(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 391: Walking with Pedestrian Dignity
This week we’re joined by Jonathon Stalls, author of a new book: Walk: Slow Down, Wake Up, and Connect at 1-3 Miles Per Hour. We talk about his work on social media with Pedestrian Dignity and his walk across the United States in 2010.
Below is an unedited full transcript of our conversation:
Jeff Wood (1m 22s):
Jonathon Stalls, welcome to the talking head ways podcast.
Jonathon Stalls (1m 52s):
I’m glad to be here.
Jeff Wood (1m 53s):
Well, thanks for being here before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jonathon Stalls (1m 56s):
So I consider myself I’m a walking artist, so there’s a lot of layers to that. A lot of branches out of the tree, as I call it, I spend easily eight to 15 miles a day on foot depending. So there’s a mix of things happening. I take obviously all my meetings by foot. I’m a pedestrian commuter. So I get around I’m in Denver, Colorado, mostly, but hop around to a lot of places. And so by foot, by bus transit, all the things and with that comes a, I have sketchbooks in my backpack and I do a lot of pen and ink drawing. I do poetry and writing and host walking events, walking, rolling events, connect to the transit with different groups of people, and then do a lot of storytelling and documenting on pedestrian, dignity, content themes.
Jonathon Stalls (2m 47s):
So, and there’s a hundred other things, but that’s, that’s a nutshell of just my work. I have a husband I’m LGBTQ. I have this amazing Husky dog that is still with me 14 years to walked across the U S with me. And so, yeah, that’s a nutshell.
Jeff Wood (3m 7s):
I want to get to the pups in a bit, a lot of, a lot of references to dogs, which I love in the book and throughout your work. But I kind of want to ask, you know, one of the things I ask a lot of the guests is like, how did they get into what they’re into now? So what was the impetus or what was the first kind of inclination that walking was powerful to you? Was it when you were a kid? Was it when you were older and it started kind of realizing some things about yourself? What was the first experience where a walk was like, okay, this is, this is me and this is what I want to do.
Jonathon Stalls (3m 34s):
Yeah, you don’t. So it really started for me. I mean, I was always drawn to be outside. I always felt more at home outside, but I never really had a lot of outdoor hiking, backpacking camping experiences as a kid sports inside of gyms. Mostly when I think about recreation, but I spent a lot of time like in creeks and just playing with mud and all kinds of things and trees. And we had a little Creek in the house I lived at for many years as a young kid. So I think outside was always drawing me out, but specific to walking, it never really, it was never really a thing until in 2010, I did a walk across the U S this was a 242 day eight and a half month journey.
Jonathon Stalls (4m 17s):
And, and really it was, this was, it was very much a personal healing journey. That’s how I would describe it. Now. I don’t know that I would have put those words to it then, but it was, I really, I needed to get out and recalibrate rearrange re I needed to hit, restart on a lot of things. And so there was a lot stacking up to that. We could spend hours talking about it, but I, I think the, just moving into the unknown on day one, not having a clue, what I was doing so open, so eager to, to learn and to kind of be reshaped by my environment as a pedestrian, as someone walking for days and days a days, you know, and already being an artist so eager to feel things and create from things.
Jonathon Stalls (5m 4s):
And so that combination was, was a storm of learning and passion and really hard things, you know? So it just, that walk was really what kicked it off. It just, it really, really imbedded my relationship to moving the way I was made to one to three miles an hour.
Jeff Wood (5m 24s):
That walk must come back into your memory. I imagine, you know, is there a number of times a day that you feel like it comes back or there’s things that you connect to from that? Well, I mean, it’s obviously a long journey also takes up a lot of time. I’m curious if there’s like a daily kind of touchstone that comes back from that long walk across the United States.
Jonathon Stalls (5m 41s):
Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, I think one of the things that I connect to it a lot actually with it and it’s, I was, I started this walk. I was terrified of a lot of things. I was really struggling with some internal things, just part of my coming out journey. This was part of, I mean, I was, I was working through a lot of hard stuff and I didn’t feel strong on the inside just to simply put it, you know, there’s terms like Rite of passage or what I always kind of had this frame of, I have what it takes or I don’t have what it takes or I’m afraid. I don’t know, where am I going to sleep? Or what, or who am I going to meet? What’s going to happen throughout this whole day, moving through the desert. Am I going to find water? Things like that. So I would say what’s interesting is I sourced that walk a lot when I’m facing, you know, in a day, just something that like, okay, I’m a little, I’m a little unsure of this.
Jonathon Stalls (6m 31s):
I’m not feeling great about this, or I’m nervous about it. Or anxiety starts to pick up. I sourced that walk all the time, thinking about I have what it takes. I’ve walked across the desert. Jonathan you’ve slept under how many highways you, you, you can do this, you’ve got the thing you got this. So I source a, a lot in those spaces, I think because I’m out walking every day, like it’s still with me every day in a way that it’s so integrated. I mean, it literally was, it was a recalibration around how I wanted to move through the world and move with people and move with myself. And so this walking artists frame literally started in 2010 and it hasn’t stopped.
Jeff Wood (7m 12s):
Well, it seemed like a great journey and, and the struggle as well. I mean, there’s a lot of, a lot of stuff that happened on your journey, but you know, one of the things that stuck out to me were the trail angels, the people that came along and met you along the way and, you know, gave you lots of things to think about the story that pops out at me was the one where the grandmother of a young man who took his own life. You know, she gave you some rocks to pass along as you went to beautiful places and she didn’t know you and you didn’t know her. And she just kind of stopped on the side of the road and picked you up and brought you to dinner on Easter Sunday. And it’s like, those types of interactions are amazing and crazy and wonderful and a little bit scary even maybe at the start, but it’s just something about those people that came out to see you when you’re on this journey.
Jeff Wood (7m 52s):
That makes a huge difference in how you see people. Generally, I imagine,
Jonathon Stalls (7m 56s):
Yes, it is one of the loudest lessons vibrations from that whole experience and still ongoing the trail angels as we call them, if you do long distance walking of any kind, but just even in everyday settings. I mean, just the people that you kind of stumble upon, you know, there’s so much, I always kind of frame it in this, this unhurried pace. I mean, it’s, it’s connected to even like, if you’re in a hurry as a pedestrian, trying to get somewhere, you can still stumble upon so many things that you wouldn’t necessarily in a car, but there’s so much like that family. And, you know, I stayed with 120 strangers on that cross country walk. And so thinking about 120 different stories, backgrounds, religions, races, sexual orientations, belief systems, categories, categories at the end of the day, like we’re, we’re, we’re sharing these really, really simple moments and having these, these common ground connection experiences simply because I’m, I’m moving through and in a more unhurried way as well.
Jonathon Stalls (8m 59s):
I like to frame it, but yeah, profound and so human to
Jeff Wood (9m 3s):
Yeah. And humans a good way to describe it, but also natural. I think, you know, your interactions with dogs and with birds and trees and all that stuff. I mean, that’s, you know, you mentioned in the book laying under trees and feeling them and understanding them and tree bathing and all those things that, I mean, I’ve read about. And I understand, and I kind of felt them myself, but there’s something different about interacting with humans and then interacting with nature and humans in nature.
Jonathon Stalls (9m 27s):
Yeah. There’s so, gosh, there’s so much there. Yes. It’s just, I, it’s one of the things where, you know, I have this drawing that I really love it’s in the book and it’s this drawing, I call it kind of going into relationship with, you know, and I kind of break it breaks out into different areas like rivers and streams, skies, and storms and sunsets and trees and the natural world and critters and birds and, and people in humans and other beings. But just this, we all, I think, you know, carry all these complex things inside of us. And, you know, I think about human evolution, I think about many people groups still to this day that move through spaces and land in a more migratory sort of way.
Jonathon Stalls (10m 7s):
But just to actually being in relationship with the things that are outside of our screens in our walls, in a sense, I mean, we can still obviously dogs and cats and pets and plants, but these things that are just kind of bursting with life and kind of having those with you with me in an intentional way, my gosh, it just, it helps carry hard and stressful things. These things that I believe see us as we move through the world in unhurried way, that the trees are helping us breathe. And they see us, the sky is kind of reminding us to, to be open, to dream, to see and be in the spaces between the, the water reminds us of flow and rushing and resting spaces.
Jonathon Stalls (10m 48s):
I, I just find so much nourishment and moving through the world and even in a city where there’s kind of more of a buzz of family and elders and mixed hurried, you know, trips kind of all, co-creating this story. I just love it.
Jeff Wood (11m 6s):
Well, it kind of creates a safety. And I think that was another theme that permeated the book, but also not being safe. I mean, almost get run over by a truck, the experiences that you have on your tech talk channel, those types of things. I’m wondering how safe you feel on walks generally, you know, in nature, it’s easy to be safe because you’re among the trees and everything else, but on roads when you’re interacting with vehicles and two ton, you know, giants, how often do you feel safe?
Jonathon Stalls (11m 30s):
That’s a great question. And, you know, the safety piece is so huge and I’m always thinking about being a white man in the world and being of any other race or gender or orientation or someone with disability of various kinds, like moving through safety is just this. I mean, it’s a huge, important, complicated, rough edge. And I think, especially thinking about built environment and in-car centric built environment in terms of how that edge just continues to be rough continues to be really disconnected from humble human frames, moving through space and time. And so, yeah, this was, I had never done any urban planning study, public health study engineering study prior to this walk.
Jonathon Stalls (12m 15s):
I had a mixed experience growing up, both in cars and on transit, but I just hadn’t had a heavy lens on pedestrian mobility. And, oh, this was a, I don’t know how many degrees on lived experience education related to, and this connects to the campaign that I work on the lab, pedestrian dignity, the dignity of a human body moving from a to B the safety elements were often daily, hard, complicated, outrageous in so many ways. I mean, literally outrageous job. It was like just going into one town city suburb after the other, just hit, cut and paste on how outrageous the environments are against a pedestrian, unless you’re hanging out just on a main street, but even those main streets can be really rough.
Jonathon Stalls (13m 9s):
If you’re hanging out in an urban core, you get a little closer, but even those urban cores can be so disconnected. Thinking about public restrooms and access to water and seating and full accessibility for all mobility users. It was just, I I’m somebody that carries energy in my body, as you can tell, I get loud and I get, and I grind. And I, and, and so I just was like all the time on this walk, very much the beauty as we talked about the trees and the sky and the people in the flow, but then obviously the slam contrast of literally being bypassed, unseens sprayed, almost ran over, you know, an uncountable number of times
Jeff Wood (13m 50s):
That kind of leads to pedestrian dignity. Can you tell me more about that and where that came from and how you’re processing that now?
Jonathon Stalls (13m 57s):
Yeah, gosh. So when I did this long walk, a lot of my journey started there. And so after that long walk, but I really cared about that, which was at the front of the line was just, how can I be a part of weaving more people moving the way we’re made to move for connection, for connection to land, to others, to self. I was just so I wanted to get into creative exploration. I started this organization group project called walk to connect. That was kind of going into 2011, 2012. And one of the branches of walk to connect was from the very beginning, was to invite different decision-makers planners. People who are kind of leaning into a professional path related to transportation, into kind of lived, embodied pedestrian mobility around the very plans, the districts they help represent.
Jonathon Stalls (14m 49s):
And obviously doing that with residents and different people and just experimenting a lot with that for years. And as I got on a lot of the committees for pedestrian, you know, just pedestrian planning and just joined a lot of the meetings and info sessions and community engagement sessions, I, I found myself over and over and over and over and over just trying to articulate or explain, or I just, I was getting really the activism activist, the, the grunting person. Who’s not, it’s just not okay. Was getting louder and louder inside me. And so as an artist, I’m like, okay, I have to come up, I have to channel this, or I’m going to just yell in meetings.
Jonathon Stalls (15m 31s):
And I don’t find that all that helpful. Sometimes, sometimes it needs to happen, but it’s just, how can I, as an artist channel, honestly, some of the rage that I feel the absolutely outrageous reality that a pedestrian can’t safely navigate practical spaces in a safe and comfortable and for our planet for all the reasons. And so the rage I feel, but also like the beauty and the opportunity and the benefits, like the positive invitations related to moving the way we’re made to, I just wanted, I wanted to create around those things. So the last three, four years as I kind of moved, not fully away from Octa connect, but kind of rearranged my relationship to that project, I wanted to free up artistic expression.
Jonathon Stalls (16m 14s):
So I started just ended the container of this intrinsic paths is kind of my part work framework and pedestrian dignity as a project of that art expression that I’m constantly moving with. And so, and I told myself from the beginning with pedestrian dignity, this is going to be unapologetic. This is going to be just obnoxious. If it needs to be, this is going to be loud and angry. If it needs to be, this is going to be celebratory. And liberative, if it needs to be, this is going to be dancing in the streets. This is going to be cussing at sidewalks. This is going to be like, just feel what it’s like, but very much having this campaign centered, the lived experience. I know because I walk it. I know because I move on a wheelchair through it.
Jonathon Stalls (16m 57s):
I know because I sit or I lean against a telephone pole at a bus stop with no bench or no shelter and feel it when it’s raining while holding groceries like that vibrational lived perspective that, that I just believe in so much as a teacher, as a, as something that can move us into action in a, in a different way. And in an intentional way,
Jeff Wood (17m 21s):
I think people really appreciate that kind of focused rage. And, you know, sometimes I recoil at it to a certain extent just because of my Jedi teachings, I guess, from listening to Yoda, talk about the path to the dark side, you know, But it’s there and it’s real and you have to deal with it in some form or fashion. So being artistic about it and focusing it, I think is really powerful. And there was an article this last week that, you know, Doug Gordon wrote in Jalopnik about, you know, band cars, the idea of band cars and the idea of war on cars. And I thought that it was very nuanced and very good, but it’s hard sometimes in short bursts to get the nuance out. And so I think that’s a very powerful thing that you’re doing. You’re going through one kind of intersection at a time and one rage at a time explaining to people who might not usually be in involved in transportation planning to understand what it means for the experts who are those people who are walking in, rolling through this life, you know, what they actually see and hear and feel on a daily basis.
Jeff Wood (18m 14s):
And that rage and frustration is palpable. And it’s real,
Jonathon Stalls (18m 17s):
It’s so real and constantly experimenting with the kind of calling out and calling in that. We’re all a part of it. It’s not just the city council member. It’s not just the urban planner. It’s not just, it’s like, it’s all of us socially, culturally behaviorally. And I always am. Like, I think the thing that just adds fuel to the flame is the class relationship to it, the race relationships. So really being intentional that this isn’t just, oh, everybody like loves and chose cars. Like there’s a lot baked in. And when we ride transit and we see and witness and move with people outside of these defaults, if car driving is an option and is your default, the layered inequity and injustice around it is loud, it’s so harmful.
Jonathon Stalls (19m 3s):
And, you know, and I think that the tension of the trees and the sky and the streams, it feels so good. It feels so healthy. The benefits. So the tension of this really important thing that our bodies and our brains and our hearts and our social systems are made to be doing for all these reasons. And yet have been literally blocked by class race, the consumption connected to the automobile in such a short amount of time. And now we add more isolation, more screens. And then, I mean, to me, it’s so connected to not providing kind of this more natural space to help us break up our political divides.
Jonathon Stalls (19m 44s):
Our social complexities are engaging with different people who are different than we are, you know, like we don’t, we don’t have enough of these spaces to help break it up. And we’re only adding more isolation. So I think about that from a political social framework, I think about how obviously the environmental stewardship and resources and climate and heat, I mean, it touches so many things just so that the rage is there. It’s loud, it’s fiery. I trust it. I know it needs to be, but what’s tricky about rage. Is it? I think rage and anger it, in some ways it destroys.
Jonathon Stalls (20m 25s):
And so it will like certain days when I’m out really, really fired up about a bus stop or a crossing or an intersection. And I’m really moving through some of the frustration, maybe a car or a bus just blast by me, sprays me with water in the middle of a video. And so the rage just stacks on rage and I’m literally devastated. Like I, I literally shaking after a day of documenting sometimes because it’s so oppressive and heavy and unhealthy, and the grief that I feel for the, for the elders and the children and the families who are out here also, and, you know, thinking and really feeling the class and race pieces that don’t get brought up enough and how certain neighborhoods and improvements are invested in related to what you see gets changes on in the more heavy touristy places.
Jonathon Stalls (21m 15s):
But what is still yet to be seen as safe and accessible on these arterial roads that are around most of our cities and towns. It’s a complicated arrangement to honor the rage, but to not let it destroy you as someone who’s trying to tap into it. And I’m figuring that out. I don’t have answers fully, but it is a process.
Jeff Wood (21m 36s):
I remember some of the first rage I felt I ran track and cross country in high school and college and you know, was running upwards of 90 miles a week sometimes. And one of the, one of the reasons why I felt like I connected with your books because walking and running are not quite the same in terms of a movement, but the exploration of it is somewhat similar. I even lived in Boulder for a summer and really enjoy, you know, Denver the region and has a place for walking and hiking and all those things. Walker ranch loop up in outside of Boulder is one of my favorite places in the whole world, but where the rage came out was that, you know, we’d be running and there was this person who would drive in front of us. And one of my teammates would just slam on the hood because, you know, they almost hit us and then they’d call our coach and, and we’d get in trouble.
Jeff Wood (22m 18s):
And we’re like, well, why are we in trouble? They’re the one that almost hit us, right? So there’s a lot of it’s been happening. This is in 2000, you know, in 1999, it’s been happening for even longer and way longer than that. But I feel like those periods where you, you feel that rage are real and they can be hard to focus, it could be hard to focus it sometimes, but it is sometimes, like I said, back to the dark side and you referenced that as well for the anger, but it’s there and it needs to be something of focus. This is a strange question that comes from my running background. How many shoes did you go through on your trip across the country?
Jonathon Stalls (22m 52s):
Yeah, it was eight, eight pairs fully destroyed. It was one a month. That was just, yeah, the bottoms were practically gone.
Jeff Wood (22m 60s):
I just know that for us. I noticed this for me too, but, and it was probably a little bit less mileage on my shoes than yours when you’re, when you’re walking, but 500 miles was the limit of shoes and then your knees start to hurt and you start to feel the pain of that travel. What did you do with the shoes when you’re done? You just toss them or did you bury them or did you like,
Jonathon Stalls (23m 18s):
It’s a really good question.
Jeff Wood (23m 19s):
That’s trying for them.
Jonathon Stalls (23m 21s):
I totally did that with some of them. Cause they were, you know, yes. You have a relationship with these things. This is your, this is part of your house when you’re moving and then that way. So yeah, I definitely had funny moments of just revering, but they brought into my existence for a month. I did have my sister-in-law wanted a pair with the last pair of wanted me to send them to him. Cause she was, she made a beautiful, like art piece out of the bottoms, cut them up and did all this cool stuff with them. So yeah, there were definitely fun things to do. And yeah. To your point, like you just knew, I just knew after that four, four or five week timeframe, my knees, my back, my hip was like, all right, they’re done. So they may not visually be falling off, but you just knew they were done.
Jeff Wood (24m 2s):
Yeah. It’s something people wouldn’t usually learn from a, from a podcast about walking and transportation, but the midsoles on those shoes are what goes first before any outside outwardly visual things. So if you’re finding that you’ve had a pair of shoes for a really long time walking and you feel like you’re just kind of like, not as, you’re not as bouncy as it used to be, it might be your shoes and it might be time to replace them and it might change your outlook on life. I have a really believe that that’s a huge thing that people don’t think about it very much when they think about walking. Right.
Jonathon Stalls (24m 27s):
Exactly. Oh God, that’s a whole nother track. It’s just the things you learn as you move through. Even just as a pedestrian, if you already moved through the world this way, or if you’re, you know, wanting to replace your trips or your, your behaviors, it’s like, it’s the whole world of how you move. Whether it’s from your socks to your shoes, to blister care, foot care breathing, does Sox swaps finding cold. Like if you’re just like in between some commuting and you see a river there Creek, like, and you’re in some pain, I mean, I’m dipping my feet all the time, even in the city to get that relief and you know, blister, care’s a huge thing, depending on how many miles you put in and the kinds of shoes that you have, if you have work boots, like how do you have a pair that you can swap into that’s in a backpack or in a locker?
Jonathon Stalls (25m 15s):
I mean, there’s so many layers to, I even think about the whole other tangent is the five finger, the vibe room, the, the shoes that, you know, that are really, really low to the ground, close to the ground. And just all the learning they’re related to strengthening your tendons and thousands of tendons and ligaments that are really made to support the weight of our body walking toe heel, instead of the pounding straight down we do in regular shoes. And so, so much to learn there. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (25m 42s):
Yeah. We could do a whole episode about shoes. I’ve been there and done that many times with all the, there’s also a story in the, in the book about a C dot employee, finally getting what you’re talking about after a walk. And I’m wondering how often that happens, where you have people who are professionals, but they don’t experience the world that they are designing until you bring them there.
Jonathon Stalls (26m 3s):
Yes. All the time. Jeff is literally what moved to me probably primarily to really just dive into this pedestrian dignity project with more attention and experimentation was just how, how can I be as creative as possible with whatever capacity I have and the tools that I, that I’m experimenting with to invite inspire, shake up. And again, not just rage, but also from an inspiration space. It’s like a collaboration with Abers and elders, people in anyone’s network, who depends on moving as a pedestrian or someone on a wheelchair, people who take the bus near you around you, the benefits that we’ve talked about and moving this way, all those things.
Jonathon Stalls (26m 47s):
And so that I think the confidence to do that in a way of teaching in it as a formal, like this is a strategy, this is a branch and the big kind of advocacy education, urban planning, public health, sustainability related to transportation strategy. This is a legitimate way of bringing in embodied education because of all the events that I’ve hosted. Co-hosted hosted with transportation, efficient engineers, planners, city council, different people, making, making big decisions and representing big community decisions on, on transportation.
Jonathon Stalls (27m 29s):
How many times it feels like hundreds where that kind of the specific quote from that C dot walk that I just that’s. So that just captured it. So, so clearly for me, the words that she used for some context, this was an event in Denver, the Colorado department of transportation, a lot of staff from our state got, and from the city of Denver and from, we had residents with us, we had other local advocacy groups with us. It was about 25 people. It was a solid group. And the whole purpose of the event was exactly what I kind of riff on with pedestrian dignity all the time is we is an event that’s centered on the lived experience centered on all who have no choice, but to be out here how, and centering the pedestrian mobility framework on these practical corridors, where people were there dotted with, you know, really busy, practical bus routes, destinations like grocery stores, human resource centers, things like that, schools.
Jonathon Stalls (28m 25s):
And so we took this group out at the beginning, there was some doubt, and there was kind of like, ah, I’m kind of on a time crunch. I gotta like, we, we kind of have to do some things coming from the agencies that were kind of like kind of checking the box. And I’m like, well, okay, grateful. You’re here. And let’s, let’s move, be open. And I kind of planted some good seeds halfway through this event, C dot staff member comes up to me and says, cause we were at, at the beginning of this walk, we were talking about walking pedestrianism as a choice, they had just rolled out a campaign where make the, make the healthy choice of walking, you know? And I just was like, I’m gonna also just share. There are millions y’all I know we’re all learning.
Jonathon Stalls (29m 8s):
So I’m not throwing daggers at you individually, but we need to be with, and I hope we can be with this on this event, that there are millions that can’t financially, legally and physically drive a car. And so you need to be with this. It’s not a choice for millions of people. So halfway through this event, the C dot staff members specifically, but others, and this happens all the time on these different events. But very specifically came up to me and said, you know, I was, we were trying to coordinate how we were going to leave early. I was struggling with your, what you were framing around walking as a choice. And some of the things we’ve been doing with this campaign. And now I just, I have to apologize to you because I get it.
Jonathon Stalls (29m 49s):
I feel it I’m experiencing this in a way that I’ve never experienced it before. And it’s horrible witnessing the grandmother. Cause we all witnessed a grandmother easily. I say grandmother, elder holding six bags of grocery store, grocery bags in the middle of the median crossing federal Boulevard, which is one of our big arterial streets, roads in the city. And I, everybody on our, on our walk witnessed this elder, literally shaking, holding these grocery bags, trying to get to the other bus stop on the other side of the road. And you know, she was like, so I, I just, I apologize for that. And I just told my colleagues and we kind of all agreed, we’re going to stay for the whole thing.
Jonathon Stalls (30m 30s):
We canceled our evening meetings. And I just want to share with you that for 20 years, I have had an intellectual relationship to transportation. And so, so that last sentence for 20 years I’ve happened. Intellectual relationship to transportation was the exact kind of quick cut and paste sentence. That really informs so much of what happens within pedestrian, dignity, experimenting.
Jeff Wood (31m 1s):
Yeah. I’ve been on Colfax. I
Jonathon Stalls (31m 4s):
Jeff Wood (31m 6s):
And federal a number of times. And I understand, and, and hopefully, you know, some of the work that you’re doing can help fix some of those roads, but those are major roads. I mean, there’s so many minor ones that are, that are around the country that are like that. And it’s, it’s super frustrating. But one of the stories that I wanted to talk to you about was I think it was in Spain and you were with sheep and you know, it was very powerful with sheep and dogs. I want to kind of understand, like, how are you able to convene? Is that the right word connect co-exist with animals. I love animals. Don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never gotten a sheep herding dog to appreciate me in the wild.
Jeff Wood (31m 49s):
And I’ve never tried, but I just found that so powerful is the connections there with nature and animals.
Jonathon Stalls (31m 55s):
I’m just so grateful. You asked, asked that question. I think this is where that it’s kind of back to some of that tension that we were describing or talk air kind of riffing on related to the trees and the streams and the gifts and the beauties, these kind of inherent, hence the name of a lot of my artwork, you know, intrinsic and I truly hope this is me constantly experimenting. I’m struggling with this stuff all the time. This is not, I don’t have, there’s not so much about answers, but it’s just, so it’s just really trying to break up the defaults that, and I always see, think of the term separation a lot. I think of the, I think of that word a lot in my work, what is trying to separate me from you, me and you, other human me and you, other creature trees, sky, these, these, these very, just these very natural elements that share an ecosystem together.
Jonathon Stalls (32m 48s):
And so I think about that tension of what is blocking or keeping us from being in relationship to the natural world and the lessons and the relational spaces that kind of move in between us all human non-human. And because I think so there’s so much that keeps humans at the center of everything and our thinking and our planning and our doing. And when I think about urban planning or where systems around transportation, I think about these habitats, these animal habitats, bird, migratory habitats, all these different habitats that are navigating and depending on, on any number of landscapes and resources that can so easily just get paved over with parking lots and, and wide, fast roadways without any accountability, to the impact on the habitat.
Jonathon Stalls (33m 41s):
And so to your question of the sheep and the sheep dogs, you know, when I’m on these, I’m very intentional about long on hurried walks ever since my walk across the U S in 2010, I just, for my own mental health, for my own reconnecting, for my own kind of grounding, it’s like, I want extended longer distance spacious walks that, and this could be just on a Saturday. This doesn’t need to be like weeks. This is just leaving the door at 8:00 AM and not getting back till sunset and just purely being open and available to these many relationships that exist outside of wherever I’m going to move through.
Jonathon Stalls (34m 22s):
And so the story that you’re referencing is from the community to Santiago. So I was on this really long walk across Spain, and, you know, I had tons of time to move with these different things. And so, you know, just the trust and the spaciousness to like, all right, like this is a moment. And I think it connects to presence a lot. Like just this invitation of being present, not from a higher than now place, but just from like just slowing down, just slowing down to be with what is around me. And I think that that presence invitation is a, is a huge one in this time because we are bombarded at every turn with anything.
Jonathon Stalls (35m 7s):
That’s trying to get our attention and have our attention and hold our attention. And I think to really be present. So it really, honestly, I think it’s just, it was a moment of being really present to this sheep dog, that, and for those there’s this story, there’s this amazing group of sheep that are moving through the valley underneath this incredible bridge and port tumor in Spain. I happened to be down there drawing. I did a lot of drawing after I finished a day’s walk this, I mean, hundreds of sheep came through and they were being guided by human shepherds. They were being guided by great Pyrenees by mountain, these huge sheep dogs and these dogs at the beginning, where I, because I wanted to, I thought I could kind of go down and walk with the sheep.
Jonathon Stalls (35m 49s):
I wanted to be one with the sheep and the sheep dogs were like, yeah, no, they’re like, no, you can’t just do that. I know you’re sitting on a wall like this old ruined wall that was in the, in the valley right next to the river and you’re drawing and you’re super like, whatever, we don’t care about that you’re a threat to our sheep and we’re going to let you know. And they were very, they were intense about it. That one in particular, she duck conf kind of came right up to my face. And just so I just think about the layers of how I could have reacted responded. I could’ve left that, but to stay present and to just like, I kind of use the words in the story related to kind of checking on my intentions, like, what are my intentions here?
Jonathon Stalls (36m 32s):
Are they meaningful? Are they, are they healthy? And so I think about that same question, no matter where we are, as we move out into our spaces, you know, just if we get moments where we can just pause and be present and have a connection like that, what can that do for our mental health, for our communal health, for our care of, of animals and habitats and kind of the ecosystems, just to get another path, to be a more creative connected advocate for slowing down and honoring how we’re made to move for the world. You know, there’s a lot, there
Jeff Wood (37m 11s):
There is. And I hope, I hope people go and read the story in the book because it’s very moving and not that you didn’t do it justice, but I, you know, it’s, there’s, there’s an intentionality about it. And in the book that I think is really, really great. There’s a story at CNN yesterday on their website about, you know, wildlife corridors and especially insect quarters in England. And, you know, basically they’d said that 85% of the wildflower patches that were existing are now gone. They’re paved over there, they’ve disappeared. And so they’re trying to be intentional about bringing some of those back. So they have corridors for bees and pollinators right important to the cycle of life and things like that. And so I think those are important things to think about too. The wildlife quarters, the places that we’ve said are not useful to us, which actually are useful.
Jeff Wood (37m 55s):
It’s funny, there’s a story that we always told when I lived in Houston, I lived in a place called Kingwood and basically the whole framing of the place was the livable forest. And, you know, you had to leave a certain amount of trees on your property. That was the, those were the rules. And if you did more, you’d get fined. And it was a beautiful place. There was lots of trails. There were, there were trees everywhere, but if you went over the border to the next town over, you know, basically there was a sign, there’d be signs in, on property in the museum, say for sale, and then it’d be improved land. And then basically improvement was that they wiped out all the trees on the land, which doesn’t help anybody or anything. And so I, that, that stays with me when I think about these environmental issues, especially as it pertains to paving and, you know, suburban sprawl and those types of things as what is your improvement?
Jeff Wood (38m 36s):
Is it really an improvement? And I think that your discussion with that, that memory in me, but I think it’s really important to think about those things. I’ve got two more questions for you. How much extra healing do you think walking provided during the pandemic? I know we have sole streets and we have open streets and we have a lot of things that happen. And I think one of the ways that people were able to get out of the house and do something was go for a walk and maybe more so than they thought before. Do you have any information about how many people actually got out or did you feel the difference in the amount of people walking and getting out and participating in the urban environment in that way?
Jonathon Stalls (39m 9s):
Yeah. Good question. There’s a lot of ways I could, I could take that. So what I noticed there were two things happening, I think, as the, kind of the primary, you know, just observing that time as someone who’s always kind of out moving that way. And I think to what you were framing, I don’t, I definitely don’t have like numbers or anything like that, but just in terms of energetic people, literally connecting with me in new ways. I was getting all kinds of messages around like, hi, finally kind of connect to what you’ve been ranting about for so long or like, gosh, man, like all that, like walking and healing stuff, like I’m actually feeling that right now. Like I have time to just be with stuff that’s stressful or complex, or even just be creative.
Jonathon Stalls (39m 55s):
I think one of the things that has been a real gift to using for not everybody, but for some people when they’ve just been forced to slow down, shut down certain things like there’s been a lot of creativity. That’s come from people walking more because of all the specific neuro science related to creativity and moving the way we’re made to what happens when we create new neuropathways. And also I just, I was getting a lot of messages and feeling a lot of energy related to a lot of creative stuff was coming out of this time. And I, and connecting it to people moving and pause, slowing down and letting those things kind of do what they’re made, what we’re made to be doing.
Jonathon Stalls (40m 36s):
And so just how can we bring this more into our tool, kits and practices for how we be more creative around how we connect with each other, how we do our work, how we think about complex political social systems. Like as we think about what was happening with and still is happening in this pandemic, complexity, like people out, moving to, just to move, what are some of those, maybe not as conscious byproducts, not making the connection, kind of like with a lot of people who love college, but they’re not making the connection that college was also really walkable often and accessible. And like, I love your oh, but not making that connection. That certain places, not all of Europe, I’m not on that train.
Jonathon Stalls (41m 19s):
There’s a lot of the same places in Europe. Let’s be real, but people come back and they, they were walking 8, 10, 12 miles a day. Like not making the connection that like moving the way you’re made to improves your health, especially when you’re safe, feeling safe and comfortable and all those things. The only other thing I’ll add is the other, the other thing that was very real with the pandemic or, you know, instill with a lot of the things is just some of the disconnect related to transit and services. And thinking about, again, that centering just even the acknowledgement within our systems of transportation, that there are millions who don’t drive a car.
Jonathon Stalls (41m 59s):
And so I think about not only the systems of transportation themselves, but private companies, how many restaurants, how many banks became, drive-through only like you think about all these different entities and, you know, systems that people depend on for food and everyday life situations that just assumed everyone should, or was moving around and single occupant vehicles. And I think that that also became really loud. Like where are we completely shutting down where there was access without centering or being aware that there are people, millions who, who now have no choice, but to access whatever it was, or how have we not been prepared to support people who are moving this way and aren’t driving cars in a whole new way that’s safe and healthy.
Jonathon Stalls (42m 49s):
So I think it just, you know, in some ways it lit a fire under what what’s missing to support an, you know, an entire population that maybe wants to walk more, or that has already been walking and grinding every day to get by.
Jeff Wood (43m 3s):
All right. Last one. So at the start of my copy of the book, there’s praise from, from our actually mutual friend, Anthony ML chick, and also Paul Salopek. And I’ve been following him in, in national geographic for years. Obviously he’s been on his journey for years. And I, I hope that when he comes through the west coast, I thought about this before, but reading your book made me think of it even more. I probably should, like, I want to hop on wherever I can on the west coast with him for just like, at least a little bit, but you know, he, he’s going from the rift valley all the way to
Jeff Wood (43m 46s):
This one is across the world. What are your thoughts on that journey and, and where he’s going and where he’s been. And I know that you’ve, I imagine you’ve probably followed it maybe as much as I have, but I just think it’s, it’s a fascinating thought about humans and our kind of evolution and mobility thinking about that on that level, on the trail, on your feet.
Jonathon Stalls (44m 6s):
Yes. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Love, love witnessing different pieces of his journey and just, you know, whenever I’m catching different creatives who are out there, just people out there who are doing these longer distance longer form just walks that unfold with stories and connection and learnings and relationships. And, you know, it’s never perfect. It’s, it’s never, it’s never whatever perfect is. It’s not real. Like, there’s just, I just, I always root into like this complexity of bypass. Like I used the word bypassing a lot in the book. And so like, I think just when we think about how to mobile transportation or flying in some ways, and you know, again, not, not I fly, I hop in a car all the time.
Jonathon Stalls (44m 51s):
This is not above thou messaging. This is just, just being with this bypassing of culture of land, of, of a story of like the inner journey, the story of us, the big story of us, people who are different than we are cultures, religions, foods, joy, but also like all the common ground when we can access a way of being that is available to it. And I keep thinking of these, all these micro-moments that Paul and others have, where you can get, you see these stories that are just unfolding over days, hours at a time, people who are observing his journey is getting the glimpses.
Jonathon Stalls (45m 32s):
They’re getting like the sound bites, but the hours of trust that get built because of approaching a connection or a landscape, or with unhurried, I call it humility just because the walking and unhurried like walking stance to me is humble by nature in a lot of ways. And so you’re approaching a situation or a community or a relationship or a landscape with just with just your body. And so there’s this kind of humble openness that I just love about long distance, because you’re allowing yourself to really let it in. And you’re allowing other communities and other people to let you in, into their space because of your body moving through this story in a way that’s not bypassing it, not rushing past it, not needing something from it, not transacting with it, not extracting from it, just moving with it.
Jonathon Stalls (46m 30s):
I just find that to be profound as a practice as, as so I think what Paul is doing and others who do it with such intention and trust touching and tapping into things that, again, they’re not gimmicky. They’re not this, Hey, it’s this new cool thing to do long walks. It’s like, this is y’all. This is what if we really break down what the human body mind, heart and collective is, is wired to be doing more of a as a human way of being then we would be doing a lot more. I mean, we should be, would be, have been, are depending on where you are in the world, walking eight to 10 miles a day through our communities with each other and with all the complex things that go on on the inside.
Jonathon Stalls (47m 15s):
And so I think this care of self care of other care of earth will just, it will, it will show up. And I think that’s what you see in Paul’s journey. I think that’s what you see often in longer distance experiences. And I think that’s, how are we? One thing I’m always experimenting with intrinsic paths and I’m always going on, like for the book I’m doing a long walk from, it releases August 16th. So I’m doing a long walk from Providence, Rhode Island to New York city starting on August 26, just because I’ve wanted to always walk on the east coast. And I’m, if I’m going to write a book, I’m walking, I’m going to be out walking. You know, I just got back from a six day and experience from grand junction to Moab, just to be in creative process with the desert and to kind of get, you know, have the canyons challenged me a little bit.
Jonathon Stalls (48m 2s):
Like anyway, there’s just a constant invitation there. I think for us to be with people and landscapes and ourselves at that pace for days at a time, if, if we’re able to do it,
Jeff Wood (48m 14s):
Speaking of desert I’ve, I’ve, I’ve driven highway 50, by the way.
Jonathon Stalls (48m 18s):
Okay. So through Nevada, you drove that.
Jeff Wood (48m 22s):
Yeah, probably 50 through Nevada. I drove from California to Colorado and highway 50. And I, I won’t, I won’t tell you how fast I was going on that road or how far I got it in a certain amount of time, 300 miles in three hours. But,
Jonathon Stalls (48m 36s):
Jeff Wood (48m 38s):
It’s a, it’s a road. I’ll say that it’s a road. It’s pretty
Jonathon Stalls (48m 41s):
Amazing. Y’all such an intense, I just loved it. My favorite part of the journey. Oh my gosh. Yes.
Jeff Wood (48m 49s):
Well, the book is called walk, slow down, wake up and connect at one to three miles per hour. Inclusive stories and practices. Jonathan, where can folks find the book when it comes out? I know it’s not out yet, but it’ll be out in August, right?
Jonathon Stalls (48m 60s):
Yes. Thank you. Yeah, it releases August 16th. You can find it at really anywhere where books are sold online. North Atlantic books is the publishers. So going to the publisher site is always wonderful. It’s distributed through penguin random house. So it’ll be, you know, any Indy, a lot of the bookstores check with your local bookstore, but definitely online through the publisher, north Atlantic books.
Jeff Wood (49m 21s):
Awesome. And where can folks find you if you want to be found online?
Jonathon Stalls (49m 24s):
Yeah. So intrinsic paths is my website. That’s kind of where I host, I’ll have book events listed on there and it’s where I have all my pen and ink artwork, which is also dotted throughout the book. So intrinsic passes the home. You can find intrinsic paths on Instagram, Facebook, all the social media and pedestrian dignity is primarily on Instagram and Tik TOK. Y’all, I’m 39 and I’m on Tik TOK and I’m trying, and I love it. It’s wild. It’s a wild place, but be curious and lean in, check it out on Tik TOK. That’s I’m also on Twitter too, with pedestrian dignity. And then my primary way of supporting my creative work as a walking artist is through Patrion.
Jonathon Stalls (50m 4s):
So you can look up intrinsic paths on Patrion and if you want to support my work.
Jeff Wood (50m 9s):
Awesome. Well, Jonathan, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks so much for writing the book. I hope folks go out and get it. It’s a, it’s an exploration of life and love and walking. Appreciate it. Hope you have a good one and thanks for joining us.
Jonathon Stalls (50m 22s):
Thank you, Jeff.