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Hi Nia, Just getting around to catching up on things.. Spectacular writing as always, why I wait till I have time to absorb. I loved your "freedom of movement, freedom of thought", so good. The maps (before and after) were stunning relative to the differences, and yes, very grandiose. CalTopo is AWESOME - love it, been a user since Day 1 :-). Drowned river that speaks to me, several themes in the movie (one of my favs) "Deliverance" about drowning a river with a dam ("one big dead lake"). I love rivers. Been reading "Arctic Traverse: A Thousand Mile Summer of Trekking the Brooks Range" recently, a lot of powerful writing - like yours - on walking. Next up is Fedarko's latest book on hiking the length of the Grand Canyon. Sorry to ramble, love your work, take care, Paul, and have a great summer!

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This brings all the Tigris-Euphrates sorrows to my mind… I remember seeing how Baghdad had a massive river flowing through it, and how that was really choked by Turkey…

“Turkey’s various dam and hydropower construction projects have reduced Iraq’s water supply along the two rivers by 80% since 1975” reads one paper.. It’s unimaginable how ancient ways of life are being decimated like this.. Thank you for the reminder Antonia..

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80% is enormous, and yes, unimaginable. And yet here we are. One power decides to take, and who has the power to stop them? I'm reminded of Arundhati Roy's writings about massive dam projects all over India and the destruction they caused, long after it was shown they wouldn't actually provide the power and/or irrigation promised.

I keep remembering Tyson Yunkaporta's comment once that "we're at the beginning of a 1000-year cleanup." Feels more true every day. 🧡

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May 19Liked by Antonia Malchik

I am over here getting to witness all the wild beauty of your favourite landscapes from the maps and trace it with my fingers, feels so tangible and real. Alas they cannot prohibit me with border passes and visa checks on internet. I can wander and get lost in your world as much as I like 💜

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Likewise! (Hm, maybe next I am going to start looking for old maps of where our worlds of Russia and India have intersected.)

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May 20Liked by Antonia Malchik

Is there an ancient map of that region? Omg what would I not give to sit and study such maps with you!

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There must be somewhere! I bet there are libraries where a wealth of such maps reside ... even if it's the project for another lifetime, that's something I'd love to seek out!

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May 23Liked by Antonia Malchik

Take me with you when you go. And if we cannot find it, we shall build it 💜

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I LOVE THAT!

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All that I have to say right now is that it is really nice to read your writing.

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🙏🧡

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May 15Liked by Antonia Malchik

Oddly, enough I also have a fear of deep water. And I’m a swimmer, which makes my fear sort of hysterical. But I don’t like to be left “dangling” out in the middle of a lake or other big body of water. Trust and freedom to wander, may we have both. Thank you.

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Oh, interesting! I like swimming but am not a swimmer in any serious way. Same, though -- I thought I would love paddleboarding when I took it up several years ago, and I do, really, but if I get out a bit too far, even being on a board on calm water I start to panic a bit thinking of all the murky depths.

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May 20Liked by Antonia Malchik

Yes, exactly.

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May 14Liked by Antonia Malchik

“If we’re lucky, someday our freedom to wander, too, will be un-lost.” Amen to that 🥾❤️

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🚶🏻‍♀️

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May 13·edited May 13Liked by Antonia Malchik

Gorgeous as always.

One thing about river water: the more it's constrained on either side, the faster it goes (with enormous caveats, because that principle gets overriden when there's just a massive load of water pushing behind it, eg. the Amazon, one of the fastest rivers in the world). I think about this a lot in terms of creativity - how there's a sweet spot between being reservoir-lazy and mountain-stream-super-frantic, and we're all trying to calibrate ourselves up or down onto it to find our right state of flow. Now thinking about this some more...

Have you ever traced a river from source to end? The way you write this, I feel like it would be a satisfying thing for you to write up - including if that river doesn't exist anymore, but really needs someone to write a short but deeply felt biography of it.

Regarding sense of direction, I was just listening to an old episode of Radiolab where the late Oliver Sachs admitted he carried a couple of supermagnets in his trouser pockets to aid him with his terrible self-navigation skills. He could always feel them tugging him towards Magnetic North, and said it was helpful but slightly disturbing, like his trousers were alive. (Robert Krulwich got the giggles about this.)

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I haven't done exactly that, but someone sent me a very cool site where you could watch a drop of water start anywhere in the U.S. and trace its route all the way to the sea. (This was originally just U.S. but it looks like it's for the whole world, now! https://river-runner-global.samlearner.com)

I'm going to be thinking about the river water and creativity now more, too. And when a dam breaks, it causes a ton of damage. Ditto levees and concrete barriers for canals. I like how you phrase it, though, because it's a reminder that creativity needs care and attention and calibration and not just productivity all year long.

Oliver Sachs and magnets in his pocket 🤣

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What a beautiful place. The loss of the freedom to roam has hemmed in our minds as well. That’s the way the landlords want it, so we never remember the freedom of the commons. Your book opened my mind to a lot of things, and I am grateful. I want to rove. I know I’ve talked about a country-spanning road trip, but I don’t think I’m going to take it. I won’t have enough time in each place, so I’m going to split it up. Which means Montana is likely for another year, and I’ll fly in and rent a car and a mountain bike, and yes, walk around, too!

I’m so glad you enjoyed Vyx’s adventure! Thank you for mentioning it. I love WALL-E, and I hope we get to read your essay someday.

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I want to rove, too! And I know what you mean about spending time in each place. It's one of the things that keeps me, formerly prone to worldwide wanderlust, only really wanting to spend time in Montana, walking and looking and just being. I've spent most of my life here and still feel like I barely know it. It'll be here for you when you make it out.

I loved Vyx's adventure! Excited to share it far and wide. After my kid is done with our copy, it's going to a friend who saw it on the kitchen counter and almost walked off with it. 🐉 And yes to WALL-E. I adore that movie.

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May 13·edited May 13Liked by Antonia Malchik

It's incredible how many twisting braids interlock between freedom to move, freedom of thought, the freedom of trust. I love how you follow each one with such consideration, such care. To find the river undrowned, if only on a historic map is a kind of prayer. Will be thinking long about how you so finely revealed what it is about trust and betrayal--how it is a constriction, something that was free that is revealed to be constricting in the worst ways. How beautiful though, to think of how freeing it is to our sense of self and inter-relationship with the world, when we hold trust with another.

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That is so beautiful, Freya. It did feel like a kind of prayer. I want to keep following it by finding some old physical map to touch -- such a human thing, to want to touch the object as a way of knowing it.

Your comments on trust make me think of some of your writing, especially of the women with incredible minds whose husbands intentionally tried to suppress their creativity and intellectual output. We need trust in those intimate relationships, too, and patriarchy makes it difficult if not impossible for all genders to achieve.

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May 13Liked by Antonia Malchik

Although outright human slavery is no longer fashionable (except for some modern-day iterations such as wage labor and ownership of land and capital by a relatively small number of masters, or conscripting citizens into armed combat to defend political or economic objectives), using religious precepts to guide and justify us in our blind ambitions, human beings have effectively enslaved all of nature. A river that has been drowned out by a dam is a slave and is no longer able to "bring forth" according to its own purposes, something that ought to be its right.

But what are we to do! What are we to do! How else are we going to power our lives of convenience and privilege? How else are we going to power the factories that make our off-road toys and our guns? How else are we going to power the factories that vomit out the flotsam of our consumer culture? How else are we going to create recreational refuges for human beings beleaguered by the dehumanizing effects of modern life? How else are we going to keep advancing the infinite progress of humanity and the modern science project? How else are we going to fulfill the anointing of the god we created as being the chosen species (Or are only some of us chosen? By which god? I'm confused.)? How else will we fulfill our manifest destiny over nature? Heavens to Betsy! We simply must be the masters of all, or all is lost!

But...I digress. All is well. Pass the bitcoin, the AI, and the barbed wire please. We've got this.

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I think about this a lot. I keep going back in time wondering when this all started, and land on control of water, seeds, and women. Life, in other words. I think that's where it began. And it's just been growing and gathering power for something like five thousand years. How we turn it all around ... cryptocurrency and barbed wire, anyone?

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May 23Liked by Antonia Malchik

Nothing less than a radical metamorphosis of human consciousness will do the trick. By what means such a thing could possibly happen is well beyond my pay grade.

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Same here. Will keep quietly trying to shift the gears ...

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May 13Liked by Antonia Malchik

“Control of thought—including the freedom to live as our true selves—and control of movement go hand in hand.”

Yes and yes again. I’ve been thinking about how the commons is more than the land (I've been working on creating Creative Commons licensing). Control how people think, then the possibilities are removed and not considered, all very Orwellian!

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I'd like to poke around more in Creative Commons licensing! Jonathon Stalls published his book "Walk" under Creative Commons license, which he had to persuade his publisher to agree to. I wish I'd thought of that!

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May 15Liked by Antonia Malchik

Oh it's fascinating, I've used so many nature & native plant photographs from Commons Wikimedia and geograph.co.uk I've recently started work at the council, and I'm advising them to publish all their photos with an open license (IMO should be done by default for all govt data). Extending that idea of the commons to "freedom for you mind to roam" is also very interesting, and how language and ideas can corral and restrict, as well as open doors

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That's a good point about government data. It should all be open to everyone, the default in a democracy.

Language and how we use it is amazing, isn't it?

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I appreciated your reminder of all those other evocative terms that capture some distinct quality, even phenomenology, of walking: Ramble, meander, rove, roam, wander, deviate, digress, the chapter titles of your previous book. (Not to mention, stroll, amble and tramp). "Walking" has its virtues as the democratic umbrella but it's a purely neutral, functional description.

I know I've mentioned The Convivial Society before, but you might appreciate this very recent post of his on walking and thinking: https://theconvivialsociety.substack.com/p/the-ambling-mind

That's great about Chapter 1, congratulations. As far as I'm concerned take as much time as you need, and I'm sure most readers would agree. Maybe a metaphor for walking not rushing? Do you have a regular editor? (That would be like the trail markings or road signs).

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You're always so generous with me! And yes, it's probably a metaphor. It's so awkward writing "in public," so to speak, whereas with my first book I had a deadline, but the only person who knew about delays and setbacks was my editor. (I don't have a regular editor for this, but do hire someone off and on for these essays, intermittently as I have time and money, and am doing so for the book as well.)

What a lovely essay. I appreciate it when you share those. I resist subscribing to that one because I'm already receiving more in my inbox than I can read, but his thoughts really speak to me. And it's practically a summation of my entire book! “The soul travels at the speed of walking” -- what a beautiful line, and brings to mind probably my favorite walking piece I've written, short and sweet: https://www.hcn.org/issues/51-8/essay-it-is-solved-by-walking/

The more I walk, the more that's all I want to do, the less urgent everything else feels -- or at least feels it should be. The demands of the structures we live in don't want to slow down; maybe by walking more we can throw some grit into its gears.

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"The reservoir is fun—and of course it’s still water, with its own voice and energy—but it doesn’t have quite the same sense of wholeness, the this-lifeness, of the river. I look at that old map and feel oddly relieved. Like I finally know where I stand." Lovely writing. And I sometimes feel the same in a city like Tokyo, where some places have been built over many times, but you see a place that must have once been a stream valley and try to imagine what its original "this-lifeness" (to use your powerful phrase) was like.

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Ooh, I like that! It reminds me of how many towns and cities I've walked in where suddenly you see a bit of stream or creek and realize how differently it might have flowed, much less been honored, before all the urban building. Didn't someone write a book about the buried rivers of London? Might have been a mystery novel. Jill Patton Walsh, maybe.

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Thanks. I will look out for that book.

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What lovely writing, though I have to disagree about the word "looming" which has never felt comforting to me. Only threatening.

As for "drowned river" it's not nonsensical at all. And it's an incredibly sad term. Yes, it's almost all water, but so is the human body. Give us too much water and we drown. Give a river too much and it also drowns.

I've almost always found reservoirs to feel like soulless places, vast expanses of boring water usually overrun with motorboats and jet skis. Give me a river any day of the week.

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I really thought about "looming." These mountains do loom, probably about 4000 feet up very close to the campground. But I've always been comforted in the mountains, probably because I grew up with them all around. I wonder if there's another word that can bring to life that huge presence that does keep the sun hidden for hours after "true" sunrise but that brings a sense of peace?

Wow, good reminder about water and humans and life. I've never been a runner in any serious way (and don't want to be! not my thing), and sometimes forget that it's not unheard of for people to overdo it on water. Not that you have to be a runner for that -- my dad often tells this story of a road trip with some friends through a desert, and how one got really sick because she was the only one sticking to water and not drinking beer and eating Doritos.

I feel that way about most reservoirs, too. This one's a little different. I think unless you actually went to the dam (which you can drive on), you might not know. It doesn't have any of those big berms or anything to show that it was human-made, just the surrounding forest. It still feels somewhat soulless.

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I grew up in Colorado and also revel in the majesty of the mountains -- though majestic isn't quite the right word for what you're describing. Surrounded also sounds intimidating. Hmmmm, maybe sheltering?

Oh, how about watched! The towering mountains watched over us. That sounds nice and protective!

Glad to hear your reservoir feels different.

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I like that! They watched over us. ("Majestic" is a weird word when I think about it. But I could go down this rabbit hole forever. Should have gone into etymology ... 🤓)

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Oooh, I love looking into where words came from!

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May 12Liked by Antonia Malchik

Lovely piece Nia.

Hook line and sinker you caught me with the primal topo. I feel that valley , before it was drowned on the year of my birth. Such is the grand irony.

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Such irony. ❤️‍🩹

You might even remember the maps that first taught me to love them, my mother's old topo maps I think from her first marriage to a forest ranger. She still has them!

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May 15Liked by Antonia Malchik

Why does that not surprise me about your strong and good Mom?

Thanks for sharing.

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May 12Liked by Antonia Malchik

A lovely piece. As always, I loved the voiceover and all the little extras. You relationship to the place really shines through. And maps. I love maps, old maps, like the T-sheets from the early surveys of Puget Sound.

The Future Natures podcast won't let me comment, so I'll leave one here. It was great, I learned so much! Thank you!

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Thank you, John! I love those old maps, too, but since you're from the Land of Ordinance Surveys, let's have a bit of an honoring of those incredible creations. I don't know that anywhere else in the world has anything quite like them.

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May 14Liked by Antonia Malchik

Yes, they're pretty amazing. I just dug out the OS map of my old hometown, 1960 edition.

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