Monday, August 6, 2012

A Moveable View

Sunset Down the Road
Staying by the sea, I notice how unaccustomed I've become to a stationary view of any kind. Back in the city, the windows of my apartment offer vistas of a brick wall, a narrow alley, a tangle of branches and telephone wires. And I usually keep the blinds closed when I work anyhow; there is too much commotion outside.

But now I sit on this porch, just yards from the water's edge. A vast harbor is stretched out in front of me. The surface ripples of the cerulean water are like a silk scarf fluttering in the wind. Lobster buoys bob up and down. Now and then a fishing boat goes by. A family of swans travels back and forth along the shore in perfect peloton formation.

It is peaceful and almost improbably beautiful. And as I try to work, I find that it drives me nuts - the unchangeability of it. I am not used to looking at scenery so... passively. My eyes focus on the right outer edge of the harbor, where the rocky shore curves and disappears from view. As I study it, the curve begins to look hard-etched and forbidding, willfully preventing me from seeing beyond the bend.

In fact, I know - roughly at least - what lies around the bend; I have been there many times. A hilly back road winds along the shore's edge sleepily. There is a small patch of dense woods along the cliffs, then a gravel garden path, a wild rocky beach, an abandoned coast guard's tower... Soon I am visualising each of these landmarks in great detail, picturing them as they look when I cycle past them. I laugh at myself, realising that I am enjoying this mental game more than looking at the view in front of me.

I close my laptop, get on my bike and take off just as the sun begins to set, heading for the hilly back road that will take me around the bend. No one else is here. The road narrows and steepens dramatically and I get into my lowest gear. With each pedal stroke I see more and more of the landscape that was hidden from view as I sat on the porch just minutes earlier, and this fills me with an absurd sense of fulfillment. I reach the top easily, unhurriedly, and there sits the patch of woods with its narrow mossy path to the edge of the cliff. I keep going, coasting down the steep hill now at what feels like flying speed, passing all the landmarks I'd recalled. The mysterious garden path, the wild beach. And I remember now also the old sprawling house with a beautiful garden and the "bunnies for sale" sign taped to the green fence. After the coastguard's house I stop and turn around, my urge to experience a movable view satisfied. It seems silly now to have taken this short ride for no reason at all, but I am pleased.

I roll up to the porch as the last of daylight disappears. The vast harbor is still there, its fluttering silk surface now a deep indigo. A green light flickers in the distance. A stray boat is being rowed ashore. The swan peloton is making its last round. I get my coffee cup and turn on the porch light, ready to settle down in the stillness. But I know the moveable view will call out to me again tomorrow, even though I know what's around the bend.

27 comments:

  1. Sounds like you're enjoying your change of scenery :)

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  2. What a lovely essay! Thank you Velouria — I read your entries (I'm sorry, "blog" is an indefensibly ugly word on the tongue or in the ear) daily — the content stimulates my mind; the cycling passion excites my heart; the exposition of your personality makes it feel like coffee-with-a-friend; and no matter what the content, I enjoy your very fine writing.

    ~ David Miller, near Saskatoon Saskatchewan

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  3. absolutely, stunningly, beautiful. thank you.

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  4. We also spent the holyday by the sea, riding our Bromptons. Next year we are going to an Island close to where we went this year. Camping.

    badmother

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  5. Sounds like this is a solution to your previous post.

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  6. I don't quite understand how this has no comments yet...

    This is a fantastic picture of the situation you find yourself in, well-told, great imagery. Every thought about writing short stories? :)

    While I personally find the urge to sit in one place and watch time lazily drift past me is usually much stronger than the urge to move, I loved reading this. Thanks for posting it.

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  7. (oh yes, I suppose it could be because you just simply haven't gotten around to approving them yet :D)

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  8. Beautifully written. Wish I was there.

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  9. i'm finally accepting how necessary a stationary view is to my understanding of space and light and mass and movement. i'm also understanding how necessary it is to ability to contribute to life -- b/c if i don't receive, i can't contribute.

    going back to the same place, carefully looking at what's right in front of me, attempting to understand the relationships....oh, there's poetry there!

    glad that you're different.

    i get to read your thoughts, too.

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    1. It's not that I don't want a view. It just hasn't been an option for the past several years, so I've gotten unaccustomed to it. It will be a priority in our next place to live, whenever that will be.

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  10. I once tried to work on a camping trip and found for some reason I could not focus on the complexity of dimensions of the page. I spent hours frustrated since I had planned on working.

    But there was something so overwhelming about just being in the woods that it made regular work impossible.

    Finally I decided to draw. But instead of drawing a landscape I drew cartoons. It was all very odd.

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  11. "Swan peloton"- very nice, indeed.

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    1. This is quite literal. Here they are in double paceline.

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  12. Well written, beautifully imagined, related perfectly. Sounds like you're completely over-taken by the beauty that lies before you, inserting yourself into it. That strikes a cord in me, as often, I look back on photos I've taken along the way on a ride, and recall the moment of biking 'through' it vividly, and in a deeply fulfilling way.

    So, did the Brompton make it this easy to put yourself into the scene? My next bike with be a brompton, and part of my romance stems from dreams of simple ease-at-the-moment kind of riding.

    Thanks for a beautiful post.

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    1. This is my second trip with the Brompton so far (the previous one was 3 weeks in Ireland). It is excellent for "simple ease-at-the-moment kind of riding" across all terrain, including hilly and off road. It is also easy to transport and stow. The one thing it does not do is replace a roadbike.

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  13. I read this and wonder if you aren't putting yourself in grave danger.

    It reads for all the world like the thoughts of a person in a Janwillam Van De Wettering novel. You know, the person visiting the small coastal town who is about to see the murderer leave the secluded farmhouse and unwittingly lock eyes with and wave at him as he drives his battered pickup full of firewood past before driving a half mile up the main road where he can watch you ride past the farm where he just killed the neer'do well son of the local boatwright. He made sure there was no sound of vehicles on the secluded lane before committing the crime but there you were, a tourist on a bicycle silently exploring off the beaten path... You'll smile and nod at him tomorrow morning as you cross paths outside the coffee shop before entering and overhearing the gossip about the horrible crime committed the previous afternoon...

    FLY Velouria! Before it's TOO LATE!

    Spindizzy

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    1. It was even more sinister than that. Stay tuned for The Case of the Haunted Lobster Boat.

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  14. Is that a saddlebag quick release under the saddle? What kind?

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    1. That's just a folded up saddle cover.

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  15. +1 on the idea of a Velouria book.

    I'm in a similar MA beach town for the week as well…leaving the vintage bikes at the edge of the sand. Our locals are American Indians which adds another layer of conflict.

    There's a new restaurant called The Lure; we've all had to ask how it's spelled when each of us first hears it pronounced. (The Lewa??) And I always try to get the locals to pronounce Yard Guard. ;)

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    1. The Lewa, that's a good one! If I understand where you are correctly, I've only been there a couple of times as a teenager.

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    2. Whoops...meant to post that to "New England Coastal Town X". (You may move it if you can or I could delete and re-post.)

      The town is Mashpee/New Seabury. A decade or so back the resident Native Americans sued to get the land and all its boutiques and McMansions back on the grounds of a treaty violation. You have to admire that.

      The water is actually warm, now.

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  16. The kaftan print and the posture remind me of a Preraphaellite painting, especially on the second photo not shown here. Nicely done.

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    1. Not to mention the deep red hair.

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    2. Thanks, though I strongly dislike the Pre-raphaelite style! Photo credit (c)Co-Habitant.

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    3. Oh man, there are some beautiful paintings from that group. Don't dismiss something just b/c of something called 'style'.

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  17. I have been reading your blog almost from the beginning,well since your advice convinced me to buy a KHS Green, it sits in my den most of the time now because it's just part of the fleet. Anyway I just wanted to say when your not writing about bicycles, when your writing from your heart it's just plain poetry. Thank you young lady for being a nice part of my day

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