A Field Guide to Getting Lost Quotes

Rate this book
Clear rating
A Field Guide to Getting Lost A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
7,487 ratings, 4.03 average rating, 905 reviews
Open Preview
A Field Guide to Getting Lost Quotes Showing 1-30 of 85
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“When someone doesn't show up, the people who wait sometimes tell stories about what might have happened and come to half believe the desertion, the abduction, the accident. Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don't--and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown. Perhaps fantasy is what you fill up maps with rather than saying that they too contain the unknown.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“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 the map…nights alone in motels in remote western towns where I know no one and no one I know knows where I am, nights with 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 on vista that has escaped me these many years says to me that I never did know where I was, even when I was home.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don't--and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possession; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know where you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world has become larger than your knowledge of it. Either way, there is a loss of control. Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake. Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“In her novel Regeneration, Pat Barker writes of a doctor who 'knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“...to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender...”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?" (Plato)
The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration- how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost. The word ‘lost’ comes from the old Norse ‘los’ meaning the disbanding of an army…I worry now that people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know.

Advertising, alarmist news, technology, incessant busyness, and the design of public and private life conspire to make it so. A recent article about the return of wildlife to suburbia described snow-covered yards in which the footprints of animals are abundant and those of children are entirely absent. Children seldom roam, even in the safest places… I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“But fear of making mistakes can itself become a huge mistake, one that prevents you from living, for life is risky and anything less is already a loss.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Perhaps it’s that you can’t go back in time, but you can return to the scenes of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fatal decision; 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 in the end what possesses you.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the desire between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“They are all beasts of burden in a sense, ' Thoreau once remarked of animals, 'made to carry some portion of our thoughts.' Animals are the old language of the imagination; one of the ten thousand tragedies of their disappearance would be a silencing of this speech.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Solitude in the city is about the lack of other people or rather their distance beyond a door or wall, but in remote places it isn’t an absence but the presence of something else, a kind of humming silence in which solitude seems as natural to your species as to any other, words strange rocks you may or may not turn over.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Beauty is often spoken of as though it only stirs lust or admiration, but the most beautiful people are so in a way that makes them look like destiny or fate or meaning, the heroes of a remarkable story.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Reading these stories, it's tempting to think that
the arts to be learned are those of tracking, hunting,
navigating, skills of survival and escape. Even in the
everyday world of the present, an anxiety to survive
manifests itself in cars and clothes for far more rugged
occasions than those at hand, as though to express some
sense of the toughness of things and of readiness to face
them. But the real difficulties, the real arts of survival,
seem to lie in more subtle realms. There, what's called
for is a kind of resilience of the psyche, a readiness to
deal with what comes next. These captives lay out in a
stark and dramatic way what goes on in every life: the
transitions whereby you cease to be who you were. Seldom
is it as dramatic, but nevertheless, something of
this journey between the near and the far goes on in
every life. Sometimes an old photograph, an old friend,
an old letter will remind you that you are not who you
once were, for the person who dwelt among them, valued
this, chose that, wrote thus, no longer exists. Without
noticing it you have traversed a great distance; the
strange has become familiar and the familiar if not
strange at least awkward or uncomfortable, an outgrown
garment. And some people travel far more than
others. There are those who receive as birthright an adequate
or at least unquestioned sense of self and those
who set out to reinvent themselves, for survival or for
satisfaction, and travel far. Some people inherit values
and practices as a house they inhabit; some of us have to
burn down that house, find our own ground, build from scratch, even as a psychological metamorphosis.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“The blue of distance comes with time, with the discovery of melancholy, of loss, the texture of longing, of the complexity of the terrain we traverse, and with the years of travel.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“The people thrown into other cultures go through something of the anguish of the butterfly, whose body must disintegrate and reform more than once in its life cycle. In her novel “Regeneration,” Pat Barker writes of a doctor who “knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cat of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.” But the butterfly is so fit an emblem of the human soul that its name in Greek is “psyche,” the word for soul. We have not much language to appreciate this phase of decay, this withdrawal, this era of ending that must precede beginning. Nor of the violence of the metamorphosis, which is often spoken of as though it were as graceful as a flower blooming.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“There isn't a story to tell, because a relationship is a story you construct together and take up residence in, a story as sheltering as a house. You invent this story of how your destinies were made to entwine like porch vines, you adjust to a big view in this direction and no view in that, the doorway that you have to duck through and the window that is jammed, how who you think you are becomes a factor of who you think he is and who he thinks you are, a castle in the clouds made out of the moist air exhaled by dreamers.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“The stories don't fit back together, and it's the end of stories, those devices we carry like shells and shields and blinkers and occasionally maps and compasses. The people close to you become mirrors and journals in which you record your history, the instruments that help you know yourself and remember yourself, and you do the same for them. When they vanish so does the use, the appreciation, the understanding of those small anecdotes, catchphrases, jokes: they become a book slammed shut or burnt... The stories shatter. Or you wear them out or leave them behind. Over time the memory loses power. Over time you become someone else.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“Eduardo Galeano notes that America was conquered, but not discovered, that the men who arrived with a religion to impose and dreams of gold never really knew where they were, and that this discovery is still taking place in our time.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“I grew up with landscape as a recourse, with the possibility of exiting the horizontal realm of social relations for a vertical alignment with earth and sky, matter and spirit. Vast open spaces speak best to this craving, the spaces I myself first found in the desert and then in the western grasslands.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“...Not till we are completely lost, or turned round,--for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lies,--do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations." Thoreau is playing with the biblical question about what it profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul. Lose the whole world, get lost in it, and find your soul.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“I wonder now about Demeter and Persephone. Maybe Persephone was glad to run off with the king of death to his underground realm, maybe it was the only way she could break away from her mother, maybe Demeter was a bad parent the way Lear was a bad parent, denying nature, including the nature of children to leave their parents. Maybe Persephone thought Hades was the infinitely cool older man who held the knowledge she sought, maybe she loved the darkness, the six months of winter, the sharp taste of pomegranates, the freedom from her mother, maybe she knew that to be truly alive death had to be part of the picture just as winter must. It was as the queen of hell that she became an adult and came into power. Hades’s realm is called the underworld, and so are the urban realms of everything outside the law. And as in Hopi creation myths, where humans and other beings emerge from underground, so it’s from the underground that culture emerges in this civilization.”
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

« previous 1 3