Although it’s too late, I’d like to leave the group with an exercise that I found moving and productive during this week’s (late) walk: Walk at the end of the day and follow the lines made by shadows.
In response to the prompt, I made the long trip to Inwood Hill Park, at the very edges of Manhattan. I wanted to walk in a place that seemed to represent to me a number of seams or borders: between land and water, city and park, valley and hill, shadow and light. Also, the reports told me that it was a time for peak foliage in New York, and I wanted to end the WSTC experience with another walk through the woods to be found in New York.
Because of the geography of the park, a large portion of the forest was in shadow when I arrived. I found a desire line made by runners, and watched a train pass across the river. The paths were largely empty. I turned a corner beneath the Spuyten Duyvil bridge and found myself almost blinded by the intensity of the setting sun. But as my eyes adjusted, I saw that the shadows made by the tall trees created a kind of beckoning path for me. I walked these ephemeral paths over and over, testing my understanding of what constituted the light and the shadow, and tracking the subtle changes with my feet.
During my walk, I found myself thinking of the journey I took the week before with Aliza and Jenny (and many of Aliza’s lovely friends) in honor of Aliza’s birthday. The opportunity to spend time in conversation over the course of many hours was an opportunity that reminded me of the central tenet behind the start of the Walk Study Training Course, namely, that the world on foot can be a site for learning, and for unexpected consonance if only we take the time to make it so. Over the course of the ten or so miles I traveled with Aliza’s group, we encountered the distant ocean and the roar of the BQE, friends departing and joining, and the durational experience of traveling the length of a borough without any direction other than to move forward along Bedford Avenue.
In a way, the experience reminded me of previous walking meditations, wherein by removing any need for directional acuity, the mind is allowed to focus inward. Because I had never met Aliza in person before, her friends asked me why I was there, and it was also an interesting and productive experience to try to explain the Walk Exchange and the distance learning project over and over again. While in many ways the solitary aspect of this WSTC has been revelatory (I have loved creating walks according to my own schedule and whims guided by a prompt), it is the community formed that has been most gratifying.
Typing this, I realize that i will miss this forum and the shared sense of purpose brought about by the course, and the sense that a network and site of congruence can be formed around the promulgation of ideas and not be bound by physical landscapes. Even my walk in Inwood was informed by this new sensibility, and I will not forget it.