Hey guys! For today’s Book Journey, I wanted to talk about my life as a recent college graduate and Brand New Adult through the lens of one of my most treasured authors, Rebecca Solnit. She is a Bay Area-based essayist who deals with the philosophy of everyday experience. Because isn’t that what we all need, a little philosophy to temper our everyday experiences?
In this blog, I’m going to do a less traditional review, so instead of summarizing the books I talk about, I’m just going to pull quotes from them to give you an idea of her discourse and ideology behind it. Hopefully I can walk you through the vibe of her essays this way, and you can get a better idea of what they meant to me while I was reading them.
I. Getting Lost (excerpts from A Field Guide to Getting Lost)
“Getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are.”
There was a long while, nineteen, twenty years or so, where I had only one home. I would refer to Los Angeles as home, where my parent’s house was the locale of all my memories, where my dogs live, where I still live despite spending most of the year three-hundred-something miles away.
Berkeley was school to me, nothing else. In fact, it made me so nervous to be there I could hardly eat. My appetite was suppressed by a turning tummy, that heightened feeling of “what did I just say” and “what do I say next.” Making friends was a gamble (though I did luck out on some amazing ones in the end) as I would ask for their number and wait for a text. I lived in a dorm the size of a shoebox with two other girls who seemed suspicious of my increasingly “Berkeley aesthetic” as they called it. All these fleeting features of the place I lived seemed to tell me that it was not home, that I was misplaced, that I was lost.
“To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender.”
A semester of the strongest anxiety I’ve ever felt whips me around in its tentacle-like grasp, and I begin to go on walks.
II. Losing Myself (excerpts from Wanderlust: A History of Walking)
“Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.”
Every day, to this day, I am held in the arms of sidewalks, sheltered by roofs of leaves and branches. I measure myself against the streets radiating from my room outward, the paths I could potentially take. I retrace my steps down the same road every day, decompressing, meditating, thinking. It was a time I could understand myself, talk through my feelings in conversation with the landscape. It was repetitive motion, like a pendulum carrying me out and back to the house. It quells my anxiety and welcomes me home, this inevitable motion lulling me to comfort.
“Suddenly I came out of my thoughts to notice everything around me again- the catkins on the willows, the lapping of the water, the leafy patterns of the shadows across the path. And then myself, walking with the alignment that only comes after miles, the loose diagonal rhythm of arms swinging in synchronization with legs in a body that felt long stretched out, almost as sinuous as a snake … when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities.
Some days, it is almost as though I can see my footprints from trails before. Muddied stars of skate shoe soles up and down the streets, marking my territory, remembering me.
III. Going Home (excerpts from Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics)
“The desire to go home is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.”
It was only a matter of time before Berkeley became my new home. A cosmic convergence of living and belonging to a place, to the land. As I retrace my path, up the street, past the homes on Scenic Avenue, the Rose Garden, the density of memory here increases. Getting lost, losing myself, that’s what made this my home. The anxiety of years past dissipates in the face of healthy habits and happier movement, wandering around a city that holds me, cradles me, sways me.
It sounds a bit funny now, when I fly from Berkeley to Los Angeles or the other way around, that I am leaving home to arrive at home, but that’s a problem I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I’m Annie, a recent UC Berkeley grad and publicity intern here at Art + Deco Agency. I’ll be your resident blogger, chatting with and about emerging voices in the literary industry and getting you started on your summer reading list. Catch me here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday!