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A field guide to getting lost

I have been reading ‘A field guide to getting lost’ over Christmas. It triggered a number of thoughts, ideas and memories about being lost ..…

Rebecca Solnit describes the earliest european settlers to the Americas in 1527.. “No one will ever be lost like those early conquistadors again, wandering a continent about which they knew nothing, not its topography, its climate, encountering inhabitants with whom there was no common language, plunging into a place they had no words for places, for plants, for the animals - skunks, alligators, bison - so unlike those of their own continent.”

This is interesting to me because it connects deeply to my own experiences of being lost on two occasions in the woods, with only the light glimmering through the trees for company. First was on a camping trip in the UK, when my friend and I decided to go for a walk on the Southdowns but had to go through woodland to get to it. Only ever intending to walk for a couple of hours we left without food, a compass, water or phones. After an hour of walking we decided to turn back, however despite numerous attempts to find our route back with markers etc, we wandered for hours until it got dark. I remember vividly how anxious we became, and the relief when we miraculously met a man in the middle of know where who helped us find out way back. I realised at that point that no one is immune from getting lost.

The second experience was more terrifying than the first as I was completely alone, travelling in northern Norway. I decided to walk up a mountain path alone, again through a wood. The path started well, but steepened to the point I had to hold on to tree branches. I turned back, but when back on the main path below realised that if I had fallen I would have gone right over a cliff. Being lost brought me a whole lot closer to my own mortality. Trees can bring both confusion and clarity. Light guides. Being truly lost can indeed make you find new feelings and unlock new channels within the brain.

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