All posts tagged Walking
Lines are traced and followed, made and extended, grooved and lived. I’m concerned with the lines of the pilgrim path. Using the ‘Pencil Sketch’ function on MS Powerpoint I altered some fieldwork photos taken while walking Tóchar Phádraig as part of different groups over the past few years as a way of exploring the role of lines. Starting with the literal lines of the images rendered as drawings, I wish to explore the others lines and meanings present.
Robert Stoddard, in his 1987 article Pilgrimages Along Sacred Paths, explored the geography of sacred space as points, lines, or areas, with the lines category referring to the routes of travel of activities associated with religious motives. This classification draws attention to the line itself, that is the pilgrim path in this cases, as having significance, rather than being a mere route to a sacred site (spot). Elsewhere, the anthropologist Tim Ingold, in his book Lines: A Brief History, explores the potential of the line as movement, through the concept of wayfaring. The line is a pathway, it is movement, it is the means through a person engages with the surrounding environment.
Through a few (geo) poetic stanzas I trace some thoughts on lines in this pilgrimage. I wonder where they will lead?
A row setting out
Near departure, pace emerging
Movements and motions linking each person to the next
Each person is the line
Leading and following, a common rhythm, an alignment
Pilgrims as line
A Sunday morning walk in Myrtleville, Co. Cork.
Although my knowledge of physical geography is rather basic, I was taken in by the features of my coastal walk, which were shaped by the forces of the sea and weather meeting the rock and land. The toll of the numerous winter storms were evident even on this calm, bring Spring morning. The patterns of the deposited worn rocks, in successive shelves, crafted by the waves were especially impressive, as I walked along one such shelf about 1.5m above the waves breaking with a further shelf rising c.1m further up again.
The pleasant waves appear a little off shore before coming in to meet the exposed rock, with slight splashes made. It is at this place, in these actions, that the sea and land meet. The back and forth of the waves creating a liminal layer between these two worlds.
Recorded using my phone and the Soundcloud App, I capture some of the ambient waves followed by my own treading across two of the beach surfaces. The audio of my walking captures the interactions of my feet on the stones, with my prescence being felt in the very action of each impact. With only the sound as the evidence of this process, the beach and I have equal roles in creating these moments. When the feet are mid-stride, in air, they are absent, it is only when the surface and I come into to contact that we are made present, made be.
For a superb exploration of coastal areas and experiences, see Anna Ryan’s Where Land Meets Sea: Coastal Explorations of Landscape, Representation and Spatial Experience
“As you ‘walk the Tóchar’, whether on foot or in fantasy, you will be going not only on a spiritual pilgrimage, but on a cultural and historical journey down through the ages also. And both experiences, if fully entered into, should bring about that change of heart and insight of mind which is essential to a pilgrim’s progress.” (p.v) Fr Frank Fahey in Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress.
Tóchar Pádraig is a walkway that leads from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. This old pilgrim road stretches c.35 km across mid-Mayo on a route that is both cross-country and on quite rural roads. Annually, Ballintubber Abbey organises four group walks during the summer months. This account is taken from one such event.
The gathering in the Abbey is a starting point where Fr Frank Fahey gives an introduction to the route and the concept of pilgrimage. Although some people arrive in the groups – in my case, my father accompanied me – most people don’t know each other. During the day people, through chat and travelling together, will get to know each other better, leading to the emergence of a camaraderie or communitas. My research was a nice topic of conversation which I shared with different people throughout the day.
A tóchar is an historical route way which served an important land-based transport systems in ancient and medieval times. They were particularly associated with pilgrimages and ecclesiastical foundations. It is speculated that Tóchar Phádraig is based on an earlier route from Cruachain, Roscommon, the seat of the Kings of Connacht to Croagh Patrick, which itself is a site of ancient ritual activity.
The route meanders through the landscape, as we move in meadows, walk along ridges and navigate boggy areas. The removal from the everyday is most definitely expressed in the cross-country sections where soft paths carry us away from the world through quiet patches of nature. Even the on-road sections can be very sedate with little traffic coming by. This withdrawing from the rest of the world and our own lives is a central part of pilgrimage. The landscape itself, is central to the creation of this liminality.
Only a few climb to the actual summit of Croagh Patrick, as it is an extra undertaking: it is explained to us that the main part of the pilgrimage is the route itself, in doing this you have completed the pilgrimage. This speaks to an ideal of pilgrimage as a journey, rather than a destination. The typical outlook would see the summit of the Reek as a requirement, but in this event our attention is called to other ways of walking and being. It is a readjustment, a pleasant one.
As the bus takes our group from Murrisk back to Ballintubber, we chat and rest. We say our goodbyes and each of us, in our previous groupings or as individuals, go on our own paths.
“Reminding yourself that life is a journey not a destination, you now let slow motion time drift past on diaphanous wings while you absorb the timeless sensations and colours of the Mayo countryside.” John O’Dwyer, Pilgrim Trail, The Irish Times, Jul 14, 2012.
Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress. 1989, Ballintubber Abbey Publication, Mayo.
As part of UCC’s Doctoral Showcase – an annual event which encourages research students to develop innovative ways to communicate their research to non-specialists – I developed a short video which intends to convey a sense of place through the use of sound and images. I used a collection of audio recordings and photos from St Gobnait’s in Ballyvourney to make the video.
The showcase presentation also involved members of the audience engaging with the place tactily as well, through the distribution of rosary beads, stones form the site and water from the well; although this isn’t possible here, I feel the video still goes a long way to giving a solid glimpse at St Gobnait’s. The sounds in particular – feet crunching gravel, stone scrapping against stone, water dripping – evoke the place and what it is to be there.
P.S. I’ve previously blogged on Podcasts & Place and many thanks to my cousin Eilín for narrating the video.
Groningen in the north-east of the Netherlands is a biking city. While cycling is an extremely common in the country, the shear dominance of bikes and cycling in this city is noteworthy. I was in the city for the Fourth International Emotional Geographies Conference and we were all struck by the role of bikes in daily life. Indeed, we were informed that there were 2.4 bikes per head of population in the city.
It was both fascinating and inspiring to see what a city can be like when bikes become the prevalent form of transport instead of cars. As a pedestrian it took a little getting used to, bikes whizzing by, people of all ages and backgrounds pedalling and stationary bikes occupying considerable space. I found myself having to get good at estimate how gaps between cyclists for crossing the ‘roads’. I resisted to urge to rent a bike myself, instead deciding to explore the place at my walking pace.
It’s nice to think that cities can be like this, but also unfortunate the it is unlikely that such a culture would ever come to be in Ireland. Although most of our cities are small enough to be cycling cities, it would require a large scale shift in thinking and considerable official support in terms of infrastructure, not least large investments in biking parking spaces and proper bike lanes – completely separate to the main road by reducing car lanes or making streets one way. While any such changes are a while off we always have Groningen!
A short video taken on my phone showing the dominant bike culture by capturing the flows and interactions at a junction on the Grote Markt. ES: Un video corto filmado con mi teléfono mostrando el dominio de la cultura ciclista, capturando los flujos e interacciones en un cruce en Grote Markt.
Groninga, al noreste de los Países Bajos, es una ciudad en bicicleta. Si bien andar en bicicleta es bastante común en el país, la prevalencia de las bicicletas y el ciclismo en esta ciudad son notables. Estuve en la ciudad para la Cuarta Conferencia Internacional de Geografías Emocionales y todos nos sorprendimos por el rol de las bicicletas en la vida diaria de las personas. De hecho, nos informaron que hay 2.4 bicicletas por persona en la ciudad.
Fue facinante e inspirador ver cómo puede ser una ciudad cuando las bicicletas se convierten en la forma principal de transporte en vez de los autos. Como peatón acostumbrarse toma tiempo a las bicicletas pasando raudas a nuestro lado, gente de todas las edades y status pedaleando, y también tantas bicicletas estacionadas ocupando espacios considerables. Me encontré a mi mismo mejorando mi habilidad de estimar los espacios entre bicicletas para poder cruzar las “calles”. Resistí la tentación de alquilar una bicicleta, y decidí explorar el lugar a mi propio ritmo.
Es lindo pensar que las ciudades pueden ser así, desafortunadamente es poco probable que esta cultura se instale en Irlanda. A pesar de que la mayoría de nuestras ciudades son lo suficientemente pequeñas para ser ciudades en bicicleta, requeriría un gran cambio en nuestra forma de pensar y considerable apoyo del gobierno en términos de infraestructura, por lo menos grandes inversiones en espacios para estacionar las bicicletas y ciclovías apropiadas – completamente separadas de las calles principales o haciéndolas calles de un sólo sentido. Si bien estos cambios aún tomen un poco de tiempo, siempre tendremos a Groninga!
St Fanahan’s holy well complex, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. A collection of photographs taken on the afternoon of Sunday, 25th November 2012, which is the feast day of St Fanahan. The seventh century saint, who is referred to as a warrior monk, is the patron of the town.
Photos, clockwise from top left: The holy well site just north of Mitchelstown, the well, with a semi-circular concrete border, is to the fore, a stone cross, some trees and a circular path are behind it; the stone cross, including a sculpture of the saint, with a sword in his belt and holding a staff, above a serpent, and a number of artificial candles surround it; a group of pilgrims do the pattern around the site, involving rounding, saying decades of the rosary, stopping at the well, blessings themselves and consuming the water; a glass, with some well water still in it, stands on a flagstone by the well, left by one pilgrim, awaiting another.
This collection of images represents the main path on Croagh Patrick. Most people who climb the mountain do so along this route, which runs from Murrisk, with a car park and amenities, up the to main ridge, along a section of that ridge and then up the Reek proper. This path is what defines the Croagh Patrick experience for most people. Its uneven surface, its weaving up the ridge and its loose screen shape the climb. The devoted pilgrim, the curious tourist and eager hillwalker all engage with the same trail, each experiencing it in their own way.
Photos, clockwise from top left-hand corner: the statue of St Patrick at the base of the mountain; walkers moving through a narrow gap in a small ridge shortly into the climb; the path weaving up the northern slope of the main ridge; looking down on Casán Phádraig (the path of St Patrick) with its steep incline and loose scree; a group of pilgrims eating and chatting in the shelter of the chapel on the summit; Casán Phádraig climbs up the scree on the side of the Reek.