interactions, comments, experiences
I haven't been very organized this year. I am a new mom, and although I did think about planning the walk several weeks ago, never found the time to really do anything. But I have been thinking about it, it's hard not to. Yesterday I was at St. Marks Church, in the churchyard, and there was an altar set up for Day of the Dead celebrations. I thought it would be a lovely place to walk. But now I'm sick, so tomorrow I won't go there. Too much trekking around with baby. I'll stay close to home - perhaps along the waterfront, West Street, or the playground at the end of Franklin. My friend Viv Corringham, who is working on her own soundwalk project, will join me and record the walk. Here is a soundwalk score for anyone with a baby. I will be using this score for my walk tomorrow (of course, you don't need a baby to do a walk):
Extreme Slow Soundwalk Score: For a Baby (10/31/06)
Wait until your baby is very near sleep. Put him in a sling or other baby carrier, if at all possible, so he can be close to you and move with you. Go outside and begin to walk. As you walk, be aware of your baby falling asleep. As the baby grows more and more sleepy, allow your pace to slow and become more sensitive to the ground beneath your feet. Listen to the sound of your baby breathing, and the air moving around you and the baby. Move with your baby's breathing. If there is wind, listen to that and notice the space between gusts. If there are falllen leaves, notice how they crackle and skitter across the ground. Notice sounds and silences. Notice tiny things, small stirrings and subtle gestures. Feel the heaviness of the baby falling more and more deeply into sleep against your body. Continue to slow your pace until the baby is in a deep sleep and you are moving as slowly as you possibly can. Move even more slowly. Continue until the baby wakes or you are ready to end. Slowly increase your pace as your baby returns to the waking world.
The desert sun prepares to set among milky clouds. I walk very slowly, heel to toe to heel, like a monk with an empty bowl, no – my bowl is full of expectations.
Sounds from new homes being built parade across this edge of wilderness: hammers, saws, motors. They hit my gut like intrusions though I know I must admit them like my own sounds. I crave the slow and unpredictable rhythm of desert stillness and birdsong, the shock of a Diamondback’s rattle. Resignedly, in slow arcs my feet move in turbid light.
I have brought my dog Chey-la, who is overjoyed. Chey-la bounds ahead of me, down the jeep-track until she notices I have hardly budged. She runs back to me smiling, tail wagging, and then as if to show me the way, bounds forward again. She does this 20 times, I swear, while I walk.
Downbeats of sweat flash down my neck, countered by a periodic breeze. It swells though me, warm as symphonic strings, leaving me emptier but refreshed. Two quads (ATVs) approach. For some reason I don’t want their drivers to see me. I call Chey-la back and stand behind a Palo Verde tree.
One quad stops. It is a little girl. She is maybe 11 years old, without a smile, disheveled and overweight. She sets off again without a word and is followed by an even younger driver. Both quads stop side by side 50 yards down the jeep-track. I resume my slow walk, hoping now they’ll ask what I’m doing. I would tell them this walk is for peace – to gather energy that might dissolve a bulwark of sickness that has left 2000 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis dead.
I would not tell them, if they asked, that I’m not strong enough to keep these dead or their families in mind as I walk – that I have trouble flowing with my out-of-focus focus, trying to keep my balance and simply breathe. I would smile and hope they would smile, too. Perhaps my mind is stained sunny yellow like an old cellulose film. The quads take off. At my speed it would have taken too long to reach them, anyway. I feel unworthy and incapable.
Once I thought myself a natural at carrying spirit, a quick learner at meditation and piety. Certain the banquet would always be there, I orbited all my life around it. Older now, I finally sit at the table prepared for me to find the fruit desiccated and the bread eaten away. I wish I were not alone that I might distract myself from this fact.
A bird on a branch watches and does not fly away. I stop. Silence slowly broadens. I suffer to end my walk, having failed to show my fears new light by the end of its small slow arc. Instead, like Chey-la, my chattering mind has run to and fro, wondering why grief walks so slow.
I took an extreme slow walk by myself (well with Fabiana but she didn’t participate - preferring the run around as fast as you can walk) on Nov 1, at about 4:30 GMT unitl about 4:50. I did it by Ardingly reservoir, close to sunset. So I got to hear many birds and water fowl, as well as farm machinery, planes, boat related sounds - sheets (ie ropes) flapping against masts, wind, traffic, voices etc. It was really nice - a few other walkers may have seen me; when some actually approached I ended the walk, not quite having the nerve to continue alone under observation and seem crazy but also it was about time anyway. So thanks for the suggestion.
Thank you so much for organizing the extreme slow soundwalk. I appreciate the experience, especially in such a busy, pressured life. I wore thin shoes and was able to feel every pebble, stick and bump as I walked. I was surprised to find my mind spontaneously making sound effects to go with the sensations in my feet. My first response was to think, I'm not supposed to do this! and to repress my tendencies. Then I thought, no, let me explore this. Then I had a struggle to let the sounds come spontaneously from my unconcious, rather than have my concious mind contrive sounds. The sounds were creaky and squishy sounds. It was kind of juvienille. I did not make these sounds aloud, just heard them in my mind.
When I was in undergrad back at VCU in the early 90's, a friend of mine used to bike around town all the time, what was cool was that he intentionally pedaled as slowly as possible, he tried to bike just fast enought to avoid falling over, people thought he was nuts, one day I finally asked him what he was up to, and he said that basically his intention was to slow things down to be able to really take in as much as possible of the world around him, it was really cool to see him do this for years in richmond when everyone was moving as fast as possible and he was going as slow as possible, totally confused everyone. So I guess you can do extreme slow bicycling as well.
I walked this morning, Thanksgiving day, while Kenta practiced his Oud in the park. I wandered for a while first, and I stopped and looked at the big empty concrete ball field and the empty, wet tennis courts. Then I found a wide tree-filled walkway between the tennis courts and the high school. I started at one end, walking very slowly and trying to always set one foot down just in front of the other foot, so the heel of the foot in front touches the toe of the foot behind. I kept my eyes open, watching as the park in front of me slowly filled with dogs and joggers and people. Waking up. It was damp and yellow, warm for late November. I was moved by the idea of each step lifting me, rather than falling deeper and deeper into the ground...with each step I'm growing taller and taller. I was aware of the strong desire toward movement contained within my body this morning too.
unsent email to Michelle: "Will you walk today?"
Thought of the walk all day, but no openings and its Nov. 2 (All Soul's Day) before I manage to get outside and join. I stand in the drizzle, behind my house, on the edge of the woods and am having a hard time settling down. I'm being hard on myself - why can't I simply walk and listen? Must I make every experience transcendental? I'm feeling annoyed with my own inclinations and generally a little ferocious, so start at a pace, circling counterclockwise, my blood loud. I recklessly close my eyes, feel the cold wet rain, hear the wind, the tree limbs clacking, leaves falling - a great gorgeous rush of sound and sense. The plunge settles me and I remember the name, 'extreme_slow_soundwalk', which brings me to a stop and then a different engagement. So around I go, eyes closed, very slowly, listening, bringing my wandering mind back to a core place. It is the engagement I so love, the drop to connectedness.
Later...It occurs to me that this work is so easy in the embrace of nature. I have privacy and the containment of a vast wild area. This brings me again to consider the question of place/setting and how it is part of this walking.
I made my solitary soundwalk on the Manhattan side of the Hudson river, just North of pier 25 in lower manhattan. I arrived at about 6:45 PM. I was looking for a space really near the water. Someone had spraypainted a circle on the ground, and had marked North with a big "N", so I honored each of the five directions first. It was already dark, and beautifully clear and cold. I was feeling very self-concious and a little nervous about being alone down there, so I decided to try to get really close to the water, in a sort of non-noticeable spot. I kept hearing a kind of horn sound, like a fog horn, but when I got to the chain-link fence just at the edge of land I saw that it was a metal retractable boat dock that was makng the sound, as it swayed and moved in the curret and rubbed up against the pier. It was a very beautiful sound, with a nicely non-regular rhythm which was really soothing along with the sound of water lapping up against things. I walked facing the fence, with the West Side Highway behind me, and walked sort of sideways, partly to try to look less suspuscious (I am paranoid about everything, including being suspected of unsavory activity) and partly so that I could keep my focus on the water in front of me. It was really enjoyable actually to have a kind of soft eye focus on the water and the lights of NJ acrosss the river and be moving sideways in a slow drift. I used my concerns and worries about how I appeared to others as a kind of non-sensical mantra to help me return to listening and moving slowly, return to absorbing the state of the space around me. I was glad that I went to that spot, rather than opting for a more hidden, or even indoors space, as it was SO beautiful and calm and moving to be there in the end.
Today at Mills College in Oakland I substituted for Pauline Oliveros in teaching the Deep Listening class. As part of the practice we do an Extreme Slow Walk. Today we used both the Ensemble Room and the courtyard outside of it, with some walkers inside the room, others only in the courtyard and some moving from one to the other. Accompaniment was from lawnmowers, many autumn breezes, and a quiet piece of music, "September Morning" by Jim Wilson that I played on the alto recorder inside the room.
I loved watching the walking as I played, almost as much as I've enjoyed walking myself. In September with the same class we walked inside the room with our eyes closed and accompanied by an environmental recording of rain and geese and cars in Sebastopol, CA last winter. It was surprising to find how little or much distance each person moved. Thanks for this site, Michelle! Pax, -Tom
First it shall be admitted, only part of my walk was slow. And second, that, though still November 1st in the states, at my actual location my walk took place in the morning of November 2nd; Chungju, South Korea.
The first step off the polished stone step onto the black astro turf cushioned path from the apartment building to the gravel parking lot gave off a sweet sounding squish, the rain still stained the street. Before I even noticed that small birds were singing, I heard the familiar pushing lull of Korean pop music from down the street, being piped out of a pool hall. Eight o’clock in the morning, and the pool hall’s still lively.
The large stones of gravel made clunks as I sunk into them, walking off the main road to my destination. Further on the gravel became smaller, and the sounds became higher in pitch.
A sudden automated water pump that sounded like R2D2’s arm movements gave me a start, as I walked past the plot of freshly hewn golden rice. The dogs I was expecting to bark were fast asleep under the small hill I ascended. Atop the cement block which overlooked a small ravined creek, I inhaled and a new soundscape filled my visual field.
I took a slow step, as a hammer against metal rung from across the small river. The morning traffic on the thoroughfare beyond the terraced lots of rice slowly hissed. Roosters! They sang their reverie from a nearby cage, and a few seconds later again, and again, and again. Long golden stems with thin long leaves jutting sideways and cottony tufts on the top were hit by the slightly chilled air. Only a faint scrape could be heard, but I imagined the cottony sound of the air caressing the tufts, a sound that was warm and subtle.
A white egret stopped in it’s tracks, sinking in the dirt of the shallow river 40 feet below. And then it moved, I followed it’s motions with my walk. Quickly forward led from the neck, then slowly backward with the neck pulling the body to meet half way like two steps forward one back, in a swift and graceful cycle. The water’s flowing could be discerned through the hammer and the gravel and the roosters and the cottony….
There was a cluck of a tongue, perfect addition to the symphony, though it didn’t come from me, and suddenly I realized I’d been spotted from below the small hill. I turned in my slow tracks to see the egret had flown off to a group of 7 ducks, and a young man below was approaching the dogs.
All the sounds changed, the dogs started barking, the traffic grew louder, the roosters started up again, and the gravel under my feet was harsher in tone as I quickened and walked back down the hill to home.
I did an extreme slow walk back in 1985. I was a singing student/bodyworker/cook on Frank Baker's winter singing workshop in Portugal. Remy Charlip(dancer/author) was a co- teacher and one day had us all out around the pool for an extreme slow walk. I dont think he gave us much explanation or context- I dont even remember him mentioning listening, although given that it occurred during a Frank Baker singing workshop I find that a little hard to believe. What I do remember is him telling us that for the next hour we were to move as slowly as possible- and then move even more slowly. So there we were, a group of about 19 in the early morning, shivering a little in the weak sunlight, moving in a circle around the pool, making gratifyingly little progress. After a while I became being slightly annoyed, both by the exercicse itself, which i hadnt chosen to do, didnt entirely understand and found physically uncomfortable and also by the failure of some of the students to really try , characterized by the speed with which they moved around the pool. One singer named elizabeth, took it - how should I put it- more seriously, more to heart, more literally than the rest of us. She hardly moved from the spot. She never appeared to be in motion but was in my line of vision so I could see , over time, that she was indeed, moving ,albeit extremely slowly. After about 45 minutes she started to sway, ever so slightly. The swaying increased- slowly slowly - and then her knees crumpled and she sank to the ground in a gentle faint. She had passed out. That was the end of that particualr slow walk- although there was an intersting moment ,after the collapse, when no one moved- or at least no one moved towards her, at a rapid pace, as we struggled briefly to switch gears so to speak and return to the world of normal speed and reflex.
Your Soundwalk made me think of the poem; I'm happy some one still seeks to walk, listen to & love "The Beautiful Trail". That is why I always walked everywhere.
With your feet I walk
I walk with your limbs
I carry fourth your body
For me your mind thinks
Your voice speaks for me
Beauty is before me
And beauty is behind me
Above & below me hovers the beautiful
I am surrounded by it
I am immersed in it
In my youth I am aware of it
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail
Finally able to sit down and prepare for this walk. It's 9:30 PM on Sunday, October 31st, 2004. Time change makes it feel like 10:30 or later. I had wanted to organize a group of people to walk together, but I keep stopping myself from doing it, and now it almost IS the 1st so after all I will walk alone. This, in the end, makes sense for me this year.
I am drawn to water these days, and since tomorrow has me in the the vicinity of lower Manhattan I think I will make my way over to the Hudson River. I will be meditating on being present and listening as I walk - obvious tasks perhaps - but lately I've been noticing a drastic (positive) change in my state of being when I switch into listening mode, which makes me wonder what kind of state I'm moving around in when I'm NOT in listening mode...
Closed my eyes and stood still to start – helped to tune into the listening. I’m so aware of my default to sensory body feeling flow of information the years of daily practice have embedded and I push to let the listening/aural come to the front of my awareness. Wind in trees. Fast water. Gravel crunching under tires. Dry leaves over ground. I open my eyes to see that it’s true and remember to initiate a step. I do – ever so slowly. My blood seems to start the process of rising energy and the complex detail of getting bones, muscles, tissue and liquids all engaged toward forward. I feel I can hear my blood and creaking internals in their efforts. I’m struck with the lateral motion of it all. It seems so long in the process – the head turning left, the palms turning over, the torso rotating, right arm reaching forward and I’m still in the process of shifting my weight. Have to be vigilant in my reminders to listen…. Wind, soft, gusty, clacking branches, creaking trunks, breathing body and scattering leaves all overlaying a rush of water – it’s so loud all of sudden – whooshing, charging, crashing water from last night’s rainfall. Detail steps forward as I listen. Dry leaves and wind take on an orchestral breath as minutia of their interaction is heard. I am so aware of my sight – do my eyes follow the sound, close to intensify the sense, ride the horizon? I try a bit of it all trying not to be overwhelmed by the volume of information, the immersion in sensory and the whirring mind. There is a break in attention around five minutes in. A drop, recognized it, looked at my clock and decided to reenter. Gave in to the rich deliciousness of entering deeply into movement. Felt the familiar ‘drop’ (similar to the entering process in authentic movement) to internal attention. Breathing, took a look around inside and started listening again. So I’m trying to walk, which implies forward, and the whole thing seems sideways. The slowness of shift accentuates or at least seems to equalize the duration of side-to-side and forward motion. Wandering mind and I encourage it back (like Pema says, ‘stay, stay, stay’) and listen. It’s a practice and I feel a beginner. Worn paths of similar practice fly forward and I work hard to stay on this other. I carry on, entranced by the power of engagement, reveling in the great beauty of the forest, conscious of an occasional car passing on the road nearby. Finally (it feels) I stop. Check the time – about 10 minutes – and look around. I’ve moved forward toward a woodpile – not quite four feet in all.