Sunday, May 27, 2012

Academics afoot

“Walking,” writes Hayden Lorimer, “is a social practice that has been subject to increased academic scrutiny during the past decade,” but I did not notice any academics scrutinizing my walk this morning. I headed up the big horrible hill quite early to avoid the scorching heat that promises to descend by midmorning; I saw mockingbirds and brown thrashers, a young red-tailed hawk, and a bunch of chattering birds that made me wish I’d brought the binoculars, but no academics in sight.
“Amongst a variety of researchers,” continues Lorimer, “new ‘walking studies’ have focused attention on what might be considered the founding, or constituent, elements of this most basic of human activities, namely: the walk, as an event; the walker, as a human subject; and, walking, as an embodied act. Whether treating the walk-event, the walker-person or the walking-act as the starting point of analysis,” he goes on, but I’m putting the book down and searching for my walking shoes and some dog treats so I can get my embodied act out the door. 
As a walker-person pursuing a walk-event while accompanied by a walker-canine (or, more accurately, bouncer-and-bounder-canine), I inhale the honeysuckle scent that hangs heavily in the air but still can't hide a hint of skunk. I’ve never encountered a skunk out here except in the form of road kill (and who will scrutinize the essential elements of the splat-event?), but the stink reminds us of its presence even in the absence of the embodied skunk.
The skunk-event would not, I suspect, be considered a founding, or constituent, element of the walk-event, but the “Warning: Fresh Tar” sign certainly suggests a need for scrutiny, academic or otherwise. The route of the walk-event might well be determined by the answer to a simple question: How fresh is that tar? I could subject the question to a little semiotic analysis, or I could walk over and subject the tar-event to increased academic scrutiny by poking it with the toe of my shoe. Not too gooey? The walker-person is undeterred; the walk-event will go on.

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