As my brain is otherwise occupied at the moment… a reblog from six years ago…
“It’s a humming bird moth!” said my younger son as he got out of the car. I’d picked him up to fix his suit for a wedding and the little creature was hovering over the last of the valerian outside the door. “You get so many things here,“ he added as I showed him a few of the latest photographs. An early start at my elder son’s had seen me out before the traffic where, for the second day running, I had managed to snap a couple of distant shots of the heron that seems to have taken up residence beside the main road. It is odd to see it so untroubled … this wild, almost prehistoric creature… as great, lumbering lorries speed past, while it potters about investigating the plastic bags of rubbish that someone had dumped. This is a bird built for fishing, not scavenging and the bird seems out of place… or maybe we are, diving through blindly the countryside at speed. People are driving past peering at me with the camera… not, apparently, even seeing what it is I am pointing it at.
It gets weird sometimes. This kind of thing happens a lot; we see something, a thing of grace and beauty, a thing of powerful presence… and while Stuart and I stare in awe, the world simply wanders past taking little notice; not, apparently, even seeing what we see. It started the very first weekend we were out with the hawks, long before we had any idea of writing together. We had stopped to gawp in awestruck delight at a red kite that was diving low into a garden, feet from the road, circling above then diving again… so big, so close and so very beautiful… so much strength and power in it… And a woman meandered past, holding her snack-sized child by the hand, within inches of the great talons… and didn’t even see it! She must have felt the wind from its wings but the beautiful thing didn’t seem to cast a shadow on her attention.
It’s not just birds either. Whole hills, apparently, slide past conscious attention to be filed as invisible. It reminds me of Douglas Adams and his ‘SEP Field’;
“An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem…. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.” He continues, “The technology involved in making something properly invisible is so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it’s simpler just to take the thing away and do without it……. The ‘Somebody Else’s Problem field’ is much simpler, more effective, and ‘can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery.’ This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.” Life, the Universe and Everything.
The really sad thing is that while Adams wrote humorous fiction, SEP theory is a recognised psychological effect that affects both individuals and populations…
So, this morning I had the camera on the car seat and my eyes open as I drove through the early mists of an autumnal Sunday to my elder son’s to cook. This time I did not see the heron in a place I could stop… however, and coincidentally, there was a kite sitting on the fence by the road side. ‘Coincidental’ as there had just been a text exchange about their infrequently observed landings. I couldn’t really stop, so it was another quick shot. I’d had two kites and a buzzard in the past few days and sort of caught most of them on camera. Yesterday I had pulled over on the way back from dropping my younger son at a wedding. A buzzard flew over and landed… and, once I had finished staring and grinning, I just managed to capture it in the corner of the field before it flew off over the hedge.
Now as photographs go, I know that none of these are much good. But they mark a moment in time rather than capturing visual beauty. They are snapshots of a fleeting encounter, an instant that will never come again and, as such, they have their own beauty to me. I wonder how much we miss… how much I miss… because it simply doesn’t register… doesn’t make it past the attention-filters? Driving home I thought about that, listening to the cry of the kite above the car and being thankful that I can hear it. I remembered suddenly watching the night with an old friend, almost forty years ago. He was some decades my senior and stated, quite simply but with infinite regret that he missed hearing the bats that flitted overhead. Being so young I couldn’t imagine not being able to hear them, but I too have since lost that range and the bats fly in silence for me now. “The Flower that once has blown for ever dies” said Omar Khayyám; maybe we need to open our awareness to the world a little more and notice before the petals fall and are lost in a river of regrets and might have beens. We never get a second chance at now.