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Thoreauvian Walk in Pictures

sara.gladwin's picture

I tried to begin this essay several times by describing why I started my walk where I did, but finally came to the realization that I did not actually have a reason. I had been hesitant to begin my Thoreauvian walk and I wasn’t quite sure why. I felt like it should be such an easy thing, to take a walk. However, I couldn’t get myself to begin. I would feel an uncomfortable tightening in my stomach, almost bordering on fear. I felt silly, why would I fear something so simple as walking? As I thought more, I realized what I feared was not the walk itself but having to be “directionless.” I was scared to clear my mind, to expect nothing. I felt the need to control the walk, to ensure that I had something valuable to say at the end of the experience. As I thought about our class discussions revolving around fear and bugs, I realized the only way to let go was to begin, and not think about how or where. So as I walked out of Haffner after having lunch, I suddenly realized I had never actually been inside the Haffner dorm. I knew I needed to explore the inside of Haffner. It took at least twenty minutes of wandering to realize that I was wandering. Instead of forcing myself to walk, I had somehow managed to be on my walk accidently. Surprisingly, it was easier then I thought to get lost. There ended up being so much to see I created an online album of pictures I took during the walk.

            I found myself gravitating toward the tucked away corners of buildings. Maybe that is why Haffner felt so appealing; its inside has been a mystery despite how often I come to eat in the Haffner dining hall. I felt compelled to take a pink Christmas stocking from the freebox that had “Viva la Juicy” embroidered on it. I continued on through the back exit of Haffner and was struck by how much of a gated community the dorm is.

            The most interesting parts of certain places were how familiar and unknown they were at the same time. I found myself exploring places that I see on a daily basis but do not bother to stop and explore. I walked down the stairs in the front of Erdman, and found a door with one card access. However, I couldn’t get into the dorm through that door and there were spider webs around the handles. It didn’t seem like anyone had been there for long. I consistently met resistance on my walk. There were many locked doors. I think I assumed that because I had taken the time to explore that my exploration would go smoothly, that the places themselves would be welcoming and free to access.

            I found myself in Arnecliffe studio next, looking at all the art on the walls.

The pink viva la jucy stocking found itself a home, where I hung it right over top of an anarchy symbol on the wall. I felt it was ironic. I then explored the stairs between the studio and the house attached to it, until I realized those stairs led up to the balcony of someone’s home. I quickly backed down when I could hear someone talking loudly inside the building. This put me right in front of Perry house, which held quite a few surprises. Again, at Perry House, I found myself unable to enter a space. They took the onecard access off of the building entirely, which confused me. Public Safety can just adjust the onecard machines so they do not open for anyone, so why did they have to take the box off entirely? As I wandered around the side of the building, I found all the vibrancy chairs. The nature around them had actually grown on the chairs, is if pulling them into the ground.

As I stood there, the vacancy of the entire place began to make me feel uneasy, so I headed back toward the center of campus. I found myself pulled toward Thomas, and to the cloisters. I ended up sitting in the cloisters, just enjoying how peaceful it is in there.

            By now I had been walking for about an hour and a half, and darkness was beginning to get in the way on my walk. My new-found ability to let go was slipping, as my brain consistently tried to pull me back to my homework. However, my walk did not end yet, because happened upon a friend. We ended up walking together, first across campus to Radnor dorm and then to Park Science. Once again my walk happened unconsciously, I found myself taking pictures and observing along the way.

            This trip was interesting for me because I had to let go completely and realize what a wonderful experience it is to walk unconsciously, to experience a space for no particular reason. It was almost difficult to write this, I found that having pictures much better described the experience then my own words ever could.

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sara.gladwin's picture


I think having to make the walk linear was part of it- I also think I just did not want to the experience into words. I found that when I sat down to actually write, while I had seen so much, putting it into words seemed so... detracting. To make it a readable essay I felt like I would have to pull out one important aspect or part of the experience and forgo the rest. I felt uncomfortable editing and piecing together the experience through words, which is a first for me. I think I am so used to experiencing through words. When you describe as you experience, the words come so easy. You have already pre-determined what part of the experience was worth words. When I finally abandoned them, I found the experience so rich that I was almost saddened when having to limit through words.

I'm torn because I do love words, and I love seeing the world through words. But walking was extremely calming and satisfying in a way I was not expecting.

Anne Dalke's picture

The unease of vacancy

So many insights, here, from the fear of being "directionless" to the perception of how much of a "gated community" our dorms are: no "wanderers" allowed in all these spaces you found so unwelcoming, not free to access.

The lack of access to Perry House (which is "offline for 2112/2113") is particularly poignant, given all we're learning in our 360 about the marginalization of minority populations in this country; your description of the "unease" induced by "the vacancy of the entire place" is telling. (You might be interested in Sarah Shaw's post, which also included a striking image of the vine-covered vibrancy chairs outside of Perry House, an  illustration of the conceit that all boundaries created by humans are eventually destroyed by Nature.)

Also striking is your recognition that walk "unconsciously," experiencing "a space for no particular reason," is It was much better described in a series of photos than in your own words--because the words inevitably "sequence" and order the experience, perhaps? Can't break away from the linear, to represent the non-linear?