Thinking about the walks…

…since I haven’t been able to go on one for a while

Psychogeography?

Following Jill’s blog leads me down many pathways. Something she mentioned the other day took me to the concept of psychogeography, which:

…includes just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.

A New Way of Walking, Joseph Hart, UTNE READER July / August 2004

“Come to think of it, you do psychogeography yourself, in your ‘weekend walks’,” wrote Jill. A happy thought!

As I wrote last year in my travel blog, the idea of flâneurs pleases me. Historical or ghost walks or indeed Inspector Wallander walks seem to me an excellent idea. Perhaps this comes of my not being a very visual person. Given some kind of theme to a walk, I see much that I’d otherwise miss. Thinking about something other than putting one foot in front of the other is also a big help with pain management.

Geography in general

Geography keeps coming up for me lately. When I was subjected to it in first year high school, it seemed to be about rivers and produce. I couldn’t wait to drop it and get on with interesting stuff, like languages.

Earlier this year, I acquired a whole new appreciation of geography. I started researching women and public space, and discovered that geographers were all over the subject – human geographers, cultural geographers, social geographers, feminist geographers… Not a river or crop in sight. I found a great burst of writing in the mid-90s about women and public space, street harassment, the spatial aspects of crimes against women, and more.

Unfortunately, reading it made me so depressed I gave up my project. All that good  (if grim) work seems to have fallen down the big hole of conservative political correctness and disappeared without trace. Certainly nothing seems to have changed.

I’ve subscribed to a discussion list on Feminism in Geography, where I struggle with the academic language but persevere. It’s mostly conference announcements but occasionally they say something that seems revelatory. Largely, though, the geographical caravan has moved on.

Mindfulness

Recently I heard a talk on mindfulness. One of the techniques described was a conscious broadening out of one’s visual field. When I remember to do this, I find the results heartening. For one thing, Canberra is full of trees, if one remembers to look. Down at Woden the other day, waiting at the interminable lights on Athllon and Hindmarsh, I was briefly transfixed by the appalling high-rise block of flats (Sky Plaza – hmph!) which has incomprehensibly[*] appeared there. I broke the evil spell by looking sideways. I don’t think I’d ever before noticed the little park full of trees next to the fire station.

Sky Plaza

Based on a real estate pic from the web: Sky Plaza

I chose to live in this town because it was so clean compared with the industrial city of my birth. Having been here my whole adult life, more or less, I racket around in my familiar tracks and see nothing. Nothing but the four-wheel-drive a hair’s breadth from my bumper bar, or the car that’s just cut in and caused me to stand on the brakes and froth at the mouth. (Canberra was built for the motor car, so most of my going about consists of driving. It long ago ceased to be fun.)

The walks are good for reminding me why I’m here.

Footnote

[*]Once again, a denizen of the Riot ACT helps me to understand:

A one bedroom apartment in Woden is still more affordable than a house with land anywhere else in Canberra.

If the ‘young and stupid’ want to get a foot in the real estate door – should they wait for a boomer to offer them their house for half the market price?

– Comment #17 by Amanda Hugankis on 4 November 2010
in the discussion Woden the Manhattan of the south?

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5 Responses to Thinking about the walks…

  1. albertine says:

    Oh, I knowwww. Remember ‘Reclaim the Night’? Will’s girlfriend Chesca regaled me the other day with a ten-minute disquisition on the dangers of walking alone through Hull. ‘There’s a rapist’, she said. ‘There’s always a rapist,’ I answered.
    Did I say ‘That’s how the patriarchy keeps us controlled’? I wish i had, but I don’t think I even tried – she was so convinced. Then we talked about who rapes women – and she knows the stats perfectly well: not usually a stranger, etc etc. She’s a Psychology student.
    Tailgating: we’ve been shunted twice in the past month – no actual damage done, but I don’t like to risk traumatising the dogginses.
    I don’t really know what ‘mindfulness’ is. Is it a bit like meditation?

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Mindfulness is a type of meditation. Living in the present moment rather than churning with anxiety is what I’m practising it for.

      Reclaim the Night is on the last Friday night in October, still.

      I think there’s a ‘stremely interesting tension between the stats and the experience of being female in public space. It’s been suggested that street harassment serves to keep women scared. You’d appreciate the work of Gill Valentine (eg The Geography of Women’s Fear – http://www.jstor.org/stable/20000063 if you can look at JSTOR).

      But I was planning to write about this (after what H&C went through last Christmas in the famously liberated and tolerant Netherlands) and I just found I couldn’t, then or now. I do think you are unusually brave. You and I can have a big scrag about The Facts in February, if we remember. 🙂

    • valkyrie1 says:

      PS I am very sorry to hear about the shunters.

  2. albertine says:

    terrific new picture (gravatar??) – where is it, with all the little houses?

    • valkyrie1 says:

      Odense. Denmark! It’s called the “featured image”. I think you only get it if you look at the post separately, but I’m not sure. If you hover your mouse over the picture, you might see the words “Flâneurs in Denmark”.

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