During her time at the University of Ohio as Visiting Professor, Dee created a Walking Library for Athens Ohio, prompted in part by the remapping activities of the Situationists. For this Walking Library, Dee carried to Ohio a rucksack filled with books relating to Scotland. In each book, she had identified particular locations that the author engaged with. Walking with a group of about students and academic colleagues, Dee offered them a list of sites and invited them to agree on one and then take her there. Once at the chosen site Dee recited ‘sited’ extracts from her library and asked her accompanying walkers to tell her about the site, from their perspectives and experiences.
The list of sites that Dee offered up were:
She was taken to Street – the main street of Athens, Ohio – where she read an extract from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland (1803). In this extract, Wordsworth describes a sorry scene of Glasgow, but is uplifted by the enthusiasm of the barefooted children running alongside their horse-drawn carriage).
She was taken to Distillery – Jackie O’s Brew Pub, a regular haunt of the students – where she read from Ian R. Mitchell’s Walking Through Scotland’s History: Two thousand years on foot (2001). One of the walks Mitchell recounts is that of delivering illicit whisky (thus avoiding the newly imposed tax), using what became known as ‘whisky roads’. To mark the transposition from one place and time to another, Dee shared two miniature bottles of whisky with her walking collaborators. Observing the state laws – no drinking alcohol in the streets and no drinking by those under the age of 21 – she invited everyone to dab some malt onto their wrists, like expensive perfume. The smell of Scots Whisky travelled with us for the rest of our journey by foot.
She was taken to River – the main river running through Athens, which she learnt had been rerouted to stop flooding. Here she read an extract about the annual salmon leaps up The Braan, a Highland river, from Kathleen Jamie’s Findings (2005).
She was taken to Loch – a small but serene pond, fringed with well-kept flowers and shrubs – where she read from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain (1997), evoking the green, cold waters of the high Cairngorm lochs.
She was taken to Beach – a volleyball pitch on sand in the middle of campus – where she read from Thomas A. Clark’s The Hundred Thousand Places (2009):
ahead of yourself
nor behind yourself
bearing your weight
From Ohio to Scotland and Back Again allowed for an exchange of information between Scotland and Ohio, but it also allowed for an unsettling of familiar places by reading them through, or superimposing other places, on top of them.