So we’re here, you’re there, we’re all somewhere, nowhere near each other. But we are near something, and possibly someone. We’re definitely near this week’s readings, so let’s do something with that. After you’ve read the excerpt from Thoreau’s Walden “Solitude” essay; and reviewed your notes, we’d like you to try a little experiment (Note: only do this assignment in daylight, at a time when you feel safe and comfortable outside. If you aren’t in a position to do so, you can still do the assignment, but read on for alternatives). Here are some guidelines to follow for your little adventure:
1. Prepare to go outside. Make sure you have with you, your notes, or at least your memory of reading “Solitude,” and something with which to take notes. Think about what steps were involved in your preparations to leave the house, and make a few notes about that
. 2. Go outside. Make a note about how it felt to leave an interior space and enter the outside one. If you are unable to go outside, complete this assignment near a window; the view from your window will be your “text.”
3. Walk to the most “nature-y” space near the place you just left, as you can. Don’t take more than 15 minutes to get there. If all you can find, within 15 minutes of your house, is a grassy median, or a tree on the sidewalk, go there, but wherever you go, make sure it’s safe. No oncoming traffic, dangerous cliffs, etc. If you’re just looking out a window, look for what you imagine is the most “nature-y” part of your view.
4. Once you’ve arrived, make some notes about the “nature” parts. What “parts” of your space count as “nature”? If you’re looking out a window, make note of the “nature” parts, but also think about why you decided those were the “nature” parts.
5. Make some notes about the “people” parts of your space. What are the people moving through your natural space doing? If there are no other people besides you in the space, what IS there? What do you see, what do you hear?
6. In the spirit of Thoreau’s essay, finally, make some notes about what you noticed, that you might not have, had you not been required to make notes and observe. Spend at least 10 minutes in your space, which will give you enough time to get all sorts of input and info! Depending on your mood and what writing technology you’ve brought with you, you can do the #7 part of this assignment, which is what you are submitting here, right where you stand, using the notes you just took. Or, you can go home and use some other technology. And what will you do for #7? This:
7. Submit: a 200-250-word reflection about this experience. In this mini-essay, tell the story of what just happened: who were you when you left to go outside into “nature,” and what did you learn, come to know, were you changed by, once you got there? How does this experience compare to your experiences with social media, checking your phone, writing up this assignment on your computer, etc.?
Use the copious notes you just took in steps 1-6 to narrate your own moment of solo travel away from the digital world. Use Thoreau’s “Solitude” to support your observations. Remember that you are not simply submitting the notes you took in steps 1-6 here: you are using the notes to ORGANIZE a reflection about this experience, that references Thoreau’s text in some way.