Letters from the Woods—An Invitation

Dear one,

Have you ever been lost? I mean right properly lost. So turned around you can’t remember where you came from or what direction is the way back.  

It’s unsettling to say the least.

Do you know what your mind does when faced with profound uncertainty? Where do you go in your head? What coping do you use? Do you reach out to blame someone or thing? Bad map or a shit guide? Do you turn inward and blame yourself? Do you forge ahead in uncertainty? Or do you quit and sit down? How long can you “stay with the trouble” before despair sets in?

I had nearly forgotten what it was like.

I have really only been deeply lost twice in my life–lost to the point of despair. Once in the mountains of Costa Rica. I could not find my way and at one point believed that I might never get home. The second time I was profoundly lost was when my concrete notions of faith dissolved and I became agnostic. It was an agonizing three months that left me with thoughts of suicide due to the extreme feelings of meaninglessness.

Friend, I am lost again. This time, however, I am lost by choice.

This summer I entered the woods in order to abandon the known routes in my life. I wanted to leave behind all that is familiar—the status quo that is responsible for so many troubling structures. I do not want to only fix problems with band-aids or be a white saviour to the legacy of colonial and racist violence. I do not want my liberation lens to end at white feminism.

I do not want to die knowing I could have pushed harder to change the way I live had I just stayed with the trouble a little longer.

I want to be a better ancestor.

I want to take this life force, this energy, this star dust that is my body and run it as hard as I can into trying something else.

For me, this looks like getting lost in the woods.

‘becoming lost’ is really about losing the specificity of our boundaries, the intransigence of our anthropocentrism; it is about shapeshifting, colluding with plants and rocks and wind, and becoming fine enough to meet the challenge of a dead-end. Perhaps it is more about noticing that we are the dead ends we confront, we are the monsters on our path. It is about broadening our spectrum enough to see that ‘the way ahead’ is not as demanding and as exclusive as our frantic maps make it out to be, but a promiscuous field of threadbare possibilities wanting to be stitched.

Bayo Akomolafe

I cannot go back, and I do not know the way forward. I have no compass, no map, and it feels dark.

It is from this place that I invite you alongside me as I journey through these woods, real and metaphorical. In this time I am questioning everything. I am prying behind the structures I have taken for granted and asking what happens when I loosen the lines–or obliterate them altogether.

I intend to be here for the next five years. I intend to get comfortable not knowing, stumbling my way through this place.  It is sometimes scary, sometimes lonely, sometimes incredibly rewarding.

I know there are many paths through the woods, and the one I am following is maybe just for me. But I welcome your company, if you want to come alongside me through this beautiful, uncomfortable passage.

Your friend in the wild,



By alexandraross

I am a contemporary artist in rural Manitoba.


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