It must be disturbing to take off a VR headset at Burning Man and attempt to orient yourself in the reality that you've re-entered. Maybe your eyes go first to the dark mountains. But if it's late at night, and the mountains have disappeared into the sky, I wonder how it is possible, in the midst of so many lights, to understand where you are in the world.
Immediately before I moved to Yosemite, Liza introduced me to Linda Gregg. Gregg's debut book, Too Bright To See, was published by Graywolf Press in 1981 in Port Townsend, Washington. Liza had it with her when we met, also in Port Townsend, in 2011.
The bright blue book is covered in diagrams of partially-assembled columns. Its first poem, "We Manage Most When We Manage Small", has become a kind of stabilising incantation for me over the past half-decade.
In Port Townsend, where I lived for several months, I took walks along the beach and through the town late at night. The deer were so tame, so unafraid of humans, that I would often nearly run into them on dark streets. They moved slowly out of my way, eyes glowing yellow in my headlamp.
I lived in an old farmhouse several miles outside of Ann Arbor in Michigan. I commuted to campus on my bike, along a path through the woods beside the Huron River. It was very dark on the path at night, and deer would often run away from me, in front of me, alongside of me as my lights startled them.
On one full moon in December, it had just snowed, and the woods were glowing. When I came to a large field, I turned off my bike light and used only snow and the moonlight to guide me the rest of the way home.
In my last months of riding a bike, before I got in the final of several serious accidents, I would orient myself in Berlin with the Fernsehturm. One night, when I was new in the city, I thought that I was in west Mitte, heading south. The Fernsehturm was to my left, as it should have been.
But then I recognized the distinctive GDR facades of Karl-Marx Allee. I realised I was in Friedrichshain, on the exact opposite side of the city, moving north.
I biked a huge loop around the city that night. When I finally made it home, I was too tired to feel relief.