The word “orientation” transports me to my very first night in a Scripps College dorm, when the R.A. distributed small piles of M&M’s to each of us freshmen (ahem, first-year students). If you got three, you had to share three things about yourself, and so on.

Twenty years ago–in September of 1991, I was seventeen–eating a handful of chocolates was for me inseparable from the misery of bulimia. But it was on one morning that following spring that I awoke transformed, all of the underground, incremental, invisible work I’d been doing suddenly sprung to life and ready to grow, the Southern California green grass brighter, the dew softer, the light sharper, the smog lifted–and my admission to Barnard as a transfer student the following semester, sealed.

And then there is orientation as perspective: a way of seeing, of receiving gifts or perceiving setbacks, of choosing to feel lost or loose, poor or powerful, or simply protected from the rain on a rickety fire escape, inventing new songs from known refrains.

I’m on a bit of a Coldplay kick. A guy I work with burned me a few CD’s, and I’m relishing them, mostly listening alone in the car, surround-sound turned way up–every road is a ray of light–some kind of path before me as the rear-view recedes.

I relish the little bit of light the headlights provide, and I could just drive and drive and drive, blasting the music and speeding along these roads like light itself, each moment singular, a mystery in motion, the doors of time revolving with cosmic punctuality.

And I’ve come to trust that I’ll just know–when to pull over, when to saunter into a truck stop and drop a few quarters in a jukebox, when to dance and sway a little, and when to lie down in the sand, my orientation towards the world changing everything and nothing, pulling me closer to the infinite sea of bright stars. Twinkling.

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