My exercise is walking. For the second year now my walks take place in a quite different neighborhood in fall and winter than my own—owing to the place where Brigitte does her aqua dynamics. Our own is old and upscale, this one is young and upscale. Ever since we moved to Michigan in 1989, the most striking feature of these neighborhoods has been their emptiness—if you ignore automobiles—and this holds as strictly in the old as in the newer area. I walk at least an hour, more often an hour and a half. In that time I rarely see more than one or two people—exempting only grass-cutting crews. These are loud clusters mostly of machines, one or two men wearing ear protection and blowing grass off sidewalks when I actually see them on foot. I let the sound of these clusters guide my walk, hence often only hear but don’t see them.
My first walk this fall in the new area came the other day. Herewith some images of emptiness.
One sees tell-tale signs of human activity, thus this severe abstract art of lawn-painting done with a massive riding mower.
The neighborhood is younger, but here and there developers have spared one or two of the aboriginal inhabitants. Here is one that invited me to “keep looking up.”
This image shows, curiously, a walking path down the center of a large grass-covered island. Coming right at it from the far distance is a car, but it will have to turn rather than entering this narrow strip intended for the walker. But no walker in sight—except myself. Trees, power lines, pavement, houses, bugs, birds, squirrels, butterflies—and giant insects like trucks, vans, cars. No people in sight. This, I expect, is what our biophysicists see when they examine the innards of living cells. They see a landscape empty of agency. The actual “people” who fashioned the chemical civilization are nowhere to be seen.
And then there are pristine object lessons in Infinity, e.g. this arrow-straight sidewalk. Tangible silence. Tactile emptiness.