(31 October, 2019, 3 November 2019)
For a week every year I am one hour closer to my friends and family in the USA. The time change is later there. To mark this, I agreed to continue my sunrise walks with Vige until Daylight Savings Time ended, so she could experience the change as well.
Halloween morning I took a break from packing for my trip to the Walking’s New Movements conference in Plymouth and dragged myself out of my flat for a sunrise walk. Instead of my usual Racecourse wander, I headed to the back alley behind my house, which somehow remained unexplored territory. Graffiti on a garage informed me that I’m free to do as I’m told. Gulls and crows screeched overhead, creating a memorable morning soundscape.
For Vige, the sunrise walk ‘fit in seamlessly with [her] morning routine’: a pre-work walk to the municipal swimming pool. She walked through puddles with her boots on, taking in the small details of the city; the streets were already ‘alive with activity’, everyone ‘getting ready for the day’.
On 3 November the United States set their clocks back one hour. Vige had ‘fully intended to get up at 6:48’ and take her son out on a sunrise walk. Then she ‘thought about the actual mechanics of the time change’ and how it might affect his sleeping schedule. Instead of a walk, they fed and read together while the sun was rising. Later they enjoyed ‘one of the great walking days in NYC - the marathon’. Though she missed strolling the sunrise, her walk connected to an experience we have shared numerous times.
Earlier that morning I had walked the sunrise in Plymouth. Sally was at the conference too, and she dragged Chris out for another sunrise walk. Despite our proximity, we still walked at a distance, my town centre stroll never crossing the muddy rural footpath they followed away from town. Earlier that week another conference delegate had walked the surnise. Barbara sent me a picture of her sunrise walk at K’jipuktuk (the great harbour), also known as Halifax Nova Scotia. Though I had walked with Barbara at a distance previously, the conference was our first opportunity to meet in person.
One of the most refreshing things about a walking art conference is not having to explain the premise of your work. I connected with friends, old, new and virtual, learned about their work, and enjoyed being immersed in a community of fellow walking artists. The common understanding fostered a spirit of celebration and support. It encouraged moments of inspiration and future collaboration, and made me feel less alone in my pursuit of this wacky walking art thing.
As the community continues to crystalise, however, I wonder how we can approach our work with more self-reflexive criticality. How can we interrogate our blind-spots as we celebrate our growing diversity? Are there people in our community that we consistently task with this role? How do we share that burden so no one ever has to be the conference crank? This challenge was made most visible by the conference’s only ‘manel’, which also happened to have the highest profile speaker of the event. As the room bulged with people eager to hear one of the forebears of walking art, the conference suddenly felt like a very polite fan convention. The questions, save one, hinged on revelry. I wondered how the women presenting in the other room felt, excluded from a key presentation (even if it wasn’t a keynote speech). It was all the more noticeable because it felt like an anamoly - despite the continued dominance of Heddon and Turner’s walking fraternity in the larger discourse, it was the only manel in Plymouth.
I enjoyed Walking’s New Movements, but it also made me desire a contrarian conference. A shadow conference, parallel to our conviviality. How can we organise a collective confrontation of walking’s invisible barriers to access? While I didn’t leave Plymouth with the answers to these questions, I left with the sense that our community is up to the task.
British Summer Time: Sunrise Walk 8
(27 October 2019)
Grafham Water, Northampton, Bournville, New York City
As I walked out the door of my flat, slightly late for the day’s walk, Karin was waiting ready for a sunrise stroll. If I’d known someone was joining me in person, I might have combed my hair! Grateful for the company, we wandered the Racecourse and admired the autumn colours in the trees. She pointed out the house where she grew up, and what brought her back to Northampton after over a decade in South Africa. A familiar story, a return to family; one that influenced her novel, no doubt.
Rosemary and her dog Ritz, Sally and Chris all walked again. In Bournville Rosemary and Ritz had a particularly spirited walk, with Ritz ‘rushing hither and thither’. Sally and Chris tip-toed out of their friend’s home for a dawn wander around Grafham Water.
After yesterday’s rain, this morning’s clear, colourful skies were a refreshing change.
The rain, it seems, had moved on to New York City, where Vige wandered Greenpoint amongst the dog walkers, bakery workers and delivery truck drivers--‘the quiet industry of a city waking up.’ She headed out thinking, as she always does, that the city ‘is most beautiful in the rain.’ In a patch of wild garden she listened for birds and noted the dropping heads of milkweed and the ‘ever-falling oak leaves’. Vige still has another week before the time change, but today, British Summer Time is over and autumn is in full swing.
(26 October 2019)
From Saigon to Cork, with St. Ives, Northampton, and Bournville in between.
In Saigon, Patrick and Nina watched the evening bats shift to morning swallows, each taking advantage of the food supply above the local river. The city was quieter, less humid, with fewer people. Refreshing.
In England it was wet.
Sally and Chris walked ‘into the refreshing wind and light spray of rain’ in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. Sally has been working on her own simultaneous artistic walking practice, something we will no doubt discuss in Plmyouth at the Walking’s New Movement conference.
In Northampton, the winter gulls danced on the Racecourse, reminding me to stop and look around, rather than just walk continuously. Walking in the drizzle, I imagined Patrick’s sunrise walk in Saigon, where the morning light wasn’t obscured by a consistent cloud cover.
For Rosemary, Sally’s sister in Bournville, it was too wet to even take photographs. She and her dog Ritz, ‘wrapped warmly in waterproofs’, set out in the peaceful rain ‘to join other walkers in unknown places’. The sky was ‘heavy, dark grey with a hint of mauve’ and the sound of the rain peaceful. As she walked the birdless landscape lightened, trees ‘still black against this backdrop’. Ritz periodically stopped for a sniff; Rosemary looked east. Along with the rising sun, nature awakened: seven minutes past sunrise ‘a swarm of seagulls circle screaming overhead followed by a charm of magpies then quacking ducks appear as if from nowhere.’
In Cork, Maggie headed into the city along the River Lee, gulls and cormorants dotting the landscape. Her walk began and ended at Lover’s Walk. Once Leper’s Walk, the lane was long ago rebranded to commemorate Irish republican Robert Emmet and his fiance Sarah, who supposedly walked the lane prior to the British executing him for for treason.
From Saigon to Cork, swallows to gulls to cormorants, I am reminded that the sun and the birds have no borders. Though when they compete for our fish, all bets are off.
(25 October 2019)
Chris and Cleo joined again today. As Cleo and I walked downhill towards the river Nene, Chris walked uphill in High Wycombe. In Cardiff, Laura (@pterolaur) joined us with a walking partner. Cleo was born in Cardiff, furthering imaginary connections between our Sunrise Walks.
As we walked, Cleo and I considered the construct of time: the constancy of the sun’s appearance on the horizon versus our pragmatic temporal organisation. Despite our illusion of mastery, the truth remains, ever-shifting societies move around a consistent sun.
(24 October 2019)
Today’s walk was a sunrise commute. It’s not the sun that structures my time. It’s work.
Cleo and Karin, colleagues in Library and Learning Services at the University, joined me. Their longer rooted memories of Northampton revealed a different set of imagined geographies, expanding my understanding of the town’s ‘simultaneity of stories-so-far’. As we got closer to campus we came across Mohammad, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering and design at the University. He wasn’t walking as art, he was walking to work, and adding another story to the landscape.