Directional Derive


As we traverse the topography of the Northeast our thoughts start to drift… Towards home and the architecture that embraces / imprisons us, towards the communities we’ve left behind and passed through, towards the open sky.

It’s interesting to consider the land we cross – it’s invisible boundaries and borders, it’s ridges and groves cut by trails. We’re new to this terrain – divested of memories of this space; we wander through it freely driven by impulse and desire, a kind of directional dérive.

Guy Debord defines dérive as “a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” The Situationists would use this device to conduct unmediated walks or adventures across and through urban environments, leading them to direct their routes based on memory or emotion, reacting to the psychogeography of the space.

So how does this modality transfer to a wilderness experience?

On the AT we run parallel to and intersect contemporary urban environments, use post offices, and check email; our lives exist within the architecture of society. What’s fascinating is what happens on trail, as the architecture falls away and the traffic noise fades – reacting only to the terrain around us our minds are freed from the common narratives of the city. We are freed to unite subconscious desire directly with physical action, overlaying a psychological and emotional topography atop the geography we travel. Though we are confined in a linear path – headed always southward – our minds drift between syntax, engaged in looking without language, existing outside of predetermined narrative.

We are surprised by unexpected memories, we look at the clouds searching for shapes, the color and temperature of light are our vocabulary… In a way, for this moment and in this place, we are free

1 thought on “Directional Derive

  1. Kristin

    Beautiful, I absolutely love reading your writing. I especially like, “We are surprised by unexpected memories” Thanks for sharing 🙂


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