While walking along Dead Creek with landscape artist Mikael Hansen in April I met a man waist deep in the creek. Drawing. He was mapping the flow of the water. Immersing himself in the creek. Walking its invisible bottom. Of Dead Creek and other waterways of the Aarhus Bay watershed.
After a good talk about walking in water and how Dead Creek has shaped the landscape of the valley over millenia and itself been re-shaped over the course of the last decades Mikael and I continued our walk along the creek to explore the possibilities for our second landscape workshop to be held in the landscape laboratory the following May.
Here Mikael gave me the book Gå. Eller kunsten at leve et vildt og poetisk liv (2007) (Tramp. Or the art of living a wild and poetic life, translated to English in 2010) by Norwegian writer – and walker – extraordinaire Tomas Espedal, who eloquently writes about walking and mapping:
The best maps can not be bought, they are drawn by people you meet on the way. And people you meet on the way are both more welcoming and precise. It applies to all countries. The best maps are communicated orally and with gestures, sometimes with a pen and a piece of paper. Occassionally the one who show the way will follow suit and show you where the road splits in an unmanageable way, a difficult turn, and that is how you become familiar with the landscape and the roads by a method, which is both direct and precise; A shortcut, a secret trail, we all know these roads that no one else knows. They are our roads, our own trails that criss-cross what the map and the main roads tell you.
I think that roads and waterways like Dead Creek are alike in so far as they in similar ways are steeped in stories and local rites, some visible in the lay of the land, others hidden from plain sight. If that is the case then Espedals words about roads goes for waterways like Dead Creek as well;
The best maps on rivers and waterways can not be bought, they are drawn by people you meet on the way. That is how you become familiar with them by a method, which is both direct and precise: A shortcut, a secret creek, we all know these waters that no one else knows.
They are our waterways.