Tag Archives: Rebecca Solnit

escape to the tropics

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We left Western Maryland with a one-way ticket in hand to the tropics. What could go wrong? Well… a lot if you say something like “what could go wrong?” I’ve learned to never utter words like that when leaving on a trip to go anywhere. However I found myself breaking this unspoken rule and subsequently a pawn in the musical airplane game that the east coast plays when caught amidst a winter storm.

It took us four days in total to finally reach St. Croix (a trip that normally doesn’t take more than 10 hours by plane). I did say I wanted an adventure, I just didn’t realize it would start before reaching the island.

I actually don’t mind traveling and airports in general. I find them to be fascinating places (outside of the poor color scheme choices and bad decor). They act as crossroads for many of us – a place where a metaphorical life path decision becomes a physical reality. Or in my case maybe the physical diverted path became the metaphor that in a sense gave us a preview of what the lifestyle might be like moving to an island. This difficult travel itinerary was just breaking us in? Acclimatizing us for how life could be? Testing our flexibility?

We had plenty of time to ruminate on what this four day long process could mean for us. Thinking about the delay in this way made the time much easier to pass and less stressful. We had reflective conversations with each other and met a handful of kind, helpful and unique individuals, including a cosmic Bangladeshi cab driver, a wizard of all traveling tips and stories, and a financial analyst named “Blessing”.  In each airport, hotel, and form of transportation we gained valuable perspectives all making up for the inconvenient snow, ice, delays, lost baggage, angry passengers and the general chaos that entails when thousands of people congregate all vying to reach different destinations.

In this time, I also began reading Ashley’s suggested text for the month Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”. It seemed appropriate, as our travel itinerary map had been abandoned by day one.  Solnit says there’s an “art of being at home in the unknown so that being in it’s midst isn’t a cause of panic or suffering” So I guess it takes a certain amount of practice to feel at home while being lost. I have been crafting this skill, my entire life and needed to be reminded of this sentiment at this precise moment.

It was perfect timing to remind myself that reaching the destination, as always, was not the important thing. The destination you are traveling to will not bring the sense of peace or the feeling of home that I seek. The only thing that could conjure that feeling would be my own reaction to my environment, (the people and actions around me) and my response to the unknown itself.

I have to agree with Solnit when she says that getting lost “seems like the beginning of finding your own way or finding another way” It’s a clean slate of how to make decisions coming from a new place in a whole new way. I am very happy that we have finally reached St. Croix, but am also aware that arriving is not the goal in the field guide to getting lost, its the wandering, connections made and lessons learned from accepting that sometimes we just don’t know where we are or exactly or where we are going.

1/7/14

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

chapter seven

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Dear Beth,

Happy New Year! I’m excited to kick-off Living Chapters 2014-style with you in your new whereabouts of St. Croix. Knowing this short term move will help determine if this island will become your new home, I can imagine your challenge over the next few months will be to stay in the present and not get overwhelmed by questions of the future (isn’t that always the challenge?!)

You’ve become somewhat accustomed to migratory living over the last couple of years with short stints at a pool house, carriage house, boats and friends’ couches. While you never expected to make any of these places a permanent nesting ground, you found ways, especially through Living Chapters and the help of friends, to make yourself at home by being very intentional about the ways you have chosen to live. Knowing I will play a role in keeping you grounded this month as you embark on your latest adventure, I’ve been wondering how do you connect to a new place while staying connected to yourself?

I want this month to be a mindful exploration and reflection of your surroundings. Throughout January I am asking that you use your senses as well as your creative faculties to create a field guide to St. Croix. As your partner in crime I too will make a field guide for St. Paul, my recently named home that I’m in need of getting better acquainted with.

Here are the requirements:

Your field guide should include 4 maps, 6 walks, a daily written reflection, and 3 interviews. Each week you’ll share one of these things on Living Chapters. They should be accompanied by some sort of reflection (which may or may not be derived from your daily log). The daily written reflection is intended to be more of a space for you to develop a writing practice and keep connected to yourself.

After every walk I want you to make a list of everything you remember seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. I also want you to collect something from each of your walks that you can bring home into your domestic space to create a sense of place.

The interviews should all be done at your home over a simple meal that you’ve prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The interviews should be designed so that they give you insight into some aspect of St. Croix, i.e. culture, history, food, etc. It’s entirely up to you who you choose to interview.

Lastly, I gave you a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost to accompany you this month as inspiration. She refers to each chapter as one of her maps. Her writing is beautiful and meditative. Early in the book she references a quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno that I want to leave you with, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”

Have fun in St. Croix!

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.