One of my jobs at Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is ‘stuff’ tester. I don’t have the technical background to test bikes, except on tour tests, but I can tell you as well as anybody else if an accessory or item of clothing works or not.
A little while ago I received a Vespa open face helmet for assessment. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I liked the helmet for a number of reasons. It is light, it is simple — its visor and sunshade visor are easily deployed by just pulling down on them (no ratchet or slide) and it is well made and reasonably quiet. But the main thing I noticed about it was that that visor was crystal clear. It didn’t even have the internal reflection level that many of the very best helmet visors have. It seemed as if the visor simply wasn’t there.
Yesterday, I rode over to the café where I often meet one of my friends for a morning coffee. As I pulled away from home, a thin rain began to fall. It was not really rain, really, it was a gentle sprinkle of tiny drops. Possibly because of a combination of this and the helmet’s angle to the sun, the few drops that settled on the visor glowed like tiny diamonds. The way they were refracting (I hope that’s the right word) the sunshine was quite startling. I have a jeweler friend who taught me a little about diamonds, and the similarity between the stones he showed me under a lamp and these raindrops was quite remarkable. I was riding through a soft curtain of tiny diamonds.
I was so fascinated by these gratis gemstones that I focused on them, to the exclusion of the road and I am certainly fortunate that nobody pulled out on me or stopped suddenly in front of me. I would have been loaded into the ambulance muttering “diamonds…”
What was this all about? A simple example of a trick of the light, I am sure. But it was such a vision of sparkling beauty that it made me wonder if we spend enough time just plain enjoying the beauty offered up to us all the time, from many different sources and in many different ways. It need not be as spectacular as a sunset or powerful like the towering clouds of an incipient thunderstorm; it can be something as simple and small as the raindrops on a visor.
I love this, the magic of the world shown in unexpected places. I was cleaning the drain in front of my garage recently and when I pulled up the gratings, I discovered a tiny garden of palm trees. We had palms in the garden bed just above this drain, and seeds had obviously washed down and found fertile ground in the drain. We have had the big palms cut down because they looked as if they might fall on the house, but the seeds had determined that they would keep going, even if it was in an almost subterranean drain.
I wonder if we notice these serendipitous events enough. It’s easy to see and enjoy the big stuff. But what about the lichen that struggles to survive on a rock face in the mountains we traverse?
As Kinky Friedman said, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
We do not always get it right. When Mrs Bear and I were living in Melbourne, we used to take afternoon rides up into the Dandenong Ranges, hills that overlook the city from the west. On one ride we decided to rescue a gum tree seedling that was struggling on the edge of the road, obviously to be cut down by the next mower that went past. We planted it in our garden near the city and watched with pleasure as it took root and grew. It actually grew a little too well and looked like taking over our small garden. I asked a friend who was employed at a garden centre to take a look at it.
“Ah,” he said, “it looks like you’ve got hold of one of the giants of the forest.” Sadly, we had to chop it down. Giants of the forest do not belong in inner city suburbs.
Admiring the flora is one of the joys of long-distance riding for me. After our recent rains, one of the plants that is prospering is the pink flannel flower. Quite beautiful, it only emerges when there has been a major fire – and we have had no shortage of those. Originally, it was though that the heat of the fire helped the flowers to germinate, but it turns out that it is the smoke that does the job. One of the components of bushfire smoke says to the flowers, hey, let’s go. And they respond beautifully.
What am I trying to say with this rambling piece? Motorcycling, with its direct involvement with nature, is a key to beauty. Look around you, enjoy the small things nature offers to you as well as the big ones, and never be too proud to say, “Hey. There are diamonds on my visor.”
(Photos The Bear)