Getting lost…

“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”  Menlo (pre-Socratic philosopher)


I have recently embarked on a delightful journey through the interior landscape of Rebecca Solnit and her wonderfully adventurous book called – A Field Guide to Getting Lost.  It is just the book for me, especially for where I find myself of late – longing for this very thing: to get myself Lost.

I stumbled upon this book through the beautiful blogsite called woodbirdthemmornings, which is written and tended to by a lovely gal named Robin – a renaissance woman who lives in Vermont, writes, sings, taps Maple trees, and rocks my world with her brilliant spirit.  Do check out her site, you will not be sorry.   Anyway, I digress – Solnit rambles through the idea of, and importance of, what it means to seek out the act of getting one’s self Lost – how this expands and deepens our inner life, and allows us to broaden our own understanding of the world around us, as well as the world inside of us.

the divine mystery of the desert
the divine mystery of the desert

It’s funny how life can lead you to the exact thing that you need, right?  I was talking with a writer friend of mine the other day – right before I started my journey through Solnit’s book – and he was saying how he outlines his novels prior to sitting down to write.  I am aware that this is a favored tool by many writers out there…indeed, one of my favorite mentors in grad school  – the wickedly talented writer Tara Ison, was the queen of this approach!  This is not my favored approach, however…it is indeed, one that I would find difficult to reside in.  One of the great joys for me as a writer is the act of getting lost as I write!  I start with a kernel…for example, when I began my novel The Burden of Light, all I knew was that my story would revolve around a  young man who was dying at a rather young age, and he would need to find a way to forgive himself for deeds done during his life.  From there, I simply began to write…exploring the world of this character – Raymond – as he led me through his journey.  This is a safe way for me to get lost – I trust the character(s) to tell me/reveal to me, what it is I need to know, and how to express their story.

IMG_1602 I do, however, have a certain fear of getting lost out in the wilderness, and I’ve always felt a bit “lacking” in this department.  I LOVE to hike, to camp, to be out in the wilds…I’ve gone rock climbing, spelunking, I’ve camped in the desert solo, hiked in many places around the globe by myself, traveled the Middle East alone as well…but my path in these cases has always been a “one way in, one way out” kind of experience.  I’ve always maintained a healthy fear of getting lost out there in the wild, and not knowing how to get myself home.  But there is a real reason for this: I do not have the skills needed to take on this kind of journey yet!  I do not know how to read stars, how to follow a compass, what plants are safe to eat, etc…but hey, these are skills I can one day learn – and then, look out!  I’m gonna get myself LOST in Mother Nature ya’ll! :)

Let me leave you with some meaty quotes from Solnit’s book: words of wisdom, and fat to chew on, as you explore your own relationship with what it means to get yourself lost.

“Lost (is) mostly a state of mind.”   Couldn’t agree more.  Think how easy it can be to feel lost within ones self…or is that just me? :)  This is a great nugget to carry with you – to pull out and remind yourself anytime you start to feel angst over being lost…in whatever form it presents itself.

“Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal.  It requires ignorance – nothing more.  But to lose oneself in a city – as one loses oneself in a forest – that calls for quite a different schooling.” Walter Benjamin (yes!)  Solnit adds to this quote by saying – “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.  And to this, I give an emphatic YES!  To me, this is precisely what I experience when I write – this residing in the presence of the beautiful mystery, the ever feast-able uncertainty that delivers us to mystery’s doorstep.  It is profound.

Getting lost is a leap of faith…it is a belief in something greater than yourself…it is to reside in the unbound…to surrender to that which we do not yet know, yet somehow, understand…it is to embrace the whole Shebang with intention, willingness, and a spirit of wonder!


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