Grandma’s Big Eyes: Reflections on Getting Lost In Research (Pete Kalu)
When we sign up for this journey we know we’ll be going off-track: veering into the unknown to try bring back something new, something that adds a little (even if that little is infinitesimal small in the astronomical scale of things) to what is already there. Uncertainty is built into the project. For the most part, mapping a route is something I’ve found myself doing incrementally. Occasionally, things go wrong. I get lost. I’m writing a novel that attempts to reflect and quiz concepts such as habitus, desistance and the social contract from sociology, criminology and jurisprudence. There are days when I’ve wandered in fog. What follows is an attempt to describe in a literary way that feeling – exhilaration, panic, fear etc – of losing your bearings…
There is something in getting lost. You head out with the shining map to visit grandma, taking the track through the forest that you know so well. Then the wolf calls. You’ve been told to get swift to grandma, but that call – you hear a new note there that’s hitching you to something. You abandon the satnav, get drawn, hurtle to the wolf, become the tick in the wolf’s fur, savouring the stink bloom of fresh tracks, the hunkered down eye-level reinventing as you splash through leaves, a swerve of bush, the crunch and stab of twig, bark, parchment, papyrus, bit torrents, daze.
The map sunk into mud, its circuits shorted, there’s no back only future to cling to – rushes of strange leaves, the thin logic of their striations as guide. Vein patternings. Filigree. Twilight. Hunkered down. Night as the new day. The breeding. Orchestra of lungs. Sweat. Slime. Olfaction. A pant of cells. Synapses fusing. This wet rewiring, sucking, pawing of earth. Drinking the river. Slowly becoming wolf-clear. Listening to new calls. Till light inks in. The forced scroll into day that has you cursing.
Then rolling by grandma’s with the sun at its zenith. – What took you? / –Look grandma – berries, yam, herbs. I found a new lake. / – The stench of forest is on you, child. /–Yes, grandma. And you smell so sweet I could eat you!