Monday 12 October 2020

Step by Step in the Mud


the climb ahead
is hard and steep
and slippery underfoot
you drag yourself
onward, upward
reaching out and grasping
through the fog
at anything that looks
like the way forward
a way forward
any way
and hoping that each one you take
is safe, stable
and won't set you back
further still
the heavy fog
hangs over you like 
an end
you cannot see
there is no road here
no signposts
not even a trail to follow
in the mud
only a cacophony
of contradiction

some people do not believe you 
are even here
or that the place exists at all
you must be imagining it
because they have never been there
you're just looking 
for an easier road, they say
you're making it up, telling stories
for attention, for sympathy or something

some people have heard of the place
an uncle's friend's sister's friend was there
where are they now? 
you wonder
did they find their way?
sorry, they've no idea
they'll ask, they say

some people claim to know the way
but they are armchair explorers 
posing as professionals
they are experts, they say
in the field 
and they will tell you what to do
but the actual terrain 
is foreign to them

or worse still, some claim to know the way
and they will sell it to you
with snake oil and lightning
and if their directions don't work
you followed them wrong, they say
because they wouldn't sell
something so dangerous
would they?

but it isn't all 
critics, condescension and capitalists
there are some people who genuinely want 
to guide you, they say
but they have only read
outdated papers and inspiring stories
and they cannot 
they dare not
imagine the reality

but there are some people
who are worth listening to
some who, though they have
never been there
have studied the area, they say
from different paths
and kept up to date 
with new discoveries
these people are worth listening to 
they can give some directions
to start with
they have heard all the stories
and they can warn you of the pitfalls
and dangers on the road

better yet, some people 
have actually been there
they say it how it is
they made this journey
and some of them even made 
note of the ups and downs
the circles, wrong turns
and paths they took

these are the people
to really listen to
though they each started
somewhere different
took alternate paths and views
and may have stopped
at various places along the way
they have been where you are now
and theirs are the maps
to follow

and if you can
when you can
keep your own records
of the ways you try
and piece together
your own guidebook
so the next person
lost in the fog
will have one more voice
of knowing and experience
and compassion
to listen to
as they navigate
this slippery slope
step by step
in the mud

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