Walking Diary

On Being Open and Affected: Jardin del Turia

Originally published 10th January 2019

Last updated: 7th June 2019

Valencia

This walk began with a set destination in mind. While running through Jardin del Turia both this morning and the day before, I came across an area of the park that struck me as jarring and strange. I resolved to return and occupy this particular space purposefully, as opposed to being transient in it.

The space spans the width of the park, situated beneath a white bridge — one of the more modern ones in the park. Its floor is paved in grey stone slabs, with large triangle shapes made from (what I assume to be) reinforced glass arranged in diamond patterns across the center of the area. This was quite a surprising space to find in the park, or at least it was in comparison to the serene tree–lined path I’d just been running on. It was as though I had changed course unwittingly — taken a wrong turn and emerged onto this curious forecourt, once again in a city. Immediately I was tuning into traffic passing nearby, watched over by looming apartment blocks, navigating a route through cyclists. Within this grey area sat a collection of strange stone objects, shaped like small pyramids. Placed at equal distance along the width of the space, it was hard to discern whether they were decorative or functional, immediately making me think of a series of drawings I started working on recently, in which ideas of confusing purpose are present. These few quick moments in this space were my initial motivation for this subsequent walk. I would come back to sit and draw elements of this space, focusing on these strange stone shapes.


The distance between my entrance to the park and the grey area is around 2.5 kilometres. I had clocked this earlier on my running watch to have an idea of how long it would take me to walk there. Quite soon after setting off I realised that I was no longer focused on the destination, just enjoying the walk itself. For a while now, I’ve been thinking through the idea of developing my MA dissertation into new works that that document a search for/discovery of ‘smooth space’. Until now, I had been thinking about walking to smooth space, as opposed to the walk being the central focus. When picturing it as a location, I visualised it as a defined space — albeit a vast one — rather than a sort of developing flow state. While on this walk it seemed obvious that smooth space should be found when walking, as opposed to within a larger static environment. Never set, always moving and evolving, sprawling endlessly. These attributes clearly describe the act of walking. In light of this train of thought, the walk took on a new purpose, becoming an opportunity to try and experience smooth space.

On reflection, a lack of focus on my destination was crucial in opening up this new mind state. The walk cannot only be a means of getting from A to B but should be an experience in its own right. Even though I actively wanted to experience smooth space — to be sure of it somehow, as if I might be struck by an overwhelming feeling of certainty that had eluded me so far —this goal was not always at the front of my mind. Thoughts came and went with no burden on me to try and contain them, my gaze wandering and reacting to surrounding stimuli. My responses to the space were all very much in the moment, so there is some difficulty in writing about the walk retrospectively. I do remember thinking that it was as perfect as a walk might get, looking forward and contemplating the idea of continuing like this forever. There is something about walking alone that makes this kind of thinking all the more enjoyable. Had I been with someone else and decided to give voice to this thought, it would present itself as an irrational idea or worse, a clichéd statement; said for the sake of having something to say. Such scenarios are best enjoyed in the privacy of your own mind, played through slowly, free of the need for rational critique.

The notion of being affected by a space feels very pertinent in my research thus far. The ability to be affected seems to begin with being present — aware of the impact your surroundings have on you and vice versa. At the moment it’s winter in Valencia. The skies are clear and perfectly blue almost every day — unlike any January I’ve previously known — but there’s still a distinct chill in the air that’s exaggerated when breathed in through the nose. On the day of this walk though, there was a lovely warmth emanating from the low sun, gently warming my eyelids. The light filtered through the trees in a way that made them glow. In one instance this sight was so disruptive that I was compelled to stop and take a photograph, failing of course to record the moment sufficiently on my phone screen. My being moved by this moment of beauty indicates to me that I was present in the environment, inquisitive of it and open to such responses. Yet —perhaps crucially — I wasn’t intentionally searching for them, not consciously judging what was and wasn’t worthy of being deemed as moving/affecting/beautiful. This definition of being affected is one I will sit with for a while, not forcing it.

Thoughts/moments of significance:

  • Smooth space as a flow state, both as physical/geographic and a state of mind
  • Being open to being affected by the environment, but not actively searching for these moments
  • Even though this park is situated within a city, and home to a number of rules and expected modes of behaviour (no bikes in certain areas, directional signage, dictated paths/routes), I was able, for a time, to reach the desired flow state/smooth space
  • Being alone
  • Desire to walk forever, and this not seeming unreasonable
  • The idea of combining Deleuze and Guattari’s smooth space with Augé’s non–place for a kind of sweet spot
  • Numerous pathways. The element of choice would not be present if too few
  • Travelling forwards, not looking back. Acknowledging the periphery as it develops
  • Low, warm sun and cold air. Hands feel smooth and cold
  • Relatively fast pace of walking, unobstructed
  • Feeling of possibility — ideas enter the mind and they feel achievable no matter the size
  • Being anonymous to others. This was especially heightened in a foreign country. We pass each other with no effort to remember one another, likely we will never see each other again

Originally published 10th January 2019.

Last updated: 7th June 2019.