Book Review: A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Posted on September 07 2018



In this day and age in which most of us fear getting lost in a place unknown to us, or losing things, memories, people, or ourselves, Rebecca Solnit makes a case for the value in loss and losing. This part-memoir, part-history-cum-travel book offers new perspectives on looking at the world around us and at nature, a force that will remain constant even as the inner workings of our mind fray and betray us in seasons of loss and being lost.

A particularly poignant theme in this book is the colour blue, widely discussed in a running thread of chapters with the same title, ‘The Blue of Distance’. A possible echo of the observation made by Solnit herself on the blue hues of the water and the sky -

“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 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.”


And with that, she continues,

“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. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”


Solnit’s ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ lays bare the author’s personal experiences and explorations of loss and losing with a tender vulnerability that both a celebrates and identifies loss as a natural occurrence in the physical world around us, and offers a comforting reflection of life that teaches us to embrace all of its wonder amidst the heartache.


By Cheryl Tan


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