“I was hoping it would bring us to the candy store,” Daley declared with delight when he saw the Fannie Rose Candy Shop. We were on an algorithmic walk —a way of exploring a city using a formula. We chose the algorithm “first left, second right, first right, repeat.”
The idea behind psychogeography is to break out of habitual patterns and open a space for discovery (I learned about this method from Experience Life magazine). We often go downtown with a precise destination in mind, like the library or a specific shop or restaurant. We rarely wander the streets without an agenda. On this day, we set out to experience our urban area in a new way.
We started at the new Duluth Transportation Hub as it allowed us to park for an undetermined amount of time (we figured this out after trying to park at two different 1 hour and 20 minute meters). This location worked to our advantage as it had restrooms.
As we strolled, we asked each other “what do you notice that you hadn’t noticed before.” I was struck with the interesting architecture at the tops of the tall buildings. Finley discovered that the doors of the police station were “fancy.”
Daley was mostly focused on whether our algorithm would score us a sweet treat.
To be honest, though, we ditched our pattern about halfway through. We kept ending up in dark allies or dead ends. We also had a hard time remembering where we were in our algorithm. Are we at our first or second right? Did we just go left? I suppose if we had truly embraced mindfulness we’d have seen these as moments of opportunity rather than obstacles.
Instead, we headed to Lake Superior Art Glass to watch Dan Neff work with live fire, a favorite pastime for my kiddos. He kindly took a break from his work and answered every. single. question. that they asked about glass blowing.
Making New Friends
We then headed for a shop we’ve been curious about for awhile, Duluth Fine Pianos. Our stop turned into a delightful educational experience, as John Peirce took the time to teach us about the inner workings of these large stringed instruments. And both kids were thrilled to play his miniature piano.
Our walk of chance had another unexpected positive outcome. Stopping to admire the architectural models in an office window clearly made an impact on Daley. He busted out the cardboard and created his own model the minute we got home — organic learning at its best!
In the end, we walked a total of 3.5 miles that day (tracked via my phone), yet it didn’t feel long, as we were engrossed in seeing our downtown from a new perspective. Beyond practice in mindfulness, our algorithmic walk gave us exercise, opportunities to interact with kind local business owners, and creative inspiration.
Oh, and a pocket full of candy.
What do you love about Downtown Duluth? Share your experiences in the comment box below? Thanks!