Deer Jump Reservation, June 2019
The first walk in the Artist Walks (3) series was a play on the recent phenomenon of “Slow Art”, in which visitors to museums are encouraged to spend more than the average 17 seconds viewing a piece of art. By lingering with a single piece for longer periods of time, one can create a meditative type of experience in which deeper contemplation can happen.
On this woodland walk, participating artists moved together slowly along a trail in the Deer Jump Reservation, stopping from time to time to take in the minute details of the scenery and fully experience the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the woodlands along the Merrimack River.
In each location participants were given the option of simply observing the location or using one of the below prompts to frame their contemplation.
Slow Walk Prompts
As you observe this location, narrate everything you see to yourself. Don’t just see it, tell yourself what you are seeing. You can do this silently, just in your own mind, or whisper it to yourself quietly (so you don’t disturb other participants), or write it down in your notebook.
What series of events led you to arrive at this place and time? Is there one event for which you can clearly see the fork in the road, and imagine that other path, which might have taken you somewhere else?
Select an element to observe present at this site. How does it interact within the environment? How does it communicate, effect, or nurture others? How does it mitigate conflict, crisis, or friction? Does it have a story to tell?
As you observe this location, allow your listening to settle on a sound. Is it near or far? Is it still or moving? Is it natural or man-made? Is it an individual sound or a collection? Is it random, or does it have a clear pattern? What else can you notice about this sound? How does focusing on this sound change the way you see?
As you observe this location, focus on the light. Is the light direct or reflections? Is it still or moving? Are the shadows consistent or varied in color and darkness? What happens at the edges of light and dark? What else can you notice about light? How does focusing on the light change the way you see?
As you observe this location, choose a bird, animal or insect that inhabits this place. How does it live? Is it solitary or does it live with others? How does it move across this space and interact with the environment? If it was standing where you were, what would it see? How might it observe this place differently from how you observe it? What do you see now, that you didn’t when you first starting looking around?
As you observe this location, imagine everything to your left is in the past. Everything to your right is in the future. Everything behind you is only momentary. Everything in front of you is eternal. After observing the location with this framework for a few minutes, which way do you seem to gravitate towards? Is it because of what is actually there or because of the imagined relationship to time that you have created?
As you observe this location, choose one thing you would take home with you if you could. Why did you choose that thing? Where would you put it in your house? Would you use it for something? What would happen to it over time? What story would you tell someone about it if asked?
As you observe this location, choose one thing from home you would bring into this space if you could. Why did you choose that thing? Where would you put it in this landscape? How would the plants, birds, animals and insects interact with it? What would happen to it over time? If someone asked you how it got there, would you tell them the truth or make up a story?
If this specific location — the 15 sqft around you right now— was the only piece of this town you had ever been to or experienced, how would you describe it for someone who had never been? What would you say were its characteristics? What makes it unique from other places you have been to? What makes it worthy of discovery?
When you are deep in the midst of creating, what does it sound like in your mind? In what ways is it very similar or very different to the sounds of this site?