Here I am on a writing retreat looking again at work on my essay “Untangling in front of you” (working title)

A tangled line—it might be a rope, a necklace, a sewing thread, a pile of string—comes not alone nor merely as a practical matter. Faced with a complicated tangle it can feel like something best approached without witnesses. Untangling it might involve a loss of nerve, a failure of composure, heavy breathing, a sense of rising panic. An audience of any size provides a measure of pressure heightening the possibility for irrational panic. It’s only a line curled over and looped amongst its own length. With quiet composure, a way out can be found. If panic sets in, tension lends itself toward pulling the line taut making follow through more difficult. Any practical task capable of setting one on a course toward panic carries the risk of death or serious injury or the weight of metaphor. Usually untangling a rope or string or thread or necklace is not a life or death matter and yet I can easily summon the recollection of hearing strangled cries of agony from a person struggling to untangle a line. I can envision a person trapped in a net whose struggle to get out merely tightens the knots binding them. I have seen a bird thrashing itself further into a tangle when patiently stepping away at first sensing possible entanglement might have seen the way out with little effort. It is not only a problem of human meaning making but the metaphorical possibilities of the tangle which can create a tangle in the brain that is as big an obstacle to freedom as the rope itself.

Writing is somewhat similar to untangling a length of rope. Thoughts exist in simultaneity and a curvature of relations within my thought-scape. In order to write them down and give a rational order to them I attempt to put them in a grammatical line. I struggle to do this if I do not maintain some level of calm especially through an emotional response. In that way writing might demand calm from a troubled state of mind, it might soothe a tangle of emotions, it might set into reason a confusion of if/then loops.

Consider the knot: the one that keeps the mast steady in heavy wind; the one that closes the umbilical cord; that joins two ropes together at a right angle, that, multiplied by many, comprises a bridge; that keeps a kite from flying away; that holds a ship at the dock; maintains a position at sea; measures the speed; frees a parachute from its package.

And consider its memory: A knot is a set of relations and a rope holds the memory of it equal to its investment. The tie that binds.