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rooms with views

September 22, 2009

This week (this was written a few years ago)I am writing from a room with a view. A  room in which various national and international ‘artists in residence’ have used to relax or work.

As I sit and await the muse to visit (surely there must be some residual energy from those other writers) I gaze out the window at the view.

The Peacock Fountain, in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, was built in cast iron in 1911, and is the background to many photographs travelling to all points of the compass. As people pose, it sprays it’s water regularly from the dolphins, and is well decorated with herons, lily leaves, and other undefined foliage.

I sit and think of other views, other places. Some from on high, others through a door or window.

A palm-roofed hut, just large enough to place a double-sized bed and still walk around it, produced a romantic view of white sands, palm trees, and blue skies. Idyllic – a genuine travel brochure scene.

The view from my downtown Manhattan hostel window – taxis abandoned in the middle of the street and only the top of the yellow-cabs roof showing through the snow.

The view from  a tower in Istanbul may have been amazing but I was too busy clinging to the building to appreciate it. It is hard to be a tourist or traveller with a  fear of heights!  Nevertheless I do recall seeing the busy Bosphorus and the skyline of minarets through adrenaline-impaired-vision.

Once I nearly got over my fear enough to inwardly consider urban rap-jumping from the Novotel in Auckland. I am pleased to report I recovered my senses enough to keep those thoughts to myself and remained firmly on top of the hotel and did not walk down the side of the building- face forward – and now own a Tee shirt that says; I wouldn’t dream of urban rap jumping. The view of downtown Auckland and the harbour was great: however I was not really appreciating it right then.

With these confessions of fears, you will be surprised to know that I have done a bungee jump – right in the heart of Wellington. I was really fearful as they tied my ankles, the soft towel to prevent ropeburn did not reassure me. I must be crazy I think. Ropes tied and tested I am under starters orders. “Move to the edge of the platform” he tells me and I shuffle forward, “A little more” I move imperceptibly more, my heart beating at an uncontrollable speed. The view is now clearly in front of me, the water is fast, cold looking and a long long way down. I still have time to back out of this but my pride won’t allow it. The countdown starts. Three. Two. One. Bungee! Over the edge I go, plummeting downwards, waterwards, my heart undecided if to climb out my throat  or smash through my ribs, I’m screaming. I bounce, up and down, down and up again swinging side-ways and slowly come to a gentle halt. They untie my legs as I wonder did I wet my pants? I slowly walk away. That may have only been virtual bungee at Te Papa but it was real enough for me!

Another memorable view from the top was in Scotland. Inveraray, a village built by the head of the powerful Clan Campbell (my clan) in 1745, has a bell-tower built, on top of a hill, as a memorial to the Campbell’s who have died in battle. I climbed, sometimes crawling on my knees, to the top for a fantastic view of the village below, the Clan Campbell castle (Inveraray Castle) and the beautiful Loch Fyne and the tiny village. It seems amazing that such a calm, peaceful setting was the training ground for some half a million troops prior to the D-Day landings in WW2.

My journal, written on top of that hill, notes my grief at my sons death some five years earlier, and how I had then thought I would die from the pain, yet now, on the date of his birth, I was enjoying the view from a hill in Scotland. Grief produces such paradoxes, out of pain, or perhaps because of it, growth and life and laughter happens. Just as Buddhists explain the lotus flower and how its beauty grows out from mud.

Maybe the muse that has been left in this room is a reflective one. One that looks out windows and wonders what’s it all about. I certainly don’t know, all I know is the more I know, the less I know, the less I need to know.

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