The Learned Pig

Art – Thinking – Nature – Writing

Jessica Emsley

A Receptive Walk


Are we forever trapped inside our linguistically and culturally mediated ways of thinking?

– Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think, 2013



On a late summer morning I went for a walk in the pursuit of a greater receptivity to nature, something I hoped would invite the possibility of a more-than-human exchange.

I developed a series of instructions which I hoped might disrupt my usual means of observing and experiencing a familiar place, challenging both my body and my mind to find a more meaningful way of being in this, my local woodland. I wrote these instructions on small strips of card – ‘listen for birdsong, find it, hum along’; ‘find the thickest vegetation and try to walk through it’ – and placed these in an envelope. Over the course of the morning I picked pieces of card at random from the envelope and carried out the instructions. I did this for several hours until the woods became full of people and I no longer felt these exchanges could be personal. By recording this process with a voice recorder, I allowed my voice to act as spoken thought.

The walk became a reflective experience which itself seemed to generate new language. Ordinarily I would process my exchanges with nature before finding ways to translate these into my work. However, the recordings of my voice seemed to speak so generously of this linguistic experience that they need no translating.

A Receptive Walk is an artistic exercise which disrupts the usual rhythms of communication and movement within a familiar place and invites the possibility of more-than-human linguistics.


Jessica Emsley · A Receptive Walk





This is part of RHYTHM, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring rhythm as individual and collective, as poetic and biological, and the ways that rhythm dictates life. RHYTHM is conceived and edited by Rachel Goldblatt.


The Learned Pig