II : Wandering

I continued along the banks of the Dear and marveled that its poisoned waters supported lifehere a common moorhen pulled itself out of the water and perched, its tentacle-like yellow legs gripping some unknown protrusion at the water’s surface next to a battered and curled strip of corrugated sheet metal that rose from the water, anchored in the canal, it seemed, for no good reason.  I was on a nice walking path adjacent to a long narrow stretch of grassy field -- a rare feeling of unoccupied space in Artevelde -- a perfect spot for wandering foreigners and local dog-walkers.  The back side of a building, a high brick wall painted red on the opposite side of the grass, had been used for an interesting commentary: someone had painted a huge noose (an ancient symbol of the city) depending from the top of the building.  At the bottom of the noose, attached by a smaller rope, or perhaps by its own skin, hanging limply from a point at its mid back, was a sallow looking dog. 

An elegant bridge crossed the canal in a low angular arch with side railings of swirling wrought iron.  At each of its corners was a sculpture growing, tree-like, from a tall column.  The column might become a humble looking woman or a pair of boys near the top; these supported on their backs other people and cows and horses, or two people in a row boat, the weight and mass of carved stone exploding toward the top of each piece like a crown of broccoli.  I did not recall any of this from my days in Artevelde.  Perhaps I had never walked these rounds. 

I left the Dear and chose again random, narrow streets.  On one house was an intriguing display:  five square boxes framed in black wood and fronted in glass were lined up in a row, mounted to the glass bricks on the side of the building.  Inside were neither saints nor virgins.  The first held a selection of slender stones standing on their smooth, rounded ends.  The second in the sequence offered pinecones resting in the slightly dimpled backs of white cotton-ball sheep.  The third held an assortment of garlic heads, filberts, and swirls of dried grasses.  Four dwarves with long pointed hats holding implements, lanterns, and pipes stood in the fourth case.  The fifth was nothing but a thick web of shattered glass, as far as I could see -- either the work of vandals or the pure genius of the artist.  On the way back to the hotel I saw the French recording artist, Serge Gainsbourg, in a shop window. Actually it was a ceramic figurine, a rather grotesque representation of Mr. Gainsbourg in an aqua leisure suit, on sale for 32 Euros. 

On to Part II, Page 3
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