a field guide to getting lost

Verdwalen in een boek is bijna onmogelijk. En als het al gebeurt is dat vaak niet de bedoeling; de schrijver is dan meestal de controle kwijt. Maar Rebecca Solnit is een ongewone schrijver, ze houdt je bij de hand vast terwijl ze je laat verdwalen. Wanderlust is een geschiedenis van het wandelen, A Field Guide to Getting Lost vat de verschillende manieren waarop je kunt verdwalen samen (en die manieren zijn echt heel erg verschillend, oceans between). Solnit weet waar ze over schrijft, ze weet sowieso veel. En ze kijkt graag. In A Field Guide ziet ze de mooiste dingen. Dit boek is wonderschoon.


‘Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophecies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own. Scientists too, as J. Robert Oppenheimer once remarked, “live always at the ‘edge of mystery’—the boundary of the unknown.” But they transform the unknown in the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.’ (p. 5)

‘On a celebrated midwinter's night in 1817 the poet John Keats walked home talking with some friends “and several things dovetailed my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a man of Achievement, especially in Literature.... I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”’ (p. 6)

‘The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deepter the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of the land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.’ (p. 29)

‘There is a voluptuous pleasure in all that sadness, and I wonder where it comes from, because as we usually construe the world, sadness and pleasure should be far apart. Is it that the joy that comes from other people always risks sadness, because even when love doesn’t fail, mortality enters in; is it that there is a place where sadness and joy are not distinct, where all emotion lies together, a sort of ocean into which the tributary streams of distinct emotions go, a faraway deep inside; is it that such sadness is only the side effect of art that describes the depths of our lives, and to see that described in all its potential for loneliness and pain is beautiful?’ (p. 118-119)

‘The emotion stirred by the landscape is piercing, a joy close to pain when the blue is deepest on the horizon or the clouds are doing those spectacular fleeting things so much easier to recall than to describe.’ (p. 119-120)

‘(..) the desert is made first and foremost out of light, at least to the eye and the heart, and you quickly learn that the mountain range twenty miles away is pink at dawn, a scrubby green at midday, blue in evening and under clouds. The light belies the bony solidity of the land, playing over it like emotion on a face, and in this the desert is intensely alive, as the apparent mood of mountains changes hourly, as places that are flat and stark at noon fill with shadows and mystery in the evening, as darkness becomes a reservoir from which the eyes drink, as clouds promise rain that comes like passion and leaves like redemption, rain that delivers itself with thunder, with lightning, with a rise of scents in this place so pure that moisture, dust, and the various bushes all have their own smell in the sudden humidity.’ (p. 129)

‘There were lizards in abundance, and when they climbed the screens of the windows, I was delighted as I'd always been by the azure stripes on the undersides of the species we always called bluebellies. They kept drowning in the horse trough under the drainpipe, where they would float pale and hapless like sailors in a Victorian shipwreck poem. In the distance was the celestial drama of summer thunderstorms, clouds assembling in vast arrays that demonstrated how far the sky went and how high, that shifted from the bundled white cumulus into the deep blue of storm clouds, and when we were lucky, poured down rain and lightning and shafts of light and vapor trails like a violent redemption. It was as though the whole world consisted of the tiny close-up realm of these creatures and the vast distances of heaven, as though my own scale had been eliminated along with the middleground, and this too is one of the austere luxuries of the desert.’ (p. 137-138)

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