Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Remains



Maybe it's because I have watched too many Scandi-noir miniseries lately. But thinking of mementos and souvenirs conjures up something sinister - like the "trophies" a serial killer would keep. Then again, maybe that is not entirely inappropriate.

Out of a tattered yellow box I remove the little stash of objects and set them out on a cloth. They are meaningless bits of refuse to anyone but me, and I hide them not so much out of secrecy, as to avoid them accidentally being damaged or thrown into the trash. Still, there is an air of the secretive, of the deeply private and intimate about them. There is a feeling that the objects are a collection, tied together not only by some special theme but by a form of devotion. They are the things I keep from my bicycle rides.

It is hard to say what I am likely to take as a keepsake. I am not drawn to manmade stuff, such as buttons, or jewels, or coins. Even the intricate bits of mysterious metalwork and the dazzling chunks of sea glass that sometimes wash up on beaches I leave alone. As interesting and beautiful some of these objects are, I am not looking for traces of others. It's the landscape itself I want to keep. And to capture it photographically is not enough; I want to capture it physically, to keep it with me beyond my presence in its bounds.

So you see, it is a serial-killery impulse after all, in a way. An urge to absorb. A confusion of boundaries. "I have known this place and now it is part of me."

And so in my jersey pocket it goes. A small thing, usually. An interesting shell, or pebble. A twig with a fascinating pattern to the bark. A scraping of lichen or a clump of heather, to be later left to dry in the sun, or be pressed between a book's pages. One time I even took grains of sand. The sand had an unusual, turquoise-bluish tint to it. I grabbed a handful and poured it directly into my pocket, then later shook it out into one of those transparent 35mm film containers. It really did look somewhat turquoise, in the right light. And when I think of the miles I did that day - up and down the forested coastal roads - there is a grainy, turquoise-tinged feel to those memories.

When it comes to the cycling experience, I am in love with something I cannot define or pinpoint. It is not the speed and it is not the distance. It is not the challenge and it is not the "grace through suffering." When I cycle, it is solely for cycling's sake. I am not preparing for anything greater than what I am already doing. I do not chase epic rides or seek adventure. But I do a lot of ordinary cycling. Every day, and often multiple times a day, I am out on a bicycle. Whether I pedal near or far, fast or slow, it seems I am always discovering new places and experiencing new sensations. The familiar opens up and shows itself in new, surprising ways. And it is this intangible thing that I want to grab a handful of.

Do the keepsakes help? These bits of shells and sticks and dried plants and misshapen rocks? Not really. It's a compulsion to take them, nothing more. And when I look at them, rather than losing myself in memories of past rides, I find they make me impatient to go out on new ones.

And so I sweep it all back in the box and close the lid and put it away. All those miles, sensations, memories... What remains are not the mementos, but the desire to ride again.





23 comments:

  1. Thanks.

    I'm going for a ride today after all. Didn't realize it till right now.

    Spin

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  2. This is very nice. And speaking of photo competitions. How about a "what's in your bag/ pocket" theme?

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    1. I like the theme. Very "Marie Claire," only for bikes.

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    2. Or maybe a bit of a "The Hobbit" theme? "What has it got in it's nasty pocketses Precious?" Not that V would throttle anyone and messily devour them in a cave if they didn't win the contest or anything like that...

      Spindizzy

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  3. My wife will be pleased to learn she is not the only one to collect rocks on bicycle rides. More than once we've stopped on the tandem during an organised ride to go after something in a pannier and discover forgotten rocks in the bottom. (weight weenie?)

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    1. I am sure she chooses only the lightest rocks!

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  5. I tend to pick up things wherever I go, not just while riding. Many of the hand tools I have were picked up off the roadway, but honestly I've gotten to the point that I pass things by now rather than go and pick them up, I tend to leave them for others to discover! After all how many 1/2" open end spanners can a person really use? Just the other day I was riding and a glint of something caught my eye; I circled around and picked it up! A RING! At first I thought it was just cheap costume jewelry, a few of the stones (CZ?) were missing and it had been run over a few times. On closer inspection I discovered that it had been re-sized! OK well, people don't re-size cheap jewelry so it had to be something!? I slipped it on my finger! A couple days later I stopped by a jeweler, the verdict 10k gold! They gave me $25. for it and I was gone! ;-) - Mas

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    1. Perhaps another option would have been to hand it into your local Police Station, someone somewhere could be looking for their ring. It could be linked to a recent crime, it may have some connection to a missing person , on the simplest level it wasn't yours to sell. Just a thought.

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    2. John's moral reasoning is probably correct, but Mas's story is a better read. It has the charm of a little mischief, a tiny adventure with a small amount of impropriety one feels slightly guilty for enjoying. A minor instance of the ancient tension between morality and art.

      Walter

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    3. There's so many if's

      Maybe Gollum was looking for it!?

      Sometimes a cheap ring is just a cheap ring!

      Is it possible that someone's misfortune could be my responsibility? Certainly! Sometimes a person just has to use a little common sense which is getting harder to come by.

      This was just one of those things, the flotsam of life floating though my fingers.

      - Mas

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    4. Mas SHOULD have taken that ring and dropped it in the "Crack of Doom". Just to be safe.

      What if it's still out there and falls into the very small hands of an Evil Maniac?

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  6. Any tips and tricks you'd care to share regarding the disposal of bodies?

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    1. Freehub bodies? I wouldn't dispose of them; never know what could come in handy for yours - or a friend's - future build.

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  7. Each person is a universe, distinct despite our commonalities. I have wondered why I follow your blog in particular, when there are so many universes (to include the one that is me).

    After a long shift at the hospital and five hours sleep I read your post. I think I now know.

    Not just a different world, you look at the universe (or at least the part that you see) differently. It is not just what you see, but it is your perspective that is interesting. This "collecting" represents your way of looking and learning. It is general, and not confined to your mode of transport.

    For me, I collect "stories". Kinda similar, kinda different.

    Many thanks. Now I am off to sleep.

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  8. I tend to stop and pull out my phone to take pictures. It's the same 6km path through a park, to and from work, but there's always something new to see. I try not to bike too fast because I don't want to miss anything!

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  9. It is comforting to know that others have a touch of magpie when it comes to cycling souvenirs. Thanks for the lovely post.

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  10. I'm cursed with early dementia so at only 62 it's interesting how bicycling addresses this idea of what remains. I don't understand collecting things, or tattered boxes of such mementos, but I do understand the act of riding. Since '77 it's been a daily experience and like you it's enough….it's nourishment….I forget a lot and why I may have done something yet within the first few pedal rotations happiness emerges as do memories of specific feelings from decades ago on a certain patch of road or comments from other cyclists who shared the feeling….You're not saying anything new here, just continuing what's gone on before for so many. Social media gives a new platform for a universal and common experience. I sort of prefer just silently enjoying what cycling has given…My memories are enough.

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  11. I often collect things while walking, but never while riding. For some reason they're different experiences and walking invites more intimate moments with things on the ground while cycling invites a more spiritual thing.

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  12. bad boy of the northJuly 8, 2016 at 9:07 AM

    thanks for the new twist on collecting memories of a ride.i tend to collect images of my bicycles of where I've ridden to.

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  13. Moop, matter out of place, by keeping one eye on the gutter, treasures find you !

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  14. something about this post made me well up with emotion. So much the same feelings I have about riding my bike. Who can describe what it's all about? Maybe those little mementos come closest.

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