rebecca solnit: a field guide to getting lost

“One day I went to meet friends at a performance in a city park, but when I could not find them in the crowd, I wandered into a used bookstore and found an old book.  In it, Jaime de Angulo, the wild Spanish storyteller-anthropologist who eighty years ago spent considerable time among these people, wrote, ‘I want to speak now of a certain curious phenomenon found among the Pit River Indians.  The Indians refer to it in English as ‘wandering.’  They say of a certain man, ‘He is wandering,’ or ‘He has started to wander.’  It would seem that under certain conditions of mental stress an individual finds life in his accustomed surroundings too hard to bear.  Such a man starts to wander.  He goes about the country, traveling aimlessly.  He will stop here and there at the camps of friends or relations, moving on, never stopping at any place longer than a few days.  He will not make any outward show of grief, sorrow or worry….The Wanderer, man or woman, shuns camps and villages, remains in wild, lonely places, on the tops of mountains, in the bottoms of canyons.’  This wanderer isn’t so far from Woolf, and she too knew despair and the desire for what Buddhists call unbeing, the desire that finally led her to walk into a river with pockets full of rocks.  It’s not about being lost but about trying to lose yourself.”

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