Through reading, especially the Rebecca Solnit book ‘Wanderlust’, I have seen many different ways of walking and types of walks. There are also many ideas about and ways of walking, as she begins by stating, that she does not explore. I am realising that whilst it is all very interesting only some of it is going to be useful or relevant to my practice. Firstly, Solnit is attempting to put walking in its socio historical context and touches on many other disciplines as well.
Early on she states that she is looking at walking as an amateur act – it is still not part of contemporary job descriptions although sometimes recommended at work places for de-stressing. In spite of this she explores the history from an English speaking perspective and therefore gathers poets, political activists, essayists examples which show how walking habits changed over centuries. Solnit does acknowledge that this is not about the poor who always walked but could not write. For them to walk was probably an integral part of survival. She does talk at length about Wordsworth for whom walking is essential to compose and how the classical philosophers walked to discuss ideas. Both of which suggest working to me if not a trade or physical labour.
Solnit also has a fascinating theory that we think at 3 mph, or rather our thoughts are comfortable with the speed of walking. This is presumably what Wordsworth and other Romantic Poets harnessed. I think this aspect of walking and working is one main element I want to continue to research, although I will focus less on history (I will not ignore the above) as there are few records of women doing this the further back we go, Dorothy Wordsworth is a notable example. This will be my main focus, however, I am also interested in workers and class struggles from which protests are born and the collective walk or demonstration. That might be less about how I work but more a subject or a part of what my work becomes or a part of the research.
Here are some of the other, really interesting, types of and approaches to walking which I have come across but which for now I am going to set aside:
walking to appreciate the landscape and the picturesque and show good taste or following guide books;
Spiritual pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago;
Walking because it has been declared healthy for you either physically, morally or both;
Walking as a kind of public display, to be seen;
Going for a walk as an excuse to speak privately with someone;
walking in labyrinths;
the origins of bipedalism;
The environmentalist aspect of walking;
Of course there are elements of the above I may need to touch on such as I might follow the route of a protest walk which might feel a little like tourism or following a pilgrimage but I think the function would be very different.