Of getting lost

field_guide“I love going out of my way, beyond what I know, and finding my way back a few extra miles, by another trail, with a compass that argues with a map, with strangers’ contrary anecdotal directions. Nights alone in motels in remote western towns where I am, nights with the strange paintings and floral spreads and cable television that furnish a reprieve from my own biography, when in Benjamin’s terms I have lost myself though I know where I am. Moments when I say to myself as feet or car clear a crest or round a bend, I have never seen this place before. Times when some architectural detail or vista has escaped me these many years says to me that I never did know where I was, even when I was home. Stories that make the familiar strange again, like those that revealed the lost landscapes, lost cemeteries, lost species around my home. Conversations that make everything around them disappear. Dreams that I forget until I realize they have colored everything I felt and did that day. Getting lost like that seems like the beginning of finding your way or finding another way, though there are other ways of being lost.”

“Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.”

“The people thrown into other cultures go through something of the anguish of the butterflies, whose body must disintegrate and reform more than once in its life cycle.”

“[…] the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and what in the end possesses you.”

“I wondered then and now how I could give all this up for what cities and people have to offer, for it ought to be less terrible to be lonely than to have stepped out of this sense of a symbolic order that the world of animals and celestial light offers, but writing is lonely enough, a confession to which there will be no immediate or commensurate answer, an opening statement in a conversation that falls silent or takes place long afterward without the author. But the best writing appears like those animals, sudden, self-possessed, telling everything and nothing, words approaching wordlessness. Maybe writing is its own desert, its own wilderness.”

“It’s okay to realize that life has a mysterious quality to it, it has an element of uncertainty, it’s okay to realize that we do need help. that calling out for help is a very generous act because it allow others to help us and it allows us to be helped. Sometimes we’re offering help, and then this hostile world becomes a very different place.”

Rebecca SolnitA field guide to getting lost

Some other worthy readings: On a windy night I follow Yves into the void.


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