Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Magic Which Lies Outside

I've started reading a book called Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places. The author, John Stilgoe, gives voice to something I've never been able to articulate but which speaks to me love of being outdoors. Let me quote for you:
Get out now, Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people at the end of our centruy. G outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run. Forget about blood pressure and arthritis, cardiovascular rejuvenation and weight reduction. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore.
With long explanations about how bicycles and shoes are the perfect exploration vehicles and how cars insulate and disconnect us from our environment, he goes through and describes how to explore the built landscape. This is not a but about nature, but about the history of human impact on nature which is hidden in plain sight all around us. I am about half way through the second chapter, and we're discussing the rights of way associated with railroads and electric lines.
It's amazing how you can see the impact all around once you have the right mindset and know what to look for. For instance, I have noticed things about the power lines in the neighborhoods that I drive through. In my neighborhood Allandale, all of the power lines run between the back fences of the houses, and the blocks are long and thin. As a consequence, the trees along the street (all placed 15 ft back from the road, so neatly you can sight along them) do not have to be trimmed. South of Allandale Rd in the Rosedale neighborhood, however, it's more patchwork, and in many places, power lines are strung along the fronts of houses, thus producing all sorts of grotesque shapes in the trees where the utilities have come in to hack them back. Although I'm sure Austin Energy prefers the easy access of street-accessible lines, it sure makes for ugly trees.
There are chapters to come on mail, strip malls, highways, main streets, dead ends, and more. I'm looking forward to developing some skill at exploring the magic which lies outside. Maybe some days I'll take some more time on my ride to or from work and explore a little. I look forward to sharing with you and inspiring a little exploration of your own.

1 comment:

Margo said...

Another reason why I like biking - I feel like I'm 12 again and everything has a newness to it.

Can't wait to read of your explorations!