Work in Place of Place

“Place is one kind of place. Another field is the work we do, our calling, our path in life. Membership in a place includes membership in a community. Membership in a work association—whether it’s a guild or a union or a religious or mercantile order—is membership in a network. Networks cut across communities with their own kind of territoriality, analogous to the long migrations of geese and hawks.

“Metaphors of path and trail are from the days when journeys were on foot or by horse with packstock, when our whole human world was a network of paths. There were paths everywhere: convenient, worn, clear, sometimes even set with distance posts or stones to measure li, or versts, or yojana.

“A path is something that can be followed, it takes you somewhere. “Linear.” What would a path stand against? “No path.” Off the path, off the trail. So what’s off the path? In a sense everything else is off the path. The relentless complexity of the world is off to the side of the trail. For hunters and herders trails weren’t always so useful. For a forager, the path is not where you walk for long. Wild herbs, camas bulbs, quail, dye plants, are away from the path. The whole range of items that fulfill our needs is out there. We must wander through it to learn and memorize the field—rolling, crinkled, eroded, gullied, ridged (wrinkled like the brain)–holding the map of my mind. . . . For the forager, the beaten path shows nothing new, and one may come home empty-handed.”

Gary Snyder in Zen Robes Walking a Stepping Stone Path
Gary Snyder in Zen Robes Walking a Stepping Stone Path

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