Rebecca Solnit

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Rebecca Solnit (born June 24, 1961) is an American writer.


Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001)[edit]

  • Most of the time walking is merely practical, the unconsidered locomotive means between two sites. To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking, physiologically like and philosophically unlike the way the mail carrier brings the mail and the office worker reaches the train.
  • This history of walking is an amateur history, just as walking is an amateur act. To use a walking metaphor, it trespasses through everybody else’s field—through anatomy, anthropology, architecture, gardening, geography, political and cultural history, literature, sexuality, religious studies—and doesn’t stop in any of them on its long route.
  • Walking has been one of the constellations in the starry sky of human culture, a constellation whose three stars are the body, the imagination, and the wide-open world, and though all three exist independently, it is the lines drawn between them—drawn by the act of walking for cultural purposes—that makes them a constellation. Constellations are not natural phenomena but cultural impositions; the lines drawn between stars are like paths worn by the imagination of those who have gone before. This constellation called walking has a history, the history trod out by all those poets and philosophers and insurrectionaries, by jaywalkers, streetwalkers, pilgrims, tourists, hikers, mountaineers, but whether it has a future depends on whether those connecting paths are traveled still.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005)[edit]

  • The word “lost” comes from the Old Norse los, meaning the disbanding of an army, and this origin suggests soldiers falling out of formation to go home, a truce with the wide world. I worry now that many people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know. Advertising, alarmist news, technology, incessant busyness, and the design of public and private space conspire to make it so.
  • 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 deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of 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.
  • When I think of the artist Yves Klein, I think of those absolutists who preceded him by a generation or two, those who vanished, think of the boxer and Dadaist poet Arthur Cravan who in 1918 was supposed to leave Mexico to meet his new wife in Argentina but was never seen again; of Everett Ruess, the bohemian who might have become an artist or writer had he not disappeared into the canyons of Utah at the age of twenty in 1934, leaving behind a final signature carved into the rock: “Nemo” or “no one”; of the aviator Amelia Earhart who disappeared over the Pacific in 1937; of the pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry who left behind several lapidary books before his plane too disappeared, in 1944, in the Mediterranean. They were all saddled with a desire to appear in the world and a desire to go as far as possible that was a will to disappear from it. In the ambition was a desire to make over the world as it should be; but in the disappearances was the desire to live as though it had been made over, to refashion oneself into a hero who disappeared not only into the sky, the sea, the wilderness, but into a conception of self, into legend, into the heights of possibility.
  • ... We talked while the full moon mounted in the sky, words filling up the narrow space between us, as much a buffer as a link. Hours passed and then suddenly at my foot there was a wriggle of the soil. A kangaroo mouse emerged, a creature that I have never otherwise seen except fleeing at a distance. I put my hand on the man’s shoulder to call his attention to this surprise, and we fell silent and watched the strangely fearless mouse do its work for a long time, then resumed the conversation more slowly and more softly as the creature continued to refine its tunnel entrance and the mound of gravelly earth at its mouth, indifferent to our presence. Bats swooped down and snatched invisible meals from the air, and coyotes began to howl, more of them, closer and more persistently than I’ve ever heard before or since, a whole orchestra of drawn-out cries into the dawn.
  • ... It’s hard to say whether it was pain or the past that was being extirpated or whether they were the same thing. The doctors who treated her were unlikely to have experienced such profound instability: disappearing mothers, the vast gap between the medieval Russian-Polish Pale and glittering amnesiac Los Angeles, the three or four languages she left behind and the English she never completely acquired, the annihilation of the world she came from and of the relatives she left behind. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an alternate diagnosis a therapist once proffered for her behavior, a condition that recognized all the kinds of war she survived and a world in which nothing was too far-fetched or terrible to be possible.
  • For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go.

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