One of the goals I write in my daily journal is to seek novelty. This is especially true of my walks and ongoing creative projects.
This winter turned out to be a great motivator and inspiration. Last year I was totally unprepared for winter and ended up falling into a major walking slump which definitely impacted my mood, not to mention my waistline.
One of my hacks is to walk around the three floors of my apartment complex which helps assure I get my daily steps in. But walking inside or on a treadmill has proven to me that it's not just the motion, it's where I put myself in motion.
The ultimate goal is always to walk outside in the landscape, navigating the infrastructure.
This meant I needed new winter gear to make sure I was prepared: new jacket, face mask, new gloves, new long johns, new socks.
This would keep me warm but it wouldn’t stop me from falling on the ice. I needed traction. Then one day, the internet read my mind and delivered Wirecutters ‘The Best Ice Cleats for Shoes.’ Perfect.
I settled on the Yaktrax ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip. I felt more confident the moment I started walking on those snow packed sidewalks.
With my gear upgraded, I was determined and ready, but still had a lingering distaste for cold weather walking. This quickly changed, and I think embracing novelty and awe was key.
I made a routine of getting out in the morning for a 30 minute walk. They were energizing and I know getting that morning light viewing is critical for my circadian rhythm. There's nothing like getting out moving to start the day.
Once the snow started to pile up, I embraced the full winter wonderland vibes. It's totally cliche, and perhaps even a bit naive, but it felt magical to me. I was in awe.
Just a few months previous, everything was green and brown, now it was white, and frozen. From one perspective, it’s like nature is creating all these temporary sculptures made of frozen water across the landscape.
On the weekends, I made longer walks meditating and focusing on this 'temporary winter pedestrian infrastructure,' which is the nerdy urbanism phrase I settled on.
It was kind of like how crime scene detectives use UV light to illuminate a crime scene. The ice and snow made the paths more visible, especially the desire paths. Another cliche. Footsteps in the snow. There is only one way through that intellectual entanglement and it's to forego the game completely. Opt for the infinite.
Navigating the winter wonderland on foot is a challenging experience. There are hazards everywhere with the glare ice perhaps the most perilous. Then of course there are the sidewalks that are not cleared after new snow in a timely manner, if at all. That’s always frustrating and makes it tricky in some areas. You never want to be walking on the side of the road.
With my newfound enthusiasm for winter walking I arrived at a few key realizations.
One aspect that continues to amaze me is how people clear the sidewalks early and often. Of course, in some cases it’s the law, but even when it’s not, many sidewalks are cleared. It's amazing that people will clear the sidewalks for the small segment of the population that uses them regularly.
Or maybe it’s because people need to walk their dogs? Whatever the reasoning, I started to feel like royalty. Look at the treatment! The sidewalks cleared just for the pedestrians. I love that kind of service.
On some of the longer walks to the more commercial parts of town, I’d notice a few desire paths that looked like they were made by walking to a job.
It’s a stark visual reminder of how some folks have a difficult, miserable commute made on foot. But I also couldn’t help but admire the “screw this” approach to navigating to a destination. Pedestrians are the most agile of all commuters. They can sneak in and around areas that are impossible to access with a car or bike.
At the location above, I stood there admiring the snow desire paths. I even laughed in joy, but then it hit me in a moment of frigid clarity. Right there, I clearly understood it was my duty as a pedestrian to walk this path and help make it a bit more accessible because the person that made that path probably will be back again.
So I walked the path and stomped my feet to help pack down the snow. The least I could do was spend 5 minutes stomping through the snow looking a bit like a fool if it would help make it more accessible for whomever is walking to those buildings for whatever reason.
I’m not sure if walking the snow desire path made a difference or if anyone would follow it. But that doesn't necessarily matter in the moment. What I think matters is that as pedestrians, we need to utilize and appreciate the infrastructure during every season and in every condition.
I feel an obligation and duty to my fellow pedestrians to get out there and help keep those paths cleared and accessible, even if they are temporary foot steps in snow.
That goes for all seasons. If we love and value the sidewalks, trails, paths, parks, bridges and other great public spaces, then I think we need to appreciate them even more, and share with others the joy of navigating the world on foot.
After a few months, I decided this was the start of a project. It excited me and made me start thinking about how it could evolve over the years. But I needed to start somewhere, and with physical manifestations of these walks.
So I ordered some 5x7 prints and scanned them into the computer but it felt incomplete, or only a start.
Then I thought about how I've always found archival photos taped to paper with a basic caption to be an interesting format. So I tried it for this project.
These might just be sketches for now or perhaps my simple way to archiving this project. No frills, no fuss, just a stack of winter photos with the dates and locations scribbled on them.
Handwriting the caption is a real challenge, as you can see. I fully embrace a bit of sloppiness in the name of wabi-sabi . It can add uniqueness to a piece but it'll probably take more experimentation to see various versions. Maybe each year, the captions will be different as I focus on improving the handwriting.
The plan is to make a new, fresh set every winter and keep it as an archive. I imagine I'll probably visit several of the same spots as re-photography is an element of my overall approach these days. I am curious to see how the patterns change each winter with different levels of snowfall.
I've learned a lesson this winter, and a new appreciation for the beauty and harshness of walking in the depths of a cold, snowy winter in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
But more importantly, it has reinforced in me the duty I have as a pedestrian to utilize what's been built because that's how we'll get more of it built, and make our communities more accessible for those on foot and wheels.
I have a page up for the archive if you want to see more photos with messay handwriting: St. Cloud, Minnesota, Winter '22-'23
I am curious to hear about your winter walks, and projects about infrastructure. Please feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
dark water lavender by Kyle and Leah Worthy
"The stories we hand down are always changing. Dark Water Lavender pieces some of these fragments together to tell the story of a father and daughter, how their lives were shaped by one another, and by the time they spent separated by forces far outside of their control." - Kyle Worthy
The last couple of years I've gotten to know photographer Kyle Worthy through a several Zoom conversations. He's working on a project in collaboration with his sister Leah. He sent me the first zine of the project, and it's beautiful printed object.
I have some thoughts provided some feedback on his ongoing projects. I wrote a longer post about the project, the power of collaboration and how projects have a tendency to influence each other and often merge.
Here are a few excerpts:
"During these conversations, we talked about how different ideas for projects have a tendency of merging and influencing each other. It's something I've noticed in my work and it's common for artists to combine different ideas and threaded them together into one larger projects.
It's one of those mysterious aspects about creativity and art. When you get deep into the process, you often don't know how everything will connect together. It's why a common piece of art wisdom that gets passed down is to work on several different projects and ideas at once. In short, make a lot of art and see how it connects.
Our conversations were a different type of collaboration as I was consulting, but over time I felt more connected to the projects. It scratched that editor itch and made me wonder about getting into indie publishing, despite the odds of success. But what does that matter really when you can produce interesting and inspiring art?"
"It was inspirational to see the project evolve and come to fruition, culminating in a great printed piece of art. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about it. I think Kyle and Leah have a wonderful sense of storytelling and a great eye for visual detail so I am excited to see the collaboration flourish.
I especially enjoy how each spread contains it's own ideas on how the information is organized. I could see each spead framed on a wall as an individual art piece. I absolutely love that approach to bookmaking!"
You can learn more about the project and buy the zine on the website Memory Vistas. Leah has a substack covering the collaboration and projects. And they just released the second zine in the series called Tuesday in Mobile.
Places Journal: Champion Trees and Urban Forests
In the recent issue, Mark Hough has an essay about a new book by science journalist Jim Robbins called The Man Who Planted Trees:Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet.
It tells the story about third-generation tree shade farmer David Milarch and his Champion Tree Project."
"The concept is straightforward: to collect, archive, clone and propagate the genetics of the world’s “champion” trees — those which have, notes Robbins, “the highest combined score of three measurements: height, crown size, and diameter at breast height” — and in so doing to produce a global super-forest capable of ameliorating the destructive effects of rapid climate change."
It's a well-researched, informative article and has a great section on city trees.
“Restoration forestry should be at the top of the environmental agenda in urban and suburban areas,” writes Jim Robbins, and these days the most significant American tree-planting campaigns are indeed happening in major cities. From Million Trees NYC, Grow Boston Greener and Tree Philly to Million Trees L.A., Million Trees + Houston and Million Trees Miami, cities across the continent are committing to urban greenery as part of larger sustainability initiatives. Planting trees is a fairly noncontroversial proposition — always depending, of course, upon how the funding is structured, and who is paying for the planting."
Time and Thinking
In praise of being late: The upside of spurning the clock: "While some highly industrialized nations operate on what scholars call "clock time," where the time of day governs when an activity begins and ends, Belize was on "event time," where social events have a stronger influence on the flow of activities. It's a way of life that was much more common historically and still remains the way of life for much of the world today. "I think that's what we have to put in our head," McClaurin says. "The way that we measure time is really constructed."
How should we think about our different styles of thinking?: "On one end are verbal thinkers, who often solve problems by talking about them in their heads or, more generally, by proceeding in the linear, representational fashion typical of language. (Estimating the cost of a building project, a verbal thinker might price out all the components, then sum them using a spreadsheet—an ordered, symbol-based approach.)On the other end of the continuum are “object visualizers”: they come to conclusions through the use of concrete, photograph-like mental images, as Grandin does when she compares building plans in her mind. In between those poles, Grandin writes, is a second group of visual thinkers—“spatial visualizers,” who seem to combine language and image, thinking in terms of visual patterns and abstractions."
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I’m an artist and marketing strategist from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. This is my newsletter on art, walking, urbanism and mindfulness.
Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me. You can email me at email@example.com or follow me on Instagram & Mastodon.