Behind the image 31 May 2014

Mountain Creek Alpine National ParkThis is Mountain Creek, at Mountain Creek camping site, at the Bogong area of the Alpine National Park, northeast Victoria, Australia.  Here is the starting point for a classic walk which takes you up the Staircase Spur to the roof of Victoria – the top of Mt Bogong (1986m).

This is one of my favourite places – I’ve been coming here for years.  The thing about the Kiewa valley, where this is located, is the ways it’s reinvented itself with a thriving economy now based on recreation (walking, mountain-biking and skiing) and locally grown produce. It’s a living example of the ways conservation, national parks and LoST ideas can contribute to local economies, mosaics of land-uses and community resilience.


Notes from a Terrace: the park in A-Block, Defence Colony, New Delhi

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The terrace – 1st floor

As I write this, I’m sitting on the little terrace of my apartment in A-Block, Defence Colony, New Delhi. In the end, the decision was straightforward.The Defence Colony apartment ‘ticked all the right boxes’, as my helpful real estate agent put it, now some 12 months ago. The most important tick beyond the Colony itself was the terrace.  From my vantage point, I look into the trees which line a small park opposite me.

India is such a large country with a broad sweep of history – civilisation after civilisation have left their marks, often etched in monuments, landscapes, temples, cities and so on. So much to see, so much to do, so much to ‘experience’.

But the Defence Colony (or Def Col as it’s known) park is also fascinating.  It’s a point of intersection of people’s lives, relationships, networks and living and the vignettes of people’s lives which unfold tell a lot, away from the monuments. These vignettes are important for travellers who want to understand rather than merely ‘pass through’ to tick off something, somewhere.

The A block park

The park itself is quite small – probably less than an acre I’d say.  It has a perimeter path as well as paths that bisect it from north to south and east to west.  It is essentially a park split into quarters.  The grass is lush, and always cut.  There are gardens and hedges along the paths as well as some trees along half of the perimeter. Seats are dotted about, and at one corner (the furthest corner from my terrace) is a crumbling fountain – a relic of a time when Delhi had lots of water and, I presume, someone to look after the fountain.

There is a man who looks after the park – watering it, weeding it (though I haven’t seen him mowing – perhaps that’s someone else’s job).  He always says hello to me, no matter where I see him.  In fact, even if I don’t see him, I will usually get a ‘Good morning/afternoon/evening sir’ shouted from the park.  When I ask him how he is, he is always ‘very fine’.

There is the woman who walks around and around the park, for her daily exercise, sari flowing.  It takes approximately three minutes to get around the park, and she goes around and around and around. And she’s not the only one.  Many take their exercise there by walking around and around. These are safe places for walking – no cars and motorbikes to threaten you (walkers are very low on the road pecking order). Plus, the park is a respite from the Def Col dogs who rule the streets.  They don’t bite (that often).

Then there is the very old, frail man who walks, supported by his son. He only walks around the end of the park where I am – he probably can’t go much beyond that. But a member of his family is there to look after him, to keep his routine alive.

Recently I’ve loved the frail winter sun and the light of spring – and sitting reading the paper in the park.  People come out like lizards – find some sun, sit and reheat. A favourite is to sit and talk, but also to sleep – stretched out on the grass, perhaps on a rug of some kind, perhaps just on the grass.  Too soon people will be sitting in the park in the deep shadows of the trees so as to get some relief from the heat. The park is a place to escape the inside at least for a little while. We move from the private to the public.

The park is also a place to do homework.  School children often can be seen with their books discussing their homework (perhaps – or their lives, their friendships, their plans, their social activities, boyfriends/girlfriends.  Who would know.  But they certainly use the park for it.  Perhaps it’s an escape from nosy parents, and the homework is a pretext). The park is an extension of the closed-door of the teenager’s bedroom.

Then of course, who could forget the games the park attracts – boys playing cricket, girls playing tag, parents and children playing, grandparents playing with grandchildren, little children learning to ride on the paths.  The park is their the backyard.

Delhi is an amazing city with its civilisational markers throughout. There are various itineraries to be had – 48 hours in Delhi, 3 days, 5 day tours and so on. There is a pulse to the place that is extraordinary.  As one of the world’s great mega-cities, you’d expect nothing different.

But while here take the time to also observe the little things – the interactions of the people who make up this city. See what people do.  You may not have a little terrace, but you can find a vantage point just about anywhere.  All it needs is the right mindset and the time to take your time. Then you will find the threads of our common humanity – the commonalities of interactions and everyday life – that express themselves in families, friendships, pushed boundaries and youth. What a great LoST experience.


Connecting to place: some LoST thoughts

As I write this, I’m sitting on the terrace of my apartment in New Delhi.  The weak winter sun is leaving the terrace now, and there is a noticeable chill in the air (though not as noticeable as it was a few weeks ago – soon the heat will be back). I’ve been thinking for some reason about one of my favourite landscapes -  a place of, at least to my mind, extraordinary beauty, people very committed to their area and rich biological diversity sitting side-by-side farming landscapes.

I’m in reflective mode and its taken a little time for me to understand why specifically this should be the case.  I think it’s the parrots, sitting in the trees just across from my terrace. It’s not the specific species, just the fact that there are parrots in the trees. This favourite landscape of mine has lot’s of parrots – they’re one of my first memories of it, back when I was a kid travelling around with my father who would visit for his work. And now, after more than 40 years and countless visits of my own, it is very deeply etched into my memories, my work, my life and my sense of identity.

The landscape I’m thinking about is one where I’ve camped, cycled, walked, canoed, photographed, worked with communities in planning sustainable futures, and all kinds of things.  I’ve been their on my own, with friends, with students, with colleagues, with family.

These connections are multi-layered. They are partly framed by my values and ethics (and in turn the landscape actually frames them), partly by memories of sights, sounds, meetings, discussions, sunrises, moon-rises, chill in the air in autumn, cold in the air in winter,  heat in the air in summer and who knows what else.

For me, LoST is ultimately about these multiple connections to landscapes and their people.  These don’t have to be (and don’t need to be) developed over X years of visiting – they can be developed through a slow trip through a landscape. What is important is we are open to these connections, these multiple points of being part of a landscape.  It is a state of mind, an ethical framework, and a value-base and they come together in a landscape.

How often do we hear people implore travellers to ‘keep their mind open’ for experiences.  But for me, the important thing is how we actually interpret and reflect on these experiences, not just ‘experience’ them. Without this reflection, we just superficially experience – we grab yet some more experiences and they become part of our travelling life.  But they don’t have the depth of connection and interpretation that is only possible as we move towards our own approach and interpretation of local, slow travel.

In a tiny corner of the landscape…

So as I sit here on the terrace, a little chillier now, the parrots represent my ‘now’, but they also represent my connection to a landscape on the other side of the world. We don’t have to be in the landscape to remember it, we just need to be able to feel its connections with us. And when we feel this, that landscape has become an important part of us, and we have actively engaged with it, in our own way. And it’s a nice feeling.