This week the Long Time, No See? project team was testing and readying the web interface/app thingy for the walkshop in Aspley. It’s been a massive effort with a little heartbreak along the way. John and I also ventured into the field for testing running the web interface on my mobile phone and referring to the Pathmaking Fieldbook. I’ve done a few tests of this now using the Fieldbook and now the web interface (perhaps it’s just a mobile website).
The day is overcast though glarey – the kind of light that washes out clouds and mutes colours. The majestic gum trees are shadowy against the white sky. The Fieldbook sets out directions to find nine stations and perform actions at or in response to each point. It asserts a common experience of place and space through which participants can make connections across thought, care and change, recognising that, as Tony Fry says, you cannot change anything unless you change yourself.
When walking alone, I am instructed to find a place to sit. So, having taken my walk along Gympie Road, I sit at the bus stop that I use for citybound commuting. I have sat here many many times. Here, the traffic rumbles and roars along the highway. The Fieldbook says “much of the world we live in is of our own making”. Considering the scene and the environment around me, in this once suburban utopian dream, I am acutely aware that it is all of our own making. All of it, having overwritten and overwhelmed – even erased – the ground beneath the layers of concrete, building and asphalt. It has hardness and harshness. There are other things here too: watching two men at the bus stop on the other side of the road negotiate the sharing of cigarettes. In the dreamed dream that is suburban life, a life of excess and abundance, there is also loss and waste.
Sitting at the bus stop, I can look across the eight lane highway, across the roofs and across the carpark towards the tops of trees lining the creek and towards the distant mountains. Yesterday, I was listening to a planner tell me about the overlays of ecosystem services in the CityPlan. They say that the green space is integrated across the whole city. Integrated seems like an unreal claim. Even the map tells me that these are just green patches and corridors in varying degrees of health. They seem more like passive remnants from which we have lost connection, rather than metabolic systems.
It starts raining as I sit at the bus stop; feeling a little lost and breathless (though not from walking but through an inability to breath in and through this context). Unable to find something that anchors me here, the geolocation capability on my phone marks this point. Following the instruction in my Fieldbook, I turn and take a photograph of the seat making sure that I capture the signage for the late night massage parlour behind it.
While walking with John, we reach the point where the Fieldbook asks us to make a statement about something we will or can do differently tomorrow. The intention here is to consider the ease with which we can disrupt entrenched and habituated behaviours, even our assumptions. As we stand in looking across the brandscape of the main road, soft rain falling like dew, we are flummoxed by a questioned penned by my own hand. Surely I wrote this because I knew this question was meaningful for my own life. We look at each other blankly, almost pleading with the other for help. John grabs at some quick thoughts just to break the tension and a seeming anxiety about feeling stumped. We eventually decide to be more spontaneous and celebratory: it seemed inauthentic in the circumstances.
Later, as we talk over dinner, an easier conversation rolls around, out of which emerges a need to use our time more meaningfully, even creatively. Here we talk about our togetherness and the need for continued cultivation of this shared life. “See,” he says, “that’s what we can do differently tomorrow.”