Monday, May 27, 2013

The Art Of Attention - Beautiful!

It starts with the slightly awkward heave  -  leg up and over the seat, feet locating the stirrups  -  and the indrawn breath that says 'Let's go.' This is a new discipline for me, this stationary bike, and I make sure to pace myself. I tip from side to side, easily and rhythmically, with a hint of a pulse, my movements mechanical at first, each slight shift of the vista in front of me tied to the downstroke of my foot on the pedal. After a while it becomes mildly hypnotic, not that I recognise this, though at some point I do register that time has blurred, that two or more minutes have clicked off on the digital counter without my noticing  -  I've been too caught up in whatever is piping through the wire in my ear, or gotten completely fixated on something I'm looking at through one or the other of the two windows. And what do I see out there? Not much. Everything.

Looking is oddly different on the stationary bike. Before I sat on this machine, before the business with the hip, I walked. All the time, miles every day, and it was like I had my looking with me on a leash. That was why I walked, a big part of it anyway. I loved the feeling of the moving eye. The neighbourhood streets were mostly always the same, so I used to pretend my gaze was a lens fixed on a rolling cart, a camera dolly. I would try to walk as evenly as I could so that I could film everything I was passing. And this, for some reason, allowed me to see it differently, put things into a new perspective. It's similar to that other game I like to play. Make a box shape with both hands using thumb and index fingers. Look through, click. There in the little box  -  or the walking Steadicam  -  is what you normally see, along with the idea of seeing what you normally see. Which makes it completely different. And this, I'm finding, is what happens when I get myself up on the seat and start to pedal.

How to think about this? It has to do with a certain boredom, a basic sameness endured twice a day for 20 minutes. I have the two upstairs windows, one peering down on the street below, a few spindly trees, a utility pole with wires, the visible parts of other people's houses. The other window faces our neighbours' house, into their bedroom window, through which I can see the slightly illuminated rectangle of the far window and, through this, the blurry shape of the next house. A clear line of sight. I get no privileged glimpses of domesticity, though the bedroom is being used by our neighbours' grown daughter. Sometimes when I ride I can see her shadowy shape cross through the light. What might she be doing there, I wonder? There is so much time to work up hypotheses when you are spinning pedals round and round, waiting for the time to be up.

The sameness, yes. The sameness of the outer view, and then the sameness of what's right here in front of me. I've put the bike in my son's bedroom, in front of his desk. He's away now for college and the room is just as he left it. That's why I've put the bike here  -  to break the spell of that. I plant myself right in the midst. Tick-tock and wobble. The noise of the pedals makes it seem like I am an engine that's running itself, an engine driving these jogs of thinking, these stretches of looking, all this thinking about looking. Open your eyes, I tell myself. Bear down so hard that you forget you are looking, and then let the thing, whatever it is, come at you. {Read on}