On loss and 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


I’ve become a Rebecca Solnit fan. I admit it. It started with the opening lines of her beautiful book, Wanderlust, which is a history of walking, it’s spilled over into everything else I can lay eyes on that she’s written.

This particular passage captivates me. Perhaps because it is only in the past couple of years that I have come to appreciate the depth of loss, and the deep importance of embracing the moment of getting lost, towards self discovery, healing, understanding of others and the world around me. I love the imagery: the material peeling away like the molting of a snake, the view from the rear of a rushing train. I was on a train last week, pouring out of the highlands of central Otago and down onto the plain surrounding Dunedin, New Zealand. I stood on the back and watched the world recede, time travel in action. The intersection of loss and lost.

Are these things you think about? Or is it just me?

Posted by | Comments (1)  | April 23, 2013
Category: Travel Writing

One Response to “On loss and getting lost”

  1. james Says:

    I do think about these things, too! I appreciate all that you share with us