Monthly Archives: November 2012

Far afield “along the field of stars”

November 28, 2012

Photo by Amelia Borofsky

In this thoughtful piece about walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage in Spain, Amelia Borofsky tells her story and those of the many other intrepid pilgrims she meets, from former beggars, construction workers, and stock brokers to a blind woman. Borofsky spent 44 days on this 497-mile walk, a route travelled since the 8th century. Along the dirt path networked by yellow arrows pointing the way forward, Borofsky writes,

“I come expecting silence, but find people instead. I discover that over 180,000 of us walk every year.

I learn that we literally will follow the Milky Way to Finnistere, known in medieval times as the end of the earth. I always wondered Where the Sidewalk Ends. In Spain, it turns out.”

Read Unemployed, I Went to Spain, to Walk at The Atlantic.

“The walker”

November 19, 2012

A perennially adored narrative about walking accompanies this ethereal slideshow from the New York Times’ “One in 8 Million” series. Maggie Nesciur wanders the city, changing direction with the stoplights, drifting in and out of crowds. As incredible as her ninety-mile-a-week habit is the wonder in her voice as she shares her compelling musings on the difference between walking in the city and in the country, feeling like a tourist in her own city, and what constitutes appropriate footwear.

“I don’t walk fast; I don’t walk slow; I walk at my own speed. I have to keep moving. If I’m not moving, my mind isn’t moving much either. If I don’t walk, I can’t think.”

“I notice buildings, I notice people… And the quiet. The noise. It’s all here.”

Maggie Nesciur : The Walker

Marchetti’s constant

November 15, 2012

In this interesting piece on commuting and urban wilderness, Chris Turner explores the pedestrian routes available to him emerging from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, and reports back on Marchetti’s constant, frustratingly constructed sidewalks, and some Thoreau, for good measure.

“The core of Marchetti’s seminal paper is an examination of “travel time budgets” through the ages (based on research first done by Yacov Zahavi in his fieldwork for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the World Bank in the late 1970s and early 1980s). Zahavi had found that regardless of culture, class, creed or access to advanced technology, the mean amount of time people all over the world spend in everyday transit is about an hour. Marchetti looked at the historical record and determined that the mean held true all the way back to neolithic cave sites. He refers to this as “the quintessential unity of traveling instincts around the world.”

“For more than 10,000 years, Marchetti’s Constant has held sway over how we site our homes, do our day’s work and build communities. And for all but the last 100 or so years, virtually all of those hour-long daily commutes were made on foot. What would it be like, I wondered, to obey Marchetti’s Constant as a pedestrian in the modern city?”

In pursuit of an answer to his question, he muses,

“Here’s something, though, that might surprise Thoreau; it was certainly the most arresting lesson Marchetti’s Constant taught me. The cities have become Wildness.
We just don’t know about it because we never walk through it.

This hardly seems revelatory in Detroit, where urban wilderness has gone a step beyond the layers of crumbling concrete Turner finds, more in stride with wildness as Thoreau originally intended. It’s a coy reminder of how lucky it is to share a city with the pheasants rooting through backyards and the small red fox loping amid dusky trees in the Dequindre Cut.

Read For Pedestrians, Cities Have Become Wilderness at the Atlantic Cities.

Rambling report

November 13, 2012

Warm thanks to all who rambled with us this weekend! The weather was unexpectedly lovely. We convened in Scripps Park at 3:00 and enjoyed a modest southerly circuit. At the riverfront we sunbathed momentarily and admired the willows, the sinkholes in the concrete, the typeface of the United States Post Office sign. We then headed north, winding through Corktown, past the train station, and paused for refreshments at Astro Coffee.

The stately USPS Fort branch.

We used a pedestrian bridge, innumerable sidewalks, some roads and fields, and one forlorn playground. We only met one dog, and only one person that we know of trod through dog poop.

Some ramblers up ahead on the bridge.

We saw the usual amount of outdoor art, and one cardboard box full of salad (no dressing) that may or may not have been a part of art.

While we were out, we talked enthusiastically about future walks. For those who were unable to make it on Sunday, don’t worry — we will be rambling again soon.