Travel your mind to a local park.
Are you there?
Look around. What are the people are up to? How do they fit into the scene?
I don't know about you, but I picture two main types of users in urban parks:
1. The dog walkers, runners, cyclists, stroller gangs, and couples on dates—those travelling through. And,
2. The picnic-goers, daydreamers, musicians, book readers, the sunset cuddlers (on stage two of their date) – those hunkered down.
Imagine this blog post features a human-traveler map, much like google traffic, showing the different paths and pauses park users take on their visit. Thick layers of footsteps can be read as trails and faint series of wisps interpreted as detours to sitting boulders, and pocket beaches. Then, superimposed in a different colour are the routes taken by children imaginatively playing and exploring--the way they would if they could spend the whole day playing without any previous teaching about how to behave in a park. Picture your grandchildren, eyes aglow, exploring secret wonders off the trail.
Back to the map. What would their human-traveler line look like?
Trails are a tidy and polite way to visit nature. You might receive a friendly hello if you stick to the trail, but opportunities for interaction are limited to what's near the park infrastructure (trails, interpretive signs and park benches).
The way we move around urban park spaces is learned- make that socially trained into us. Do you think the older we get, the more deeply imprinted on us us this set of social instructions becomes?
Young children offer grandparents permission to play in nature. Take this gift and run, skip, and pretend to be a badger with it.
The beautiful thing about a fresh blanket of snow is the way it softens and blurs the instructions we’ve learned about how to move about and interact with our local parks.
If you've noticed your curiosity to explore your natural surroundings wane or become unpractised it's time to add more snow angels and curiosity-led meandering.
This 2018, tangle up your human-traveler line. Take the curious path. You need the practice.
Happy New Year!