Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts

I recently cycled along the River Lee Navigation. For those of you who are not acquainted with one of London and Hertfordshire’s (a county just outside the British capital to the north) most picturesque routes I would strongly recommend that you keep it in mind if you ever visit the UK. The unbroken path is perfect for walking and biking. I have made this trip before but on this occasion I went much further up.

Travelling from someone near east London up to Cheshunt the journey took me through some of the most scenic open spaces ever. As it is the custom with me when I am cycling on a traffic-free route, I went into reverie mode, whilst at the same time paying close attention to the path and the people walking or cycling on it.

I do not know if poetry has the same effect on you, fellow bloggers and readers, but in my case I have always seen it as evocative. A poem like Ode to a Nightingale makes me think more of the feelings that led Keats to compose the piece and the sentiments it continues to trigger to this day. The bird in question becomes secondary or even non-existent.

This is exactly what happened that day on the towpath of the River Lee Navigation. Perhaps it was the peace around me, the calm water, the stationery boats, the slow pace, both amongst walkers and cyclists and the overpowering sense of history that triggered off a deep spiritual connection to my immediate environment. As I neared the Lee Valley White Water Centre I saw a wall (or the remains of it) on my right handside with a crack running down the middle. I stopped on one side of the path for a couple of minutes and watched the concrete entity closer.

In the context of everything I had seen so far the wall was ugly. It broke the harmony of the urban and rural mix I had cycled past up to now on my way to Hertfordshire. Yet, all the same I felt that there was a reason for that wall to be part of this bucolic landscape. All of a sudden, lines from Fleur Adcock’s poem Against Coupling came to my mind. I could not remember the whole piece (I very rarely remember entire poems by heart) but I did recall the following verses: “There is much to be said for abandoning this no longer novel exercise/for not’ participating in total experience’.

The strange thing was that whereas Fleur was writing about the need for occasional alienation in a couple (temporary “uncoupling”, if you like), I was looking at the wall in a whole different light. To me it was an object that refused to conform to the beauty standards that the canal had unwittingly imposed. It was an unremarkable wall by any definition. One that could be found anywhere else in the world: South Africa, Thailand, Cuba. However, to me it only made sense in that moment, surrounded by cormorants, herons and oak trees.

I carried on, still thinking of the odd relationship between that wall’s ordinariness and inelegance and the canal’s exuberance. And how poetry married (at least in my head) the two of them somehow.



© 2017

Photo taken by the blog author

Next Post: “Thoughts in Progress”, to be published on Saturday 25th February at 6pm (GMT)

19 comments:

  1. I love the way we can suddenly see things in unfamiliar ways, and with that come fresh ideas (and sometimes, stories).

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  2. Have you read the late 19th Century novel (I forget his name but he's British) titled "Three Men and a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog." Reading about your trip along the canal reminded me of his very funny expedition.

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  3. Funny how the little things we never saw before can be seen in a new light and then we truly see, or see how they are now seen to us. Lots of seeing going on.

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  4. Wow!You are in deep mood Cuban!!Never heard of the authors..may be I should..(I am lost in old mountain stories..)But the picture is absolute great !Greetings Anita

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  5. I haven't done that walk/bike ride and am taking note. I also love your new banner photo.

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  6. I don't ride a bike but I love my long walks in nature. Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope you are having a wonderful week.

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  7. The manner in which you see and describe things is very artistic.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your unique experiences of a part of London I have never visited before. Makes me want to return.

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  9. I love falling into reveries like this one! And the shot of the wall is beautiful - as Rumi said: Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.

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  10. I don't know that poem, but I love how you spun this post toward it and then away. Have you seen the movie "Paterson?" I think you'll love it -- check it out if it comes to London.

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  11. I wish I had your poetic comparisons. Yes, there is beauty in everything if only we had the sense to see it.

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  12. Hi ACIL - I too wish I had your literary brain to remember things like that ... I don't - but it's wonderful we can garner more information from other bloggers - that to me looks like it should be a bridge ... perhaps an old railway bridge ... but like you I'm amazed at what I remember sometimes and perhaps the why it was triggered ...

    Though that route sounds a great path to travel .. and see what historical links I could find ... it's an area I really don't know ... cheers Hilary

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    1. A poem came to mind today ... Christina Rossetti's "When I am Dead, My Dearest" - brought back country memories of relatives from long ago ... lovely to 'read the countryside' ... cheers again! H

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  13. Such beautiful words. Love it!

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  14. What a fabulous piece this is. I think the sheer age of that cracked wall lends it a certain beauty. How many human tragedies and joys have been lived out beneath its bulky presence..........I certainly enjoyed this post. I was so amazed by Ode to a Nightingale, in school.

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  15. Perhaps it is your photography but I see a beautiful piece of the scenery. Poetry is always the art of inspiration. Who knows what will spark and inspire?

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  16. Poder disfrutar de unos buenos paseos sean a pie o en bicicleta es todo una gozada y mas ahora que vamos dejando el invierno atrás.
    Un feliz fin de semana.

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  17. You have the heart of a poet, and the eye of an artist. (And they want them back!) Seriously, this is a lovely post.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

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