Robert Macfarlane- The old ways, A journey on Foot
I had no idea what I was in for when I began reading MacFarlane’s’ book, but if I have to say one thing, then I’d say it made me want to walk like never before. I want to walk for the rest of my whole life, and never stop. The things Macfarlane encounters and experiences are so exciting, exhilarating and unexpected, all because he puts one foot in front of the other.
I wish I had read this book towards the start of this assignment though, as he goes into so much detail about the different types of walking and really gives a helpful insight into how to walk efficiently aswell as different peoples ideas and experiences.
This book does, however, go from one subject to another really quickly. One of the main issues I had when reading it was the fact that Macfarlane tries to cram as much information as possible in every word, so its hard to get the main issues he talks about.
One of these main points that I feel is valuable is when he talks about is tracking and marks, ‘To all these marks I added my own, I picked a trail and set out along it, following those tracks to see where they might lead’. This is written within the first chapter, and when I first began to read this book I thought that this was a non-fiction book due to the magical way he talks about this walking journey and how it started. It sounds almost Narnia like. A really important topic that he talks about is, ‘most of our journeys now occur on asphalt and concrete- and these are substances not easily impressed’. He brings up the importance that we are still walking and making our own ‘trails’, but in a completely different way.
Macfarlane talks about the land we walk on like a living being, ‘Paths are the habits of a landscape’. He goes on, further in the book, to say, ‘Each surface rock formation in a country is recorded on this map’. He makes me question whether or not we have explored and discovered every single part of the land that we live on. And I disagree; I believe there is so much more than a map. Having a map creates a barrier between knowing and imagination, ‘You need to look for what shouldn’t be there’. Its formal and scientific, yet when I walked (with and without a map) I felt excited, like I was the one finding out new places and hidden gems, like I was true explorer. He later meets a woman in the book who lives near the moorland and she talks about how it changes seasonally and the difference in how it’s developed of years. Nevertheless, he does later on say, ‘Invert the mental map you hold of Britain, Ireland and west Europe. Turn it inside out. Blank out the land interiors of these countries’, he truly brings his passion and excitement out on the reader.
A chapter that I was surprised how much I got into it was ‘Water north’. Macfarlane talks about how we have paths in the sea, ‘the sea has paths too… The sea will not record a journey made on it half an hour previously’. I had never thought of it before, the fact that we can’t visually see these paths that a captain or sailor will take; yet they are still there. I feel like I’m having the same feelings when I walk even though I know it’s a completely different thing; land and sea. But I research paths and then take them, even though the footpaths aren’t necessarily visually there. It’s making me open my eyes to see how different paths exist and how they are formed and then either survive or dissolve away.
As I have previously mentioned, Macfarlane packs this book with information, but the three most important people that he talks about, I feel are, Kenneth White, his friend Finlay and most importantly Edward Thomas. These will help me in developing my research and ideas. But Macfarlane has not only given me Information, he has also given me the confidence and excitement to walk, ‘The only way to learn, really, is to do it’. And he has shown me the same importance and gratitude to walking, as I want to give my viewers, ‘There are kinds of knowing that only feet can enable, as there are only memories of a place that only feet can recall’.
These are a collection of some of the sounds that I recorded whilst exploring the Peak District.
I love the idea of having sound to enhance the experience, but personally I don’t think it works here. I think its very overpowering and I think it takes the viewers eyes away from my delicate and light imagery. I want to create that personal feel with my work but at the same time create a connection between the viewer and their walking experiences, and I feel like with these they are too much of me talking or breathing and its not the effect that I want to have within my final piece.
I am glad that I’ve experimented with using the Edirol recorder and editing in Premiere cc as it has given me more confidence, as I haven’t previously worked a lot on the software.
I decided to experiment with scans of my map, before delving into destroying the real one first! I really liked the idea of using the map, especially the one I carried as its creased, muddy and smudged from the rain. It shows that it has been places and been well used. But on the other hand I only used it for two of my walks, and I feel like, to me, it was more important to get lost then to have a specific journey planned to every second, as it was fun and exhilarating.
I firstly experimented with just drawing on the map where exactly I have walked. It was really fascinating, as I had to work out where I had actually walked, and I find it interesting to see on this one piece of paper the places that I have visited, stopped and turned back, and explored. But I went on to develop this idea by only using the specific places where I pre-knew precisely where I was, so these are mainly just train stations and an A road. But I then traced in pen the original lines that I drew out, on to the white paper. I think it adds a lot more mystery to my adventures, and as a viewer I feel like they want to know where I’ve been. Overall though, when paring them with my actual imagery I feel like they over power my work and it makes it too scientific and formal and completely contrasts that personal tone that I was after.