By Kelly Michels

Photography by Rachel O’Sullivan. Her full profile is available in the Art & Photography section.

You’ve heard the stories:

A cat named Skittles vanishes on vacation

only to reappear at home 350 miles away

or the Airedale Terrier running loose from its owner’s car

only to be found 45 miles later in his backyard. Better yet,

the house cat who preferred warmer weather, spent

six months walking 480 miles to the family’s

vacation home on the French Rivieria.

But humans? We spend most of our time lost,

so lost, it becomes second nature, the second guessing,

pulling over for directions, arguing with each other

in the backseat, we spend so much time lost

that I wonder if I were dropped off in the middle

of nowhere, on another continent, how would I ever

find my way back to this tiny island of skittish light

where everything changes all at once, the sky, the sun

hiding, reappearing, this island I call home where

nothing looks the same way twice, where the clouds

move so fast, at times I can feel myself spinning on the heel

of the earth. Would I ever find this place again?

Birds, like homing pigeons, have iron in the cells of the inner ear

that align with the earth’s magnetic field; salmon use the trail

of their own scent through water; seals have hydrodynamic

reception, bats, echolocation, but we were born with nothing,

no superpower magnetic sensing, no scent we leave behind

and trace back. We possess nothing. What we have

is outside ourselves, so outside it is not even

of this world. What we have are the stars,

and the stars alone, a constellation of lost light

or the echo of light. What we have is the memory

left behind, everything that once was and will never

be again. This is how we move through the dark,

how we stumble outside ourselves, guided

by a universe remembering what’s gone,

a history of loss and its wandering

radiant light, telling us who we are,

where to go. This is how we get home.

CategoriesIssue II