I’ve been reading Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust, and finding great inspiration in it. I wanted to share a passage that resonates particularly with my work on desire lines. It’s true that walking isn’t the only way desire lines are formed – bikes certainly make their contributions, as do animals in the river valley. But walking seems to me to be the primary medium – the pen, if you will, were we to thinking of the lines as writing. Sure, some write with pencil or marker or crayon or chalk, but the pen still seems to characterize the art form. Likewise, walking seems inextricably linked to paths.
Walking returns the body to its original limits again, to something supple, sensitive, and vulnerable, but walking itself extends into the world as do the tools that augment the body. The path is an extension of walking, the places set aside for walking are monuments to that pursuit, and walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it. Thus the walking body can be traced in the places it has made; paths, parks, and sidewalks are traces of the acting out of imagination and desire; walking sticks, shoes, maps, canteens, and backpacks are further material results of that desire. Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.