Landscape Architecture Magazine

A WAY OF WALKING

Walking Through the Pandemic

In May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, my graduate student Megan and I met on opposite sides of a meadow and walked together while remaining physically apart. We followed alternate edges of the field, aware of our bodies in space, keeping our distance but maintaining each other in sight. As if in a slow meandering dance in which the partners never meet, our paths crisscrossed a great divide. Maintaining a healthy separation demanded that we monitor each other’s movements with an acuity rarely exercised in an ordinary stroll. We walked with heightened awareness, present to the asynchronous rise and fall of our bodies as we moved along our separate paths.

Not long thereafter, Megan returned to the meadow, which is located on an urban farm on the Ohio State University campus. Alone on this walk, she was confronted by a campus police officer who questioned the purpose of her visit. When she explained that she was a student of landscape architecture conducting research on walking outdoors, he replied, “I find that very hard to believe,” and instructed her to leave the site. The officer justified his dismissal by claiming that he had received reports of people stealing apples from an adjacent orchard. Megan kindly noted that given that it was early May, some months before any apples would be available for picking, the validity of such a report was questionable. Regrettably, the officer was untroubled by this observation—and by the possibility that he was disrupting scholarly research—and evicted Megan nonetheless.

In this political moment, walking outside was regarded as a transgression. Although she was alone and surrounded by acres of open, unpopulated space, Megan’s presence on public land upset expectations to stay isolated by retreating indoors. But

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