A silent traverse in the dark

Unfolding, spontaneous writing by Annika O Bergström and Juliana Restrepo-Giraldo

the invitation:
Do you want to come with us for a “walk” in the dark?
Does anybody have bad knees?
Let’s meet after dinner and go for a walk.

Friday night:
Excited about the invitation and perhaps influenced by the glass of wine during dinner, we
walked toward the electric fence while laughing, joking and discovering the upcoming
Jonah put a blanket on the fence to protect us from an electric shock – an opening for some dirty jokes.
We crossed a pasture with sheep, giggling.
Then, we encountered a big house and wondered who lived there and why there were so
many lights. Jumping over the next fence, we could hardly see anything.
Suddenly in the middle of cheeriness, Jonah and Etta stopped us by a gate. Waited for us to pay attention.
“This is the gate to the land of silence,” said Jona – inside here are wild boars.
We don’t want to disturb them; when we enter the gate, no one of us is allowed to speak.
I will lead you, and Etta will be last. You will be walking in a line.
Are you ready?
Without asking questions, we walked in and rapidly formed a line.
There wasn’t time for preparation or more introductions.
We started walking until we found the first obstacle, a weak stone wall that marked the
entrance to the uneven and unknown ground.
Without a warning, we were immersed in a traverse in the dark
– a path formed by different journeys and difficulties.
We stepped in holes, stumbled on tufts, and lost balance. Sometimes, we were saved by the
person at the front or behind.
Not a single word or sound slipped through our mouths.
At some point, when a part of the group got lost, there were whispers and laughter,
a request to reconnect to the group left behind.
What passes across our minds while walking in darkness, silently, in nature?
Some of us thought about refugees crossing borders – fear of not being discovered, a relief of being unseen, covered in darkness.
Others enjoyed feeling far away from modern life with electric lights and screens.
Some others felt like animals. Someone said afterwards, I felt like an animal moving at night
to find new pasture for my herd.
Understanding a grandfather’s joy while walking in the dark and through the mountains in his territory.
A sanctuary?
Gratefulness for feeling so alive and so present
Relief for being together with others and being able to trust them
Who do you need to trust in such an adverse situation?
What makes us feel that we can trust someone?
Holding someone’s hand can make a difference during a silent traverse in the dark.
To acknowledge the power and responsibility of being in a group in a difficult situation.
To be blind together makes a difference.
The line of silent traversers moved through a tunnel of thorny bushes.
Uphill on a slippery slope when it was completely dark.
You could not see your own hand.
The sound of heavy breathing, a stone rolling down the hill.
One step forward. The hand searching the way.
What if I get stuck in the bushes, not knowing where I am?
Another careful step forward. The hand becomes eyes, looking for branches.
What if a thorn sticks into my eye?
The foot slips. The hand grasps a branch. Not falling.
A thorn burrows into a finger. Blood is dripping down the wrist.
Where is the line now? I can’t hear them, can't see them.
Am I alone?
What if I will dissolve in this darkness?
Is this how it feels to me in a movie? – It can’t be, this is too real!
Do actors experience different times within the same scene?
I have claustrophobia – what do we do if we get stuck here?
Is it only me panicking at this point?
I laugh instead of start crying, it helps
What will I become?
Crawling, protecting my face from thorny bushes.
Was that a boar I heard or one of my traversers?
Time felt different. Slower, longer, and heavy at some points. Not enough in others.
The world of bushes and thorns is left behind. Some light.
We arrived at the top of a hill and could see the bright shining stars; we saw each other in
another form, not as a line but as heterogenous shadows bringing light in the dark.
Can this traverse be used as a metaphor for overcoming difficulties individually but
As an invitation to dare to look for and facilitate immersive, liminal, cathartic experiences?
A new method to connect to others and explore belonging in a group?
We are back at the gate and pass through it. The gate closes behind us.
Warm bodies walk back, still in silence.
Our bodies still trying to process what just happened.
Words wouldn’t be enough, are still not enough.
We left the land of silence, but the land stayed with us
it accompanied us during the whole weekend, it kept coming back to us
it helped us to connect in other ways – in deeper ways?
Back at the farm, we turned into a slow-knowing, sensing collective with similar instincts and emotions. We were connected.
There was a natural collective awareness through this very human/nature experience.

The experience of the silent traverse in the dark is still with us until this very moment writing this story.

experiential, collaboration, walking as a method, embodiment.

About the authors
Annika Olofsdotter Bergström is a lecturer and researcher at Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlshamn. Her research combines participatory design and feminist technoscience with a focus on public physical engagement. She explores how playful arrangements with urban places can make alternative worlds for future living. She has designed site-specific games together with different groups of women to create rules for new ways of living and relating to space. In a refugee camp in Palestine she explored, by playing childhood games, how to claim a stadium used only by men as a space for female movement and joy.

Juliana Restrepo is a designer from Medellín-Colombia, based in Växjö-Sweden. Her background is in Industrial Design, with a focus on sustainability and co-creation. She has worked designing spaces and communication strategies for institutions in Colombia and Sweden. Juliana is currently combining research work and education in her position as a PhD candidate in Interaction Design, Sustainability and Life at Home. Her work is inspired by the Andean cosmology Sumak Kawsay (Buen Vivir) which means living and dying well, in harmony with everything that exists. Juliana focuses on relationality within the everyday life at home and the making of speculative recipes as opportunities for relational homemaking. Juliana works as a design educator at the department of Design + Change at Linnaeus University.