We will start in Oshtemo Park (7275 W Main St. Kazoo, MI). Please remember to wear your masks at all times – consider insect repellent and wear clothing appropriate for hiking in semi-muddy conditions.
~Take a moment to be still, do not move / do not seek. Let yourself listen (perhaps taking a moment with eyes closed, to recalibrate your senses). Consider the sounds that come to you, give each its own space – gently shift between the immediacy of coded listening and the aesthetic qualities of the sounding objects. Slowly allow the sounds to intrude on one another, to let the soundscape of the park amass in your awareness.
~Begin moving at a pace that fits your listening practice. Travel east on the trails toward the arboretum, away from the playground and past the golfers at their games. Attend the change of perceived tempi as your body moves, and do not hide from the sound of your breath or steps, but let them fit within those external rhythms.
~Focus not only on what is present, but how the sounds change as they grow proximal or distant. In the Arboretum, head south along Old Field and Wood Frog. Please stop if a sound comes to you that is better heard when still. Move with empathy for the creatures of Batts Pond – tread lightly, making space for their delicate songs. The bridge shows the wear of time, but its cobbled aspects make for plural soundings.
~Continue south as the trail loops around, cross the clearing into Gathje Hill– move more quickly here, find a rhythm to reset your senses– likely your sight will again be foregrounded as you negotiate the terrain. Try stopping at times and quickly closing your eyes along the Marsh Woods loop – attend to the shift in your hearing and smell with the cessation of motion and the abrupt interruption of sight. Try slowing as you near the end of the Marsh Woods loop, perhaps taking a moment to sit at the edge of the water. Let your eyes grant substance to the gentle echos at the edge of the marsh.
~Dense woods give way as you turn north along Powerline. Can you hear the absence of those clustered trees in the tones of the wind? The channel of grasses bisecting the forest have their own whispering inflections, their own quiet inhabitants. Perhaps your body moves differently here, and the packed earth resonates more subtly beneath your steps.
~The Wetland Boardwalk will not only clump underfoot, but will grasp and gulp at every step. The impossibility of stealth may obscure the songs of marsh birds – please step softly, or still your steps momentarily, to make way for their warbled virtuosity.
~Fern Oak, Meadow Run, and Old Field lead back to the park.Here are discrete spaces in which to shift between modes of listening. The sounds of humans may grow more present – and it is often easy to recoil from these after quietude in a sylvan soundscape. But please remain open to the utterances of this environment, as well. The sounds of play and melodies of speech, the insistent murmurings of swing chains and patient motor drones, and their combined, complex tapestry hint at a very different type of beauty, one of which you are very much a part.