Urban Hike #1 - February 4, 2006. NW Portland, Oregon. 10 miles. 4 Hours. One city block.

windy and rainy, i showed up at 11 to the lone participant, jay derderian, a music and arts student at PSU. we began. the walk took a little over 4 hours (which makes me think it might have been a little longer than 10 miles. i'll measure it more accurately soon).

aside from what i believe to be the substance of "the art," which is the actual walking, i have many many thoughts from the day. but for now i just wanted to express on here that it was a really fine time. the meditative quality to the walking, the day, and the repetetive nature of going around the same block 30 times was an eye opening experience for myself, and i think for jay as well.

the paper clips above marked each lap around, (you'd be surprised how easy it is to lose count during a 30 lap stroll) and they also inspired my next project which will be titled Public Works.

aside from the inspirational moments during the walk, i want to reflect on some other thoughts that were prompted during the day. among these are 1) consciously and subconsciously assigning meaning to objects, 2) subconsciously subscribing to the idea that things have their own location, 3) living things and things in motion being a natural focal point in our field of view, 4) pattern recognition, 5) hunger, 6) the weather, 7) the physically challenging aspects.


feb. 21, 2006 - more thoughts on the first urban hike

after some time to reflect, i am ready to write a few more thoughts, specifically on 1-7 from above.


1) consciously and subconsciously assigning meaning to objects

as i walked, i realized that i automatically assign meaning to the objects that i focus on. even garbage. so, first i will recognize that there is something there, then i will focus on it, and see that it is a blue rubber glove for example. then i will decide that someone must have thrown it away because they no longer needed it. then i might think of metaphorical connections, or perhaps coincidental things like the fact that there was another discarded glove nearby. what a strange coincidence. and i will think that this blue rubber glove has more to do with the other glove than, say, a discarded coffee cup.

the point hee is that as i walked, and the repetetive nature of the experinece kicked in, my mind immediately starts to create a narrative. i automatically seek to create meaning. maybe it's for comfort, or rooted in survival instincts. if everything is "normal" and i fully understand why everything is in my path, then i will be less likely to get attacked.


2) subconsciously subscribing to the idea that things have their own location

as i walked around the block, i started to think that each piece of trash, each object was in its rightful spot. with each lap around, everything that i catalogued in my mind became entrenched in "its place." so much so that when i finally realized that i could kick a piece of garbage, it seemed wrong somehow. it seemed like i was creating a new disorder to what was once ordered. this is totally absurd, but also a very natural mental phenomenon, i think. we accept the surroundings that we are dropped in, and once set in our minds as the given environment, to make changes is to give power to the changeable nature of our surroundings. such moveability creates variables. our minds like to handle variables by cataloguing them away as "accounted for." but if a fixture of our path is moved, then not only does that particular object become a variable with a moveability, but it shakes up the entire environment, because now many objects can be relocated.

displacing objects on the walk became important for me. i did not go about kicking every piece of trash on the path, but i did attempt to see ech thing as haphazardly there, rather than set in some sort of order that i could feel comfortable with.


3) living things and things in motion being a natural focal point in our field of view

this became very apparent very early in the walk. passing cars, birds, and anything that moved drew my eyes to it, every time, against my own will. moreover, the plants growing out of the sidewalk, and the trees also drew my attention. the details in the life forms seemed very very intricate, especially around lap 20 or so. also, the wind. when the wind blew trash, or tree branches, it became very apparent in my field of view.


4) pattern recognition

my mind has a knack for recognizing patterns, and this walk was no different. each time around i noticed various elements of the order of the surroundings. the numbers on the buildings, the patterns in the fences, on the cars, in the sidewalk, on the plant life...the orderly nature of the garbage even. of the grafiti. if everything is viewed as an effect, in its place due to some cause, then almost always the cause is very easily determined. this leads back to number 1 though, because the cause is never known, but the likelihood of the cause is sort of assumed. garbage is on the ground because someone dropped it there becaue it's no longer of any value. this is more likely than a herd of sheep dragging nets of garbage to the oceans, and dropping some along the way. objects that seem out of place become objects of focus, and it does not take the mind long to for the thing into some set of logical consequences, some pattern to place it where it is. this is true of most art as well. it wasn't always true, and it's not true for a lot of people. but these days, most art is viewed as "possible." i think for several years, many people literalyl thought "that's not art" because they simply could not place the piece into any sort of logical pattern of existence. there was just no logic to its being there. this has gone away now, with most art i think.


5) hunger

after about lap 10 i started to get hungry. in the future i really need to take both water AND some snacks. luckily, jay had a banana and a cookie, and he shared. they tasted amazingly good. i rememebered being in the andes with ian, and how good his lentil bean soup was at 10,000 feet after walking 20 miles on day 2 of our 3 day, 60 mile venture.

the point here is not say, 'fooooooood goooooooood,' but rather ot say that with exercise and meditation comes a heightening of the senses. and taste is not excluded from this.


6) the weather

changes in the weather were very apparent. i almost felt a slight connection to wildlife at a few moments wherein i literally took pause because of the awe inspiring difference from one moment to another with direct respect to the weather. it was an extreme day with very bright sunshine that broke through some heavy dark clouds. there was biting cold wind, and also clear warm moments. also some cold rain. this definitely had an effect on my comprehension of time itself because time was broken into increments of weather changes, as opposed to objective measures of seconds, minutes, and hours.


7) the physically challenging aspects.

aches and pains are part of a long hike. this reminded me of my own biology, and really it also reminded me of my own mortality. sounds morbid maybe, but often times during meditation or yoga there is such a sense of wonderment, relaxation, and even during the physically challenging moments it's more like an exercise routine, like working out, and the sense for me has always been one of improving the body. for some reason, on this walk, not that i felt it was debilitating in any way, but rather just that in the context of "the path," and "the journey," i thought of the pain as both a challenge to overcome, and also a sign that such walking cannot last forever. it will end. and it did. and my aching body was glad.