Yesterday I finished reading ‘The Faraway Nearby’, a book by Rebecca Solnit. After ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ this was my second experience with her work. Her writing is unlike any other. Reading it is as if you are wandering into a mind filled with personal yet universal, well-phrased thoughts. It is impossible for me to summarize ‘The Faraway Nearby’ or explain what it did to me. I guess the easiest way to put it is: it helped me think. Yet its power exceeds the realm of thinking. Perhaps I should say: It helped me be (a person, an artist). For that I would like to offer Miss Solnit my thanks.
In my copy of ‘The Faraway Nearby’ many passages are underlined or accompanied by exclamation marks. To sum all these up would be too much, neither would it do the book justice. Yet I would like to share some of Solnit’s words with you, about the stories we tell each other and ourselves.
The self is also a creation, the principal work of your life, the crafting of which makes everyone an artist. This unfinished work of becoming ends only when you do, if then, and the consequences live on.
We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or be blind.
Memory, even in the rest of us, is a shifting, fading, partial thing, a net that doesn’t catch all the fish by any means and sometimes catches butterflies that don’t exist.
We often talk about love of place, by which we mean our love for places, but seldom of how the places love us back, of what they give us.
Something wonderful happens to you and you instantly look back over your life and see it as a series of fortunate events stretching off into the distance like mountain peaks. Something terrible happens and your life has always been a litany of woe. The present rearranges the past. We never tell the story whole because a life isn't a story; it's a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.
Pain serves a purpose. Without it you are in danger. What you cannot feel you cannot take care of.
People disappear into their stories all the time.
- Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby