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This weekend I read the Sandman cycle yet again. I turn to it when I need it, and that is all I can say about the force that tells me to abandon whatever else I might be reading and submerge myself in dream, mistake, hubris, and justice. Saturday morning, I saw this:

Walk any path in Destiny’s garden and you will be forced to choose, not once but many times. The paths fork and divide. With each step you take through Destiny’s garden, you make a choice, and every choice determines future paths. However, at the end of a lifetime of walking you might look back, and see only one path stretching out behind you; or look ahead, and see only darkness.

Sandman IV: Season of Mists (Neil Gaiman)

Just another set of words shouting themselves out at me louder than all the others on a particular page. The way bits do from my friends’ blogs, from a book I may be reading too quickly, a shred of a song. I wonder if looking back and seeing only one path would fill me with grief or with confidence that I had always done what I should. I know how I’d bet.

It turns out that there is enough carbon in me to generate a new kind of diamond when I’m put under five months of sustained anxiety and pressure. How to polish it: Say yes when an incisive, artistic writer friend asks me to trade chapters for critique. It has been a long time since I’ve had to do this kind of work, and it is panic-inducing to start the process. Then the machine gets going and the low-grade buzz lulls me into concentration and I delete sentences and write new ones. Two hours go by.

I remember this. How did I let it get so far away from me? I turn around and I see it doesn’t matter whether I see every turn along the path or just one solid line stretching back to a cardboard playhouse in the first grade classroom. In the dark, work glows. You can find your way to anything if you let your eyes adjust.