Now, I look at how destroyed this book has become. It has sweat on it from my hands, and probably a little sticky sweetness from one of the apples we picked. I know there’s a little rain that snuck into my tote in San Francisco. It has spray on it from two oceans so far. It probably still has a little sand somewhere near the spine. It has wear from sitting in the soil of Muir Woods. Its cover is bent from being buried in hiking backpacks and layered into suitcases.
There was a time when that would have felt like neglect to me — this slow wearing down of a book. But I’m letting myself read differently. And this listing of places, of discoveries, is more in the spirit of Solnit’s book than any review could be. In each place, I read the essay in between snatches of birdsong, of sunset, of landscapes far below me that I couldn’t locate later on a map.
I plan to bring the book along with me, to finish the final few essays in Argentina. I can’t tell you yet where I’ll read them, because that would definitely ruin the point. The point is, I’ll have it in my suitcase. I’ll pick it up on the right day, bring it with me to the right park or ocean shore, and find myself reading about what it means to wander as I explore a distant blue that I don’t yet know.
I carried this lovely book all the way to Argentina. I read the second-to-last essay in the middle of a bird reserve in El Calafate in Patagonia, when it was way too windy to read but I needed a quick break, and finished it over a submarino — steamed milk, with a dropped-in chocolate bar (i.e. heaven) — in town. It was a day when I felt a little bit sad and a little bit lost.
For the final essay, the book was thrown into a saddlebag and carried on a day-long horseback ride into a river valley in Patagonia. I read it before we had a lunch of steak and wine. I found a spot beside a small stream, after startling a hare out of some calafate bushes. It was a day when I felt brave and full of adventure and ready to wander.