I’ve been really…

I've been really enjoying walking this past summer -- well, really late summer, early fall. It's a good way to calm the baby, and calm me, and it also works as daily exercise. So it's all good, and I'd like to take a daily walk. But the problem is that I'm a weather wimp -- I have a hard time making myself do it if it's too hot or too cold. Even yesterday evening, it was chilly enough that I strongly resisted taking Ellie for her evening walk, and finally Kevin gave in and just took her. Which is sort of ridiculous, given that we have plenty of warm coats and scarves and things, so that once I started walking, I would have quickly warmed up. (Although my gloves have gone missing in the move, so clearly, I have to knit myself some mittens next, and if you have a vote between Bird in Hand and Deep in the Forest, let me know soon. I think the Oak Park stitch-and-bitch is going to choose one for a knit-a-long, possibly tonight even.) But somehow I am lazy enough that the effort required to actually dress for the cold is enough of a disincentive that I just don't go.

I'm trying to figure out how to give myself more incentive. I was thinking a project of some sort might work. I'm already growing so fond of Oak Park, I'm thinking that perhaps I could do some sort of documentary / writing thing. 365 Days of Walking in Oak Park, but with a catchier title. And during the walk, I'd try to take at least one interesting photograph, and after the walk, I'd try to take fifteen minutes to write a bit of poetry or prose. Nothing fancy. Post them all in a blog -- separate from this one, I think.

It raises some questions, though. For example, if doing such a project, does it make more sense, coherence-wise, to actually start January 1, rather than partway through October? I can't help thinking about the finished product, and it seems like a random start is a little troublesome.

Question two -- what do you do about the days you're out of town? I don't expect so many of those in the next year, but probably at least 2-3 weeks overall, mostly 3-4 days at a time, although perhaps 2 weeks at Xmas. It feels unsatisfying to skip them. Does it detract from the project if you take some photos in advance, so you can keep posting daily? You can still do the writing daily, in response to the photos. But then it's not really 365 days of Oak Park, but rather, 365 days celebrating Oak Park. Alternately, I could recruit local friends to take photos when I'm gone and e-mail them to me, but then I'd need to be able to rely on them to send them right away, so I don't accidentally skip a day. Or I could just skip photos on those days, but that seems a bit sad. What do you think?

Question three -- which camera? The iPhone is with me always, and certainly convenient. But I have been occasionally frustrated when I took a great photo on the iPhone, knowing that it wouldn't have the resolution necessary to make a good large print. Should I just take my Canon with me every day? It easily fits in a pocket, so it's not such a hardship. I suspect the answer to that is just yes -- although there is sort of a nice quotidian aspect to using the iPhone, since it's what I would normally carry with me every day, walking through Oak Park. But I suspect picture quality wins out here.

How hard is it to take photos when your fingers are frozen, anyway? :-)

Question four -- do I keep it kid-safe? I could imagine the Oak Park library people, for example, being excited about using this as part of their library website, if it comes out well. But if I have that in mind, I think there'd be a tendency to avoid anything sexual in the text (and trees can be pretty damn sexy, to my mind). And even the race issues that are hard to avoid commenting on in Oak Park -- would I shy away from those? I suspect if the goal is to make good art, I need to just write what I write and deal with it. They can always put up an edited, excerpted version, I suppose. Although again, less satisfying as an artistic whole.

Question five -- I'm not a great photographer, I know. Would this be a better project, better art if I tried to find a professional photographer to partner with? Collaborations can be fruitful, I hear, although I am also a somewhat terrible collaborator. Too much of a control freak. And of course, that option would take away from the original goal of motivating myself to go outside and walk every day.

Question six -- Oak Park is bigger than what I can reasonably walk, given time constraints. Should I sometimes bike or even drive to another part of town, to balance the photography? I suspect yes, although that again counteracts the whole walking thing a bit. Although I certainly walk once I'm there. And that could easily be combined with necessary trips to other parts of Oak Park -- i.e., my Monday evening knitting group in the Harrison Street Arts District; I could just go early and have my bit of walk beforehand.

Question seven -- should I maybe just do a practice month-long project, before launching into a year-long commitment? Would that sap the energy away, or be a good way of assessing, realistically, how interesting / do-able this project really is?

Any other thoughts you have on this would be great -- I don't want to just dash into this (my normal approach) without really thinking through how it would work best.

12 thoughts on “I’ve been really…”

  1. Start with a month long test run and then begin the year long project on the first day of autmn – the four seasons of oak park.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Andrea, did you mean the first day of winter? I think we’ve passed the first day of autumn already. 🙂

    But I do think that’s an intriguing approach. Although again, if I’m going to wait ’til the first day of winter (12/21), maybe I should just wait ’til 1/1/11? Hmm…there’s something to be said for the seasonal approach, though, esp. since most of the photos will be outdoor ones, I imagine.

    (Maybe not entirely, though — I’d love to also photograph some of the local businesses I enjoy, the cafes and yarn shop and bookstores…)

  3. Life is random. Why not celebrate it by starting on a random day?

    And why not just a year of living? But all the photos outside? Then it doesn’t matter where you take them.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Kirsten, somehow both options seem less exciting to me — too open, I think. I like projects to have a tighter focus; somehow the constraints help to give it shape…

  5. I have a long-term project to walk every street in San Francisco so I think it is great that you are doing something like this for Oak Park. I don’t think it’s cheating to have to use a vehicle to reach parts of town that are far from your house, because otherwise you will end up covering the streets near home vastly more thoroughly than anything else. On the other hand Oak Park apparently only has 103 miles of streets, so it’s not totally unreasonable to think that you could cover them all in a year even walking all the way from home every time.

    Some other people who do this sort of thing (like http://newyorkphotoblog.blogspot.com/) build up a backlog of photos to keep posting on days when there aren’t new ones. My schedule is totally random so I don’t expect to have something to post every day. Most of the time I have a point-and-shoot camera with me but sometimes just a phone. But the pictures I take are generally not particularly artsy or skillful so it probably matters more if you are a better photographer.

  6. Both mitten patterns are beautiful.

    For what it’s worth, it were me, I would pick the Deep in the Forest one.

  7. Andrea in Alberta

    I suggest you take it easy on yourself and have a weekly goal, say, a minimum of one entry per week, maximum of seven. Or you could make the daily entry a current photo, or creative writing, or non-fiction thoughts, or a good quote from someone else, and free yourself from having to do a photo and writing every single day. I’d definitely suggest trying it out for a week or two beforehand to see how it goes and maybe modify your goals depending on how you feel.

    I always admire 365 day projects but I also think they sound hard to get through and that the people doing them hate them from time to time during the year. Don’t mean to be too negative. I’m sure you’ll come up with something interesting that works for you and it will be a great year of memories.

  8. Hmm. Maybe I’ll take a picture a day in Mumbai and we can both post. 🙂

    Supposedly it takes 30 days to get a habit going, so it’s possible a monthlong project would be enough to get you in the mode of walking outside in the cold.

    Don’t overthink *what* to photograph. Once you’re out there with a camera looking, you’ll notice and your eye will go to what you love to look at. Who knows, you could photograph the same branch of the the same tree for 365 days and end up with a really cool time-lapse movie of the seasons. The important thing is to find a structure that gets you out there and feels fun, imho.

    I recommend convertable glove-mittens. Harder to knit but easier to fumble with camera controls. For example:

  9. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I like Deep in the Forest a little better, but someone pointed out that it didn’t have memorizable patterns for each row, which makes it notably harder. So I think Bird in Hand to start.

    Still thinking about the project. Still trying to motivate to get dressed enough to take Ellie for her walk tonight. I may need to start tonight!

  10. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oops — I just went out and tried the photography thing, and Minal is totally right — convertible mittens are the way to go for this project. I had gloves on, and had to take them off for real dexterity! So am going to hunt up a simple Ravelry pattern for that — can take on Bird in Hand afterwards. It’ll take me too long to make those anyway.

    Minal, would LOVE to do a paired project between Oak Park and Mumbai. Would be wacky. 🙂 I’m starting my trial run today — let me know if you want to try doing it for real. Even for just a month at some point, though a year could be fascinating.

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