Monday, September 11, 2006

Urban beauty 

Early morning autumn light has a special kind of magic, enhancing the scene both in its presence and its absence; where its warmth reaches, even grey tarmac takes on a rosy hue; in those corners it has not yet touched, deep shadows veil ugliness, cover shabbiness, hide even the beginning busy-ness of the day.

There’s a hint of early morning mist in the air, a foretaste of autumn, creating an air of mystery, a distancing of observed from observer. Ahead of me, the sweeping curve of a concrete flyover stands silhouetted against a hazy golden blue sky; the road below bifurcates, one fork ascends, vanishing into the glare of the sun to join the concrete ribbon in the sky, the other twists away into the shadows beneath.

By one of those inexplicable flukes of randomness, the road ahead, normally bursting at the seams with rush hour traffic, is almost empty; doubtless it was busy a few moments ago and will be so again in a few moments time, but right now the scene is so quiet, it is almost peaceful; a momentary flashback to a pre-dawn city not yet woken up. I feel as though I’ve side stepped sideways into a surreal parallel world.

Even that concrete flyover – bold, backlit, purposeful - manages to look majestic. Yet two hours from now, in full light, the delicate warmth will have been bleached from the scene, the mystery will have evaporated along with the haze, shadows will no longer conceal prosaic details and it’ll simply look plain and ugly again.

But for now I’m so absorbed by the stark geometry – I can see the framing of a photo even though I have no camera nor opportunity to use one – that for a moment I don’t even notice the traffic lights change to green. But then my focus snaps back to the tarmac in front of me; as I ride off, I make a deliberate effort to store a snapshot of the image in my mind along with a few key words so that I might try and recreate the moment later on.

As I ride, I visualise myself at work, translating that brief experience into words on the screen, but the scene in my mind feels false; for months now, I’ve deliberately worn blinkers at work and kept to the straight and narrow path of commitment to the tasks at hand.

Yet here I am now, setting these words down before the image and the feeling are both lost. Why?

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