ages. I watched the sun start to sink. The daylight slipped. I felt the ground grow cooler by degrees beneath me.

The thought of going back to investigate the trail markers somehow managed to thread its way into my thoughts. There came a sudden moment of urgency: the sun was low, but not setting just yet. I still had time to keep my word to myself, but I would have to leave, right then, and go quickly.

The urgency of the thought was immediately successful- the sharp hit of adrenaline my body responded with had me up and on my feet before my brain could really register it. It was shocking, but it felt good. I just wished it hadn’t been such a struggle in the first place.

From there, it was just a bit of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, an old standby. I packed up my sling and went up along the path back to the field.

I went quickly- I was hoping to beat the sunset and the adrenaline had me a bit amped, so the walk back up the path much faster than it had been the first time.

So fast, in fact, that I found myself dumped out into the field at the other end of the path way before I’d been expecting it. I stood there in surprise for a little bit. I’d been going quickly, but I’d kept a close eye out for all the markers I’d seen earlier and hadn’t spotted a single one. I thought surely they couldn’t have all disappeared.

I turned straight around and went back in. I went slower this time, stopping now and then to really look at everything, to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I’d felt certain about I’d seen, and I remembered writing about it. Where had they gone?

As I came back down the path, I saw the naked branch that had had my pin’s duplicate hooked on it, empty. The memory of examining it the day before flashed through my mind, and it felt like being struck by lightning- my hands flew across my body, patting everywhere over my clothing where there was a pocket.

I felt a little bump over my left hip. I dug my hand in and fished out the duplicate pin. I hadn’t even realized I’d taken it off the branch, much less stuck it in my pocket. I don’t know why, but I got the sense that that was at least part of the reason why the trail markers had disappeared, but I couldn’t tie the thought down to any logical reasoning.

I put the pin back on the branch, and kept walking back to the riverbed.

As the path swung around to the right, I was presented directly with the actively setting sun, starkly visible in the centre of my view. It seemed huge- a fat lip of orange slumping on the rim of the valley. The afternoon had been so peculiar.

There was something about either time or space that was flowing counter to what I was used to. It felt obvious that taking the pin from where I had found it had influenced things, but how? to what extent? By what mechanism? I’d put it back, but would that make things revert? Or had I set off something entirely new from which there would be no coming back?

My mind was really churning with it by the time I got back to the riverbed. It was dark, so I built a fire and made something to eat. The routine was soothing, though I daydreamed briefly about the possibility of foraging, as I ate my very boiled supper.

And then… writing this, writing you. Spinning the chaos of this whole thing into a single thread. There’s something about this process that is both nourishing and exhausting- it feels monumental enough just to experience things at all, much less over and over again. but it is helpful. I think. I’m not sure.

Anyway. It’s nothing near the same thing as actually sharing in the present moment with you- but it’s still comforting to write. If I pressed my hand against the paper, I can imagine you just there, pressing up against the other side.

A pause.

Anyway. I’m going to go and sleep. I feel much more rested than I did when I first arrived here, so tomorrow I think I’m going to move on from the riverbed- though I’m not sure where I’ll go just yet. the decision for me really comes down between seeing what’s beyond the bridge, or exploring deeper into the trees where the trail markers were. I might pray on it- see if there’s anyone out there, see if they have anything to say about it. Maybe draw some cards for good measure.

I wish I felt more confident about how reality flows here… but maybe it’s foolish to hope for any clarity on that. I dunno. Something in me feels really liberated when I think about not having to be so certain all the time, but it’s also unnerving. I feel like I’m at the mercy of… something. vulnerable to the consequences of not-knowing.

I’ll just do what I can, I guess. Try my best to collect whatever wisdom that’s out there.

All right. I guess that’s all for now.

I miss you.

Good night.

Tape recorder clicks off.

A very brief pause, then it clicks back on.

We hear the STUDENT breathing. She speaks.

to who ever

or what ever

is out there

to who ever

or what ever

that may be listening,

or sensing,

or otherwise perceiving:

receive me.

receive my uncertainty.

forking paths lie in front of me-

which thread of curiosity to pull?

where to begin this unravelling?

do I take the clearly defined path,

bridging out explicitly before me

or do I carve something new through a mass of uncertainty,

take my place amongst the vanished markers declaring

‘this journey is mine to take,

experienced by no one else’s feet but mine.’

and what of the vessel in which I find myself?

I sit, disoriented, perched on the edge of the valley.

have I been welcomed?

have I been warned?

am I safe to trust my instincts here?

I feel like I am without bearing, afraid but courageous.

If there is any knowledge, wisdom, or instinct

that you might transfer

or transmit

unto my being about these things

I ask you, earnestly and openly,

to make it mine to know.

in this I pray.

The hiss of the cassette tape plays for a few moments, then the tape recorder clicks off. Theme music comes up, then fades.

End Part 1.

Hi. it’s V- the author. Told ya I’d be back.

For those of you who are listening live, I now offer you the opportunity to respond to THE STUDENT as part of the DIVINE COLLECTIVE. As the author, I have opened three digital portals- two in the shape of social media accounts, and one in the form of an email address. The social media accounts will each have a post to correlate with this instalment of the story- If you have some response that you would like the STUDENT to receive as part of their journey, please place it with that post. Or, if you prefer, you may message the email address with your response directly.

The portals are as follows:

@thegarden.cjtr on instagram

@thegarden_cjtr on twitter

& thegarden.cjtr@gmail.com

Your responses may be as direct or as abstracted as you choose- be bold, be tender, be weird. just don’t be disrespectful or abusive. I will gather the collective’s input for 48 hours after broadcast, then I will integrate it.

Once again, thank you for listening.

See you next time as we go deeper into THE GARDEN.

Theme music comes up, fades into silence.

Written by

V is the progeny of colonizers/an undefined artist, sprung from treaty 4 land. they use art as a survival mechanism in the face of crushing systemic despair.

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