Wednesday, June 13, 2012

James de Angulo, the wild Spanish storyteller-anthropologist who eighty years ago spent considerable time among the Pit River of Achumawi people, wrote:
I want to speak now of a curious phenomenon found among the Pit River Indians. The Indians refer to it in English as wandering. They say of a certain man, He is wandering, or He has started to wander. It would seem that under certain conditions of mental stress an individual finds life in his accustomed surroundings too hard to bear. Such a man starts to wander. He goes about the country, traveling aimlessly. He will stop here and there at the camps of friends or relations, moving on, never stopping at any place longer than a few days. He will not make any outward show of grief, sorrow, or worry.... The Wanderer, man or woman, shuns camps and villages, remains in wild lonely places, on the tops of mountains, in the bottoms of canyons.
De Angulo goes on to say that wandering can lead to death, to hopelessness, to madness, to various forms of despair, or that it may lead to encounters with other powers in the remoter places a wanderer may go. He concludes:
When you have become quite wild, then perhaps some of the wild things will come to take a look at you, and one of them may perhaps take a fancy to you, not because you are suffering and cold, but simply because he happens to like your looks. When this happens, the wandering is over....

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost