Shortcuts | Dirt | Journeys

Shortcut I watched a student at school take a shortcut today. And then watched as they were followed by countless others, taking a few quick steps on a worn brambly path, while a few others took the concrete slab route round and about.

I’m guessing that eventually the school will give in to the inevitable, and formalize this route with proper paving. But for now it remains a dirty path.

The evolution of such short cuts tells us something about cities, about dirt, about our innate journeying. While the planners can spend millions trying to formalize the routes they want us to take, if they don’t suit us, we will find shortcuts. Cut throughs, through hedges, or over small walls. Rather than being planned, these paths emerge, and tend to show us the way people really want to go. But, being informal, and unpaved, they tend to be dirty. Brambles might scratch, or mud get on the shoes. But we’d rather that than have to follow the official line. Sometimes the destination is the thing, and the journey adapts.

Perhaps this emerging movement is one example of an ecclesiastic shortcut. The official line, the routes we were meant to take, were dreary, and took us around the houses. So a new path emerged. Muddy. Messy. Unkempt. Useful.

I guess someone will come along and pave it one day. And we’ll keep our shoes clean then. Our feet won’t have to touch the earth.

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9 responses to “Shortcuts | Dirt | Journeys”

  1. I think you know very well that some will step off that pavement and find/create another muddy path…
    It may be that some of those paths can’t yet be got to – that they will veer off paths not yet trodden under foot, let alone paved – that their ‘starting point’ hasn’t been reached yet.
    And it may be that some of those future paths run along the route of today’s official lines, their paving since broken-up by the plants that push up even through concrete, especially when it isn’t regularly walked/weeded. Nature has a way of reclaiming what we have established and then abandoned. And so to, perhaps, does the Church…
    with appreciation

  2. Don’t architects call these sort of routes ‘desire lines’? Fitting description I think.

  3. I’ve just been at a core cities theology conference and a planner there was telling me about ‘desire lines’ and how some developers deliberately put in the minimal amount of pathways in anticipation of these other human tracks appearing in time, through which process they determine what the preferred routes are which should be paved. Seems a gently enlightened approach to urban design.

  4. Thanks
    That’s incredibly helpful for where I am at the moment in my wandering paths and taking short cuts that others seem to be awkward.
    It seems to me as well, that no matter how short and inviting the short cut is, some just want to stick to the official map.

  5. damnflandrz

    So we were off in the isle of wight while you lot were GBing and we bought an OS map, right? Well those things actually MAP OUT the SHORT CUTS!!!! They like to call them “well labelled trails” and so on, when actually thy are cow-pat covered, barbed-wire lined rips of mud through the middle of woods, rocks and bottoless drops.
    It’s almost like the short cuts or “ways of fallen leaves” are discovered, commercialised, then re-covered. We can kick away the fallen leaves in autumn, by summer the path is clear, then by autumn again the leaves return.
    And, typical Popmey, we head out towards a “pagan monument” miles up a hill near out camp only to discover it’s a 50 year old concrete obelisk! Drawn to concrete, no matter how far from our city we may be… erm, I guess only 20 miles or so given that the isle of wight is next to Pompey. Oh well, we tried to be “free” for a bit, even if it was only a token.
    Where was I? Oh yes, the Way of Fallen Leaves remains clear for only a while. When we discover another, it usually harkens back to an earlier dicoverer.

  6. About 10 years ago I moved into a council house (that had previously sat empty for about a year) with a ‘desire line’ running right through the back garden, through the hedge and onto the adjoining street. It was really odd to watch the steady trickle of kids, parents and even grannies walking past my kitchen window as I was doing the washing up!

  7. damnflandrz

    Well in our last council flat we lived next to the Navy barracks. When some big-wigs were staying with us for some conference or other (in the days of MegaChurch) we would say “you’ll hear a brass band in the morning at 6AM – it’s just the royal marching band practise.” They thought we were kidding… we would be woken up by that stuff 3 times a week… oh and the language from the instructor!!! Taught my girl a few new words, I can tell yer 😉
    Any more stories of misadventure i our backgardens any one? I reckon we might as well steal this thread cos I happen to know the big K aint gonna be poppin in to check any time soon 😉

  8. damnflandrz

    Damn, K is arond

  9. Hold your fire, DF, it’s coming 😉
    Or going.