In 1776, at the age of sixty-four, an embittered Jean-Jacques Rousseau took to rambling. Feeling rejected, neglected, and condemned, he turned his back on the society in which he had never managed to feel at ease, and found peace in wandering the fields outside Paris, noting interesting flora and fauna, and ruminating on his life and career. Rousseau jotted down his musings on playing cards he carried in his pocket; these notes would form the basis for his last book, Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire, translated as Reveries of the Solitary Walker (or a Solitary Walker). Unfinished at his death and published posthumously in 1782, the Reveries reiterate and meditate upon many of Rousseau’s central themes: the joys of solitude, the corrupting influence of society, the fragility of happiness and of human relations, and the great, healing solace of nature (not to mention his obsession with enemies and persecution).
Like Rousseau, Strang too has taken to wandering, although on her bicycle, finding cycling particularly conducive to a slow, non-deliberate thinking, an almost sub-conscious contemplation. Biking around Vancouver, she returned to several issues of lifelong interest, her own version of Rousseau’s obsessions: the difficulties of living an anti-capitalist life, the continued invisibility of much of women’s labour, the paradoxes of daily life, the nature and implications of calculations of value, and the complexities of sustainability. What is to be done, she wonders?
In homage to the playing-card origins of Rousseau’s Reveries, Strang’s Reveries of a Solitary Biker is divided into four suites, which she often performs with musical accompaniment by her frequent collaborator, clarinetist François Houle. Some of these musical scores are included in the book.