Tag Archives: Rebecca Solnit

The Little Things That Add Up

“Movies are made out of darkness as well as light; it is the surpassingly brief intervals of darkness between each luminous still image that make it possible to assemble the many images into one moving picture. Without that darkness, there would only be a blur. If you could add up all the darkness, you would find the audience in the theatre gazing together in a deep imaginative night. It is the terra Incognita of film, the dark continent on every map. In a similar way, a runner’s every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For these brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet… These tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes…

We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in notes too small to be measured.”

-“A Field Guide To Getting Lost”

But we could use the power of mindfulness to pick out all the terra Incognita in our being. Then we might be able to get a taste of that elusive heaven. For there is infinity within a moment, and all we have is each moment.

Terra Incognita II

“Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t – and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.”
-“A Field Guide To Getting Lost”

Reading this, I immediately thought: “that’s me!” The person who’s always worrying, the one who’s always fretting over what we do not know. Although I think I have calmed down over the years and have learnt to cap my worries over certain things, I know I still worry, especially when it comes to the “bigger” things. Not that it makes a difference. If you don’t have control over it, you don’t have control over it. It makes no difference whether the thing we’re worried about is big or small.

Worry is a place in relation to the terra Incognita in our lives. It is a response to the unknown, uncharted, unseen, unexplored. Because we are so used to knowing, we feel helpless when we are faced with something we cannot know, and worry is a way to cope with what that helplessness. To “pretend that you have knowledge and control”.

If we could learn to embrace the terra Incognita in ourselves and in life, accepting the terra Incognita for what it is: an unknown place, beautiful because it has yet to come and pure because it has not been touched or tainted by the present – we would not feel the need to imagine the worst to cope with the need for knowing.

I need to embrace the terra Incognita in my life right now.

Places and Emotions

“The places in which any significant event occurred become embedded with some of that emotion, and so to recover the memory of that place is to recover the emotion, and sometimes to revisit the place uncovers the emotion. Every love has it’s landscape. Thus place, which is always spoken as though it only counts when you’re present, possesses you in it’s absence, takes on another life as a sense of place, a summoning in the imagination with all the atmospheric effect and association of a powerful emotion. The places inside matter as much as the ones outside…”
‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, Rebecca Solnit
These lines very concisely sum up why I feel the way I do towards, in and at certain places.
Sydney, for me, will always be associated with a sense of hope and potential, the place I came to to embark on my dreams and aspirations. The place which gave me the opportunity to experience a life I never thought I could lead.
India, more specifically, Amritapuri – will always be the Home I can return to, as long as I’m there with the ones who mean the most to me.
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Then there’s the Home of all homes, the country where I was born and raised. So many layers of emotions associated with it, that I can’t even begin to think of where to begin. Within that place there are more places and infinitely intricate emotions, as expected from a place you have spent so many years with – all making up who I am and continue to be.
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And so I realize it is true – emotions have their landscapes, and landscapes have their emotions. And it is through these relationships that we grow and develop unfathomable depths of human emotion, some of which we might not even be aware of until we come face to face with those places.

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The Beauty of Abandonment

“What is a ruin, after all? It is a human construction abandoned to nature, and one of the allures of ruins in the city is that of wilderness: a place full of the promise of the unknown with all its epiphanies and dangers. Cities are built by Man, but they decay by nature, from earthquakes and hurricanes to the incremental processes of rot, erosion, rust and 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.”
– “A Field Guide to Being Lost”
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From the time I got hooked on  photo taking, I became aware of the innate attraction to things of old, abandonment, ruin, or just things which could have been typically overlooked in a normal person’s daily life, hence relegating that object to the realms of abandonment.

Examples would include lone fire hydrants in the middle of green fields, or in the midst of towering office buildings. Clock towers. Cracks in the wall. Weeds growing out of those cracks. Old windows. Back alleys. Crates and boxes. Faded curtains. Places soon to be demolished.
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Why do these objects and scenes hold such charm? What is it about the beauty an object or scene of abandonment holds?

These days, the word “vintage” has become somewhat of a brand name. Goods and apparel with that word attached to them can sometimes fetch prices higher than brand new counterparts. Again, it seems to be a testament to the beauty of abandonment. And interestingly, it seems to be characteristic of the developed world. We wouldn’t see (or imagine) a villager from rural areas hankering after that which has been labeled “vintage”, would we?

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Perhaps, bombarded with a landscape which changes too quickly, and a mass of affluence everywhere, that desire to explore things which fall outside the shiny and new, outside the facade of perfection, becomes awakened. And that awakening manifests in the wearing of vintage apparel, in the decorating of one’s house as it might have been in the 60s, in the capturing of scenes of abandonment through the lens of a camera.

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“Ruins become the unconscious of a city, it’s memory, unknown, darkness, lost lands, and in this truly bring it to life.”

The shiny and new certainly have their own allure and charm, but perhaps what is most charming about them is that they serve to highlight the soul of ruins, the beauty of abandonment, the lost potentials of what could have been.
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