Image courtesy

When you walk through the woods at night, what is the one thing you search for?

I know that when I am the one caught between those dark silhouetted trees, I

search for a sign that I haven’t strayed too far from my path; distinctive stone, a

trunk with a crude chalk scratching, or, in the most fortunate scenario, a wooden

signpost with a town name carved into it, all soothe the restless mind and its

cold, creeping anxiety.

(Though if the town is now ten miles further away than it was an hour ago, the

appearance of that name may not be such a blessing.)

You should pick your way out of the mulch of the forest floor and find a path. Use

your hands to map your way through the trees whenever possible – they are

more trustworthy than your eyes, especially in this part of the woods.

Once you can feel the path beneath the soles of your shoes, the compacted

footsteps of a thousand other travelers, move forwards along it. Do not try to

retrace your steps, despite the common urge, for this is often dangerous and

ultimately unhelpful.

Search for a signpost with every sense you have available to you. This will keep

your mind occupied until you eventually stumble across it, and will keep those

shadowy creatures from nipping too hard at your heels. If your mind does

momentarily wander, however, do not be alarmed by the shadows in your

peripheral vision; they are repelled by concentration and attracted to panic.

Once you find the signpost, it can be tempting to convince yourself that it is the

thing, the only thing, that is keeping you grounded in this time and place.

Truthfully, nobody is sure whether this is true or, if it is, whether it is possible to

prove such a thing. Instead, think of it as the lantern that will guide you to the

next signpost.

Do not become one of those unfortunates who clung to that single milestone with

all their might. Do not become distracted by the skeletons in their crumpled

heaps at the foot of the signpost.

Heeding this advice, you may be able to find a sturdy path to the nearby town –

but this cannot be guaranteed. After all, this forest may have rules of its own.