Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nearing the end of the year

WITH ONE DAY LEFT in a dying year, I re-read notes in the margin of Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Penguin Books, 2005).

She writes about landscape, the road, deserts, country music, Cabeza de Vaca, solitude, Alfred Hitchcock, Yves Klein, language, transience.

Among her pages I note the following passages. (Passages: an appropriate word to apply to this book of hallucinated footsteps. An appropriate word at a moment of passage.)
Meno: "How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?"

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.

Cities are built by men (and to a lesser extent, women), but they decay by nature, from earthquakes and hurricanes to the incremental processes of rot, erosion, rust, the microbial breakdown of concrete, stone, wood, and brick, the return of plants and animals making their own complex order that further dismantles the simple order of men.

What is the message that wild animals bring, the message that seems to say everything and nothing? What is this message that is wordless, that is nothing more or less than the animals themselves — that the world is wild, that life is unpredictable in its goodness and its danger, that the world is larger than your imagination?

It is in the nature of things to be lost and not otherwise.

More is known; there is less to know; we lose both what we know and what we don't. … At any given moment the sun is setting someplace on earth, and another day is slipping away largely undocumented as people slide into dreams that will seldom be remembered when they awaken. Only the continuation of abundance makes loss sustainable, makes it natural.

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