alternate directions: a list of landmarks

"alternate directions: a list of landmarks"


  1. landmark.

    a prominent or conspicuous object on land that serves as a guide, especially to ships at sea or to travelers on a road; a distinguishing landscape feature marking a site or location. an object or feature of a landscape that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish location.
  2. establishing location. how a landmark is a place or structure or marking that exists for its own sake, all on its own. but used as navigation, it helps you locate things in relation to other things, or locate yourself in relation to the world. the corn field is a corn field. the peeling painted picture of our lady of guadeloupe is the side of an old brick building that used to be a taqueria. the smooth scar slit across the knee is raised skin, mended. but used on a map, or used in the oral dictation of direction, they all becomes means of orientation, telling you where you came from and where you are right before passing over into the next place.
  3. marking a site.  like birth, i think. landmarks of movement. this is a contraction. this is second stage. this is the statue outside the church passed by on the way to the hospital. this is the water, where relief is found. this is transition. this is something inside me found. this is pushing. this is the water broken. this is my baby released from my body and flung onto my skin.  
  4. the landmarks of love, all those places in the heart where the memories are mapped.  the table in the park where you laid out on top in the first announcement of spring. the imprint of their leaving. the terrible want of the thing you could never have. the way her lips always looked stung. the upstairs apartment where you called yourself a wife: sheen on the hardwood floors; all those fears of falling; crossword puzzles with coffee; standing there in a kitchen stirring sauce, cigarette in hand,  stream of smoke blown out the opened window. the settling into your own skin when you realized how it was possible, the fullness of feeling and absence of suffering, to love and be grown. the sever and the smashing together and the seared regrets and the choosing – all of them marking something, in me. all of them serving as guide.
  5. seen from a distance. the hollywood sign. the towering temple. the lone tree in the wastelands. port of call, the shore when you’re at sea. the clarity of stillness, in the cacophony of noise.
  6. landmarks on the body and in the veda of flesh and memory of bone.  inscriptions on skin, scars and lines and pathways that engrave the way to the holy of holies. the place where i fell on mountain rocks. the place where i knew i hated him. the place where skin burned red in summer sun. the place where i knew i loved her. the maps of cancer. the markings of my survival into living.
  7. words are landmarks too. “The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.  The most compelling narrative, expressed in sentences with which I have no chemical reaction, or an adverse one, leaves me cold. In fiction, plenty do the job of conveying information, rousing suspense, painting characters, enabling them to speak. But only certain sentences breathe and shift about, like live matter in soil. The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace. Style and personality are irrelevant. They can be formal or casual. They can be tall or short or fat or thin. They can obey the rules or break them. But they need to contain a charge. A live current, which shocks and illuminates.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri
  8. navigation strategy is researched and studied, the matters of mental rotation skills and object location memory. did you know this? it’s because people do it differently. do we use lines or key points to construct a mental map? when imagining our route, do we use see and speak north/south/east/west or do we say go left or go right? when telling someone how to arrive from starting place to our front door, do we use miles or landmarks? and what does the way we navigate tell us about our minds and ways of making meaning?
  9. landmarks are not just abstraction of distances and grids. they are physical and tactile, concrete and personal. they are stories.
  10. and so i keep thinking about directions and alternate routes for things, the language of marked location.
  11. turn right at the gas station attached to the ethiopian restaurant, we say, and then keep going for a few blocks, and when you see the painted blue horse with the sweedish flower design, turn left, and her apartment is in the six flat next to the house with the window filled with plants and figurines.
  12. i want personal and concrete directions for other kinds of navigation too. what are the routes, the features in a landscape marking the way, for, say, remembering your night dreams? don’t give me miles and linear tracks, a bullshit list of ten ways to find your life purpose. i want the intimacy and narrative passageways of landmarks. landmarks of body and home, language and sensation, the sighting of a deer in the woods after it snows and the way the bar stool feels underneath you bare legs late at night after your favorite song comes on the radio.
  13. what are the landmarks of direction for getting lost. for deciding to leave. for picking up the phone and making the call. for starting the book. for finishing the book. for falling in love. for choosing to stay in the love. for getting back or forward to the summer of skinny dipping. for waiting for the biopsy results. for finally letting your life belong to you.
  14. for example, directions for remembering your strength. walk until you come to the bathtub filled with salt and steam. take your clothes off and step into the unknown. when you come to the point in the song where you want to cry, lift your head up and face the stars. once you’ve passed through profanity and tight fists, you’ll come to a kimono and typewriter and the sound of moon river. when the ice cube finally melts in the glass, realize that you have been with yourself every step of the way, and you get to have the whole of your experience in this world and lifetime.
  15. for example, a landmarked navigation for my blushing heart of heat. get coffee in the morning and pass the strip of sidewalk where you first kissed, hand reaching up to hold the clasp of overalls. walk to the lake until you reach the bench where you sat on a summer afternoon, knowing and unknowing. walk up a staircase. look down at your keys. hear her voice, and how the mouth remembers.
  16. pull out the map. tell me a story.

  17. landmark

    something used to mark the boundary of a land. 
  18. marking the boundary of land. like a fence. like a feeling. like a forest. like no. a landmark of no, you can’t come here anymore. no, you don’t get to call me that. no, you don’t own me. no, that doesn’t work for me. no, i don’t want to. no, i’m going this way instead.
  19. sometimes it feels like there are places that exist in time and mean something in our own mythologies, serving as landmarks in our orientation in the world. and then you leave, for a long time, and when you seek to return as a visitor, the landmark is gone. it’s been torn down or it has changed so much it's unrecognizable or even if it looks the same, everything else has changed and so it no longer locates you in time and place and personhood. because maybe it is you that has changed. and what i am saying is, i think there are things that were once landmarks of navigation from here to there, those places passed by again and again, and once you really leave, they become the landmarks of a boundary. they are in some ways always alive and forever, and you also can never go back.
  20. landmark: the public pool of my childhood. chlorine burn of eyes and the orange bathing suit that pilled from sitting wet on hot concrete, waiting for adult swim to be over. sweet and tart of fun dip on the tongue and rush of water when crashing from high dive to the deep end. the place that was a landmark of location, and now a boundary. it is the smell that makes me remember. and no matter how far i might reach back in my mind, my grown body is the border that makes it impossible to return.
  21. landmark: kings diner. when we were all there, staying up through the night until early morning. how we would drive out even in the snow, listening to madonna on the cassette tape player. how much we loved each other. how we sat there in the booths, round after round of the napkin game and the sharp inhale of cigarette and weak coffee in chipped cups and how we thought we would live forever. 
  22. landmark: first apartment in the city. wicker park. before it was cool. before people with money came and bought the polish diners, tearing them down to build condos and bars selling craft beer. before we knew how much we were going to hurt. before. and every once in while it happens now, that i drive past it. and it is now some kind of boundary. land marking. and they ask why i'm staring out the window. and i sort of shrug and tell the person sitting next to me in the car, “i used to know someone who lived there, a long time ago.”
  23. all these things happen in life that change you.  you enter in and go through and if you are lucky enough to come out the other side, you still aren’t the same person you were before. and it’s not even good or bad, victory or defeat. it is just life, and the way it keeps happening. there is a marking in the land of space and psyche, the boundary of before and after. which is the other meaning of the word.
  24. landmark

    a significant or historic event, juncture, discovery, or change marking an important stage or turning point in something.
  25. the shift. milestone. watershed. benchmark. turning point. meaning, this is how things were at one time and now, because of this new thing, we will know a different orientation.
  26. the landmark of divorce. here was your thirteen years and your life, this string of choices and wants and detours taken. and here is the moment you knew it was over, followed by all the other moments it took to bring you to the place of saying those words aloud. and here is the papers with agreements and the courthouse and the declaration and the wine you drank together afterwards at the place that was also a landmark, years upon years of memory and now you come and say good-bye. it has, already, ended. changed. the landmark of the moment is your grief and freedom fully felt.
  27. landmark of the night he was first elected president. waking the small child and walking to the el, and how unseasonably warm it was that night. sitting on the train when the election was called. the 44th president of the united states of america and the first black president. momentous. and the streets were all emptied of cars, no one allowed to drive. and people were everywhere, cheering and crying and hugging. we were listening and holding on with hope.
  28. landmark of cancer free. of dodged bullets. of no more waiting.
  29. landmark of before and after.
  30. landmark of words exchanged about lakes and books with pages of blue. of getting to do it differently. of coming to understand the absence of red flags of warning. of letting it breathe and become. of trusting myself and trusting this. of knowing no matter what would happen in all the afters after this, that this itself was everything, complete.
  31. landmark. something changed. crossing over from here to there. and even in this definition there is the movement,, wondering where the directions are placed, looking for ways of location even in the adaptation. 

    to be within the geography and love the language of landmarks, is to nod the head in recognition that we are all travelers, passing through. none of this is really permanent. which is the saddest thing. how even this moment right now, where he is curled up in the bed beside me, sick for three days, missing school and coming in and out of fevered haze. even this is passing, and tomorrow we will wake and he will likely be well and we will drive toward school, passing the familiar landmarks of library and clock outside the hardware store and the parking lot filled with pine trees. we are here, always locating ourselves in something that is on its way to changing. and knowing this, i scan my eyes for the marks made and the land leaving. knowing this, i love more.