by Liz Clayton Scofield
Liz Clayton Scofield is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, thinker, all-around adventurer, and nomad. They hold an MFA from Indiana University, Bloomington. See their art at
Yesterday I walked 3.6 miles. Wandered, really, until well past dark and the cold deep in my bones. I retraced steps from last September when I first met Baltimore, when it was still hot and I could breathe heavy air, laugh, and roll in the grass.
Yesterday I walked 3.6 miles, remembering a year ago, riding my bike around Atlanta aimlessly in the late hours, searching for something or just trying to get lost. I passed last March over-working, biding time until I left for an artist residency in Wilmington, trying to pack in enough freelance work to justify the two and a half weeks away. I was a hamster, running in a wheel for my waking hours. It was no way to live.
I showed up in Wilmington with a bike, an open heart, and a desperate need to change my life. I rode miles and miles during my time there, marking the landscape, learning how to make a place home: learning my home is a shell on my back. During that residency, I began defining Wandering as a conscious creative practice, moving through space with intention and awareness, while also Letting Go of expectation, outcome, or destination. I began documenting my wandering through maps, text, video, and photographs.
Wandering is a way of drawing on a landscape, making a mark by moving through space. I track bike rides, walks, and runs on my phone, creating a collection of drawings as maps. When I look back over these drawings from the last two years, I can remember each particular route, where I was when I was moving through that space, making those lines.
June 18, 2017, for example: 20.3 miles in Atlanta, my last ride there, three days before I moved. I had a donut and coffee at Sublime. I visited my friend working at the feminist bookstore. I wandered around IKEA for one last free coffee. I said goodbye to Lord Whimsy, my cat friend who lives on the Belt Line. I paused on the 17th Street Bridge, where I liked to watch the traffic, cars zooming on the interstate under the bridge. Lights lights lights. Millions of people from point A to point B. I was finding myself in Getting Lost.
I still am.I recently attended a workshop entitled The Body Is Drawing Is Thinking led by interdisciplinary artist Andrea Sisson hosted at Maryland Institute College of Art. In the workshop, attendees were instructed to go for a walk, taking particular notice of Things that typically would go unnoticed. We photographed these Things, mapping our walks as we used our bodies to draw through space.
I do my best to show up as myself in the world, with an open heart, an open chest, and an open palm, but this particular day I had a heavy heart. Once again, I am new to a city, beginning yet again the process of making a Home. While my Body was Drawing, I remembered: Wander and be open to the creative potential of Any Place. Wander and fall in love with the misaligned brick, the dust gathered under a shelf, the bits of colorful tattered construction ribbon, the soggy packs of Newports left in the garden bed, the patch of flowers that grows resiliently or desperately or both through a crack in the concrete sidewalk, and even the sunlight as it comes through her window, splays across her bed, and hits me in my belly, just like love: warm and terrifying and glowing all at once.
I was reminded in order to find myself here in this new place, I’ve got to spend some time Getting Lost. Practice has no destination. Art is Every Day.
As someone with a complicated relationship to home, I wander as a way to mark my place in the world, to be of it, to pass people and homes and cars and be reassured: Each of these holds infinite opportunities to connect genuinely to other humans. To be surrounded by such potential force and held in it, by it, is to be comforted by possibility in the world.Wandering is making place, healing, lines in sand, washing away. Wandering is Being Present, like meditation through space. Being in your body as you take step after step, Letting Go and letting each decision come and pass. Letting Go of expectations, destinations, trauma, goals, assumptions, time, patterns, routines, routes. To turn right or left in three blocks does not matter right now. It will matter in three blocks, and it won’t matter, because neither decision is right or wrong: It’s just left or right, leading to more decisions later, leading to a line, a drawing: left or right, not right or wrong: Process. Practice. Breath.
Wandering and Letting Go are active practices, though. This is not passive: not to be confused with Letting- Life-Happen-to-You. We are active agents: We are artfully creating our worlds, relationships, selves, if we do so consciously. That is, if we choose to open ourselves to the possibility and process of creating ourselves.
I’m making marks on a landscape as this story unfolds. I am grounding myself with my feet on the pavement. Yesterday I walked 3.6 miles, wandered really, and cried on a bridge overlooking a parking lot.