Posts Tagged ‘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.’  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.”


” But the changes in a butterfly’s life are not always so dramatic.  The strange resonant word instar describes the stage between two successive molts, for as it grows, a caterpillar, like a snake, like Cabeza de Vaca walking across the Southwest, splits its skin again and again, each stage an instar.  It remains a caterpillar as it goes through these molts, but no longer one in the same skin.  There are rituals marking such splits, graduations, indoctrinations, ceremonies of change, though most changes proceed without such clear and encouraging recognition.  Instar implies something both celestial and ingrown, something heavenly and disastrous, and perhaps change is commonly like that, a buried star, oscillating between near and far.”

–Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (The Blue of Distance)



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I basically read any interview with Michelle Williams I come across because her work to me is the epitome of what I want to strive for.  She was utterly brilliant in Brokeback Mountain, but Blue Valentine is what really sealed the deal.  There are two movies that I have seen thus far in my lifetime where, at the end of the film, I was left sitting in the theater feeling as if my entire soul, heart and being had been completely stripped naked and  left exposed for all to see.  Blue Valentine was one of these movies.   (The other was Into The Wild).  The acting in BV was so pure and truthful and generous, it is impossible for me to understand anyone not seeing  or experiencing what I did.  Soooo…to cut to the chase,  I think she’s pretty swell, and I love her interviews because she brings that same pureness and truthfulness to them as well.


Recently I read this article where Williams is interviewed in GQ Magazine.  It’s a beautiful and intense interview that goes in and out of a lot of places over the course of 3 days.  In it  the conversation steers towards some of the books that stand out for her, one being A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.  I had read this in the past,  as she apparently was given the book to  read during the year after Heath Ledger passed and it because significant to her during the grieving and healing process.  As I hadn’t gotten around yet to reading it  and  had just (finally!!) discovered  my neighborhood library, I wrote it down as a reminder to soon read in the near future.


It, along with a few other books, arrived via my library request list this past Monday, and so I enjoyed an extra long and refreshing walk to pick them up.  Tonight I finally started reading it during my subway ride into  Manhattan and back to see Primary StagesRx at  59E59 Theaters.  Already it is clear why this book arrived to me when it did, and the synchronicity in timing with my upcoming departure of Facebook (and the likes) is heard loud and clear and not at all lost on me.   I won’t give too much away for those who have not yet read it, but I do wish to share a few quotes  and excerpts below that have already resonated strongly with me.



How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you? (–Meno, pre-Socratic philosopher)


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.


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 prophesies, 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 into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.


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.



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