When is a View Not a View?

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Cliff top dwellings

I was very excited to wake up yesterday morning at Shell Beach and see a view of the Pacific out of the bedroom window. A beautiful view, framed by the ubiquitous cochineal-red oleanders, grey-blue succulents and ochre gravel. To the right, a cliff top path. To the left, another cliff top path. Spoilt for choice and unhindered by the proximity of Highway 101, I opted to run right in search of my perfect coastal view.

The pathway was naturally a bright white generously proportioned concrete cliff top route with fencing and dire warnings about taking care not to topple over the edge. I took appropriate care but felt very nervous.

As I descended to the deserted beach, I began to feel even more nervous. The desolation was disconcerting and crashing waves provided an unnerving background concerto. I wondered what I would do, should the sea suddenly retreat hundreds of metres, a sinister presaging of a tsunami? There would be no quick escape for me up those vertiginous cliffs.

Eventually I clambered back up another series of cliff steps to find a line of homes set well back with sea views across the bluff.

Sitting down on a bench, I considered the view enjoyed by these houses. I ended up wondering whether it really counted as a view. Here’s what I could see:

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Sea. Horizon (obscured or visible). Sky.

What is it that makes this ‘landscape’ combination so irresistible to so many? Why does a view of a grey horizon add so much of a premium to the value of a property? Because it’s not really a “view” at all; at least not in my sense of the word. It’s a meditative subject, assuredly. It has a sublime quality, admittedly. But a view? Not for me.

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Here’s what was down below. For me, the real “view”. Abstract shapes and something to work the visual processing parts of the mind around. A view I could gaze at for hours.

I think I may be in a minority on this.

Any views?

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