Saturday, March 31, 2012

walking is in the mind

By day: the contemplation of punctuation

ON a recent day walk, we follow a sign along a steep leaf-strewn path shaded by forest canopy to Camels Hump. Or is that Camel’s Hump? The birds obviously agree with the analysis of a missing apostrophe, having perfectly placed a grammatically correct dropping between the ‘l’ and the ‘s’ on the park sign. My companion argues for ‘hump’ as a verb. We contemplate the likelihood of camels being adjectival. We discuss the correct punctuation of no-nos. And goat’s cheese. Matters of great editorial importance. The forest’s rutted paths and towering autumnal canopy become written to memory through our conversation, forever inscribed with wayward punctuation.

 NAVIGATING a muddy, uphill climb through damp, sunless forest, we labour over Alexander the Great and the conflict between Greece and Macedonia. About which we know little. Our classical and contemporary history gets dredged. We piece our individual understandings together into a ragged quilt, missing a number of stitches. This process of discussion and articulation, the recalling of facts, names and information we thought were lost engages us. The creative knitting together of history and ideas. Conversation is a free-ranging group effort. Gaps and misinformation are tolerated. We’re equals in discovery beneath the spindly gums, amidst the knee-high ferns and grassy scrub. 

THE TERRAIN we cover is beyond the physical path we embark upon; we roam and climb and discover more than we had planned for.

By night: the indulgence of voyeurism

A CITY night. Electric hues. The moon scuffles with skulking, pallid clouds. Silence. And then a car door slams.

A NIGHT walk is a different beast. Like the day walk it satisfies curiosity but indulges too a longing for solitude and a tendency towards voyeurism. A desire to spy the in-between world that night-time reveals. To watch objects shift shape in the shadows, surrealistically bathed in halogen and moonlight, fused into an unlikely harmony of artificial and natural illumination. In the darkness of a suburban street, wandering on our own, we bear witness to other people's domesticity: lamp lights diffuse through net curtains, a blind half-shuttered allows a vertical slatted view of a kitchen scene. There’s the thrum of TVs, stereos, dinnertime conversations, children crying. 

A LAMP-POST droops a sad neck with its lonely light. A picket fence leaps from the shadow in illuminated white paint. Everyday objects transform in the darkness, become enlivened, embellished by the blaze of autumnal moonlight and the eerie glow of suburban street beams. The inanimate becomes personified. There’s also a hint of melancholy. But perhaps that is our own projection.

CONVERSATIONS on the night walk are internal, complex and laced with emotional details that resist words. You find connection in isolation; reflection in stillness.