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Every Step is a Leap

Here we are at the turn of a season. I like the coolness in the air and the goldenrod but am reluctant to let go of summer, with its luxuriously long days. However, as a general rule, I don’t read or write nearly as much in the summer as I do during the long nights of late fall and winter. It’s an annual trade-off that pivots back and forth. My to-read piles and to-write lists are calling.


Late summer afternoon editing in the hammock. Credit: Anna O'Brien

I finished my first Rebecca Solnit book last week: A Field Guide to Getting Lost. It seems to be a polarizing book among readers not because it touts dogmatic or controversial things, but as a collection of loosely linked essays that dance around a general feeling of lost-ness, it can lose you or help you find yourself, in a manner of speaking. I think your reading experience of it may depend on what you are expecting to get out of it, or be colored by any pre-conceived notions of it.


As I read, I underlined many beautiful sentences, phrases, and paragraphs; Rebeca Solnit is a lovely writer at the granular level, no matter what you may think of her works as a whole. This is a “nugget book” for me: one that contains so many little chunks of wisdom or beauty that I will pull it out again and again and draw inspiration from it in those small ways. So in that sense, I think I can conclude that I liked it.


One section from A Field Guide to Getting Lost I’ll share with you here:


“. . . [A] runner’s every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For those brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet, like leaks, but hover below them like doubles, as they do with birds, whose shadows crawl below them, caressing the surface of the earth, growing and shrinking as their makers move nearer or farther from that surface. . . [T]hese tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes, perhaps some significant portion of an hour or perhaps far more for the hundred-mile races. We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.”

I’m in the final weeks of training for a half-marathon and the concept that I can accumulate periods of levitation is magical. The concept of small things adding up to big things is also worth noting, as we head into longer nights spent chipping away at creative meanderings that sometimes don’t feel like much night after night but maybe, sometimes, they do add up to something more substantial as you approach spring.


Let’s see what small things we can collect this season.

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