Off the Map

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

You know the quote. You’ve seen it in curving, playful lettering on many a bumper sticker and t-shirt. Maybe you even read it in the book it comes from. (I haven’t.) (It’s in The Fellowship of the Ring.)

To me, it is a refutation of the bias for straightness. Straightness is a helpful tool for many projects, but it has severe limitations when applied to everything. Wandering is a lost art in our times. It has been usurped in many ways by surfing the internet – a kind of virtual wandering that lets our restless minds zig and zag from one thing to another, never resting on anything for too long. Let me say this clearly: that is not the kind of wandering we need right now.

The wandering I want to encourage for the next month is the type that allows spaciousness within each moment. A wandering that allows wondering, like that old Christian hymn intones. Wondering is a state of pause and reflection. To wander with wonder invites spontaneity. It leads to unexpected and uncharted zones. That’s where we are going for the next three months: Off. The. Map.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

This quote in its entirety does that beautiful thing called “paradox” so well.  With the New Moon in Gemini initiating a Grand Cross in the Mutable Signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces), we are encouraged to erase the lines which have previously circumscribed our existence. Let the lines go. Draw new ones. Or wait, lineless, in the watercolor hues blurred upon your page.

The mutable signs are experts at wandering, and also at wondering. The mutable signs teach us the power of the digression. Digression means to “go aside.” Whether we stray from the main topic in conversation or the main road, to digress is to moved away from prescribed pathways. Pre-scribed: pre-written.

When we move off of pre-scribed pathways, we can’t know how the story will end because it hasn’t been written yet. This is the part of the story when we are lost in the woods and don’t know where to go. This is the part of the story when the magic is found. It is because we are lost that we are able to make contact with the mysterious.

When we digress from the path of progress (progress, which is less a political intention than a pro-capitalist mantra, but I digress) – when we eschew progress as the straight line to some better future world, we can discover tools we didn’t know we needed. Like Dorothy who collects her team of accidental warriors on her way to Oz, we need help on our journeys. But we don’t always know what kind, or who, or where it will come from. Trusting the digressions of life can lead us to answers to questions we didn’t even know we were asking.

This summer, go off the map in your life. Consider what you think is solid and unchanging about yourself, your home, your work, your power, your relationships. What has led you to think in this way? How can you loosen attachment in order to remove bondage and create better bonds?

What has been asleep is waking up. What seems dead is rising again. What has been disempowered is ready to be fierce and powerful. What does that describe in your life? Let the questions lead you. The questions are so much better than the answers right now. +

Astrological lowdown: Sun-Moon-Venus exactly conjunct in Gemini opposing Saturn in Sagittarius; Jupiter in Virgo opposing Neptune in Pisces. All of this makes the configuration known as the Grand Mutable Cross. Which houses hold the mutable signs in your chart? Are these the areas of life that need adjustment, revision, and review?
The title of this post and the image come from the zine turned book Off the Map, an anarchist travelog and "magical, novel-like folktale for the end of the world." I know one of the writers, and I also LOVE this book. You can buy it from crimethinc.