One of the ways of writing I have tried out in the book are a series of ‘rhythm-energy vignettes’ that follow in their spirit, at least, Lefebvre’s evocative account of sitting in his apartment in Paris and observing the multiple interweaving rhythms of the city square below. These complement the mass of more standard academic putting together of words, in order to evoke the multiple rhythms of different settings (at home, on the move, inside, outside) in which I have lingered and, in Lefebvre’s terms, sought to ‘listen to the world … in which nothing is immobile’, also giving attention in various terms to the energies that are simultaneously in circulation. Here are four examples:
Morecambe Bay, Lancashire
On the stone pier, in the sunshine, early spring. The tide flows outwards, boats are grounded. Channels twist and turn across the mud, not flat but undulating, carved by movement, a soon to come reversal and surge of water. That the moon so distant but cosmologically near can make this landscape? Ever moving, ever shifting, ebb and flood. A rhythm lasting geologic and hydrologic time, present now, in this moment. A rhythm that cuts across the clock, discordant, but only for timings in hours and seconds. The power in the surge that slowly comes is extraordinary, a vast salty mass pulled by lunar force, a roar of raw energy, moving liquid, solid, organism; and on the surface boats that move with both wind and tide. A surge worked on by wind and storm, sometimes to dramatic, damaging effect. Energies intermingled. Spinning turbines, now in hundreds, standing in distant Walney shallows, flickering in cycles on the horizon. I linger, immersed, played on by the breeze, warmed by the strengthening sun. Gazing with others in our rhythmic synchrony of movement and stillness, drawn to this exceptional place on a sunny spring day.
While at Heiðarsel, Iceland
Shadows have lengthened, but the dark is at bay. Valley slides away to the sea. River runs, crashes with force. Ice replaced by water, life in full process not frozen. The solar heat sustains the day and the grass grows. Lengthening, each blade wavering in the breeze. Calories for sheep, munching, breathing, hearts beating. Wandering to and fro. Defecating, again. Hanging together in a metal barn, rusting. Near rocks, eroding, a glacial pulse from a violent eruptive beginning. Still, but not quite. A car passes, rarely, not a strong rhythm. Families once lived here, for generations, a cycle of passing from one to another, land and building. Living with seasons, with dark, with ice, with life frozen, then warmed. Repeated, endured. The remains of electricity made from channelled water, pulled by gravity, are scattered behind the cottage – wire, pole, generator. 3kW for light, power, for making different beats. Maybe that helped to endure the dark, the cold? Now connected to the island encircling network. Now a cottage for temporary booking, for strangers arriving and leaving. New rhythms on old. Watch ticks, midnight comes, sky glows red and gold; but somehow the day stays in place. A near solstice rhythm, woven always with many others.
I pause to consider the electrons draining away in small amounts in the batteries around me. Scattered in cupboards, draws, pockets, bags. Ten, maybe twenty? Making light, heat, connectivity, movement; in devices with batteries on the inside, as tubes, blocks and panels of small electricity, mobile, on the go. Their electrified rhythm is in charging, in minutes, hours of being connected to an infrastructure, through a plug in a socket, to a cable, to a substation, to a generator somewhere else. Their electrified rhythm is in use, in making things happen, and, as a consequence in their charge diminishing; and then, maybe, in being powered again, ready to blink red, green, to vibrate and activate. An oscillation of (de) and (re)energisation. I pause to consider how my intuitions about electrons give structure to my everyday. My electrified rhythm is in my orientation to where and when I will, or may be able to, recharge; to the possibilities of plugging in on the train, in the café, the car, at work; to the battery pack, or the peloton of whirring alternators at a music festival. My electrified rhythm is in the eking out of electrons, the hopeful duration of typing, watching, listening and talking, over which maybe the charge will be sufficiently sustained. I pause to consider how our electrified rhythms being now so intermingled, human and non-human, used to be less so, less important, less of a matter. My heart beats with electrical impulses; my schedule beats with batteries.
Cycling in Copenhagen
A bicycle for one, Danish, borrowed and shared, wheels turned by muscle, metabolic energy stored, to be expended and depleted. I set off, my pulse rising as I follow signs, lines and paths, with others and yet more others. A busy route, one way this side, one way the other, a discipline unfamiliar but routine for the rhythms of residents. Pausing, surging from lights, in front of hydrocarbon cars waiting to turn, even lorries not so dominant in this city. A whir of wheel and pedal, gravel crunch, brake squeal, past factory, through park, by water. Faster and slower, older and younger, a stately rhythm, a racing rhythm, a rhythm synchronised to chat together. I arrive to meet the timetabled train which has carriages for bicycles and riders. Fifteen, twenty, quietly sit and stand together, shared electrified mobility for a while, before leaving, past bicycles resting in hundreds. I push to the street, setting off, accelerating, dispersing, following signs, lines and paths, now sometimes improvising my route, my beat. Finding my way to a restaurant to park, lock, talk, drink, refuel. Someone told me the cycle tracks are the first to be cleared when it snows.