The new becomes routine. The unfamiliar becomes unnoticeable after a while, but once in a while an event occurs that makes me look at the familiar with a new vision and I wonder and I am thankful for the beauty of it.
I cycle to the sea two or three times a week in all weathers. We have had a very severe winter more so this year than previous years. As I cycle along the small country potholed roads week after week I forget to notice what is around me my mind is on other things and other people. I must think that journey boring as I do not notice it, yet if I had been incarcerated in a small 4 walled cell it must be like heaven to see what I see in those 3 days of cycling, I had forgotten to appreciate it. The winter cold makes me cycle hard and all I notice is how my sweat freezes and how the wind bites into my skin. But recently I have begun to notice the different bird life. At first it was the birds of prey, the Buzzards taking advantage of the air currents and floating effortlessly above the fields looking for prey, or just enjoying the gift of flight as they seem to be enjoying their experience hovering and gliding majestically without effort using what is natural to them and what is free to them. I have seen other birds of prey: a Kestrel had in its talons a small animal as it flew over my head heading for the next field to devour it; a Sparrow Hawk had what looked like a pigeon’s wing hanging down from its claws nearly as big as its own body. The birds of prey are easy to spot; they take my attention and demand acknowledgment.
More recently I have noticed smaller less unfamiliar types of bird doing beautiful and unpredictable things. Yesterday I saw a large flock of Black Birds in a farmer’s field all on the ground taking advantage of the worms as the tractor disturbed the ground. As the tractor approached the seated dinner party the front section of the flock rose in the air and flew obediently and in order to the back of the flock and continued to take advantage of the farmer’s fare but not as fresh and plenty as the front row. As the tractor came closer the next section of birds rose and migrated behind them, it was a constant movement a wave effect of rising and falling, a mass of blackness swaying with fluidity. It was beautiful, poetic, mesmerising and very natural; it was mechanical yet organic and although it seemed like it was programmed and fixed I knew it could reform and change, dissolve and fragment at any moment. I cycled on thinking of this apparition when I noticed a Buzzard perched on a fence post it slowly took flight and glided away from me unconcerned as though it was bored.
A while later I came to the hill where I normally get off my bike as my brakes cannot hold the descent and taking the bottom corner at full speed is not so wise due to the ever widening potholes that seem to get bigger each week due to the tractors that plough that country lane. By getting off and walking down the hill I noticed a tree trunk, the sun shone on its south facing bark but on the reverse side there was an exposed piece of trunk, bare except for a row of beautifully formed toadstools one above the other. It was so unexpected and lovely, the sun shone and I was taken by their colour and form. I felt happy to see it, not to own it or to cut it, possess it or to eat it, just to come across it and then leave it; leave it I did and continued around the bend. The road I have named ‘potholed alley’ for obvious reasons and after the recent snow and ice we have just had the small crevasses make the journey one of “find the asphalt”.
Before the village of Easton there are fields on either side of me I saw in one of these fields a large flock of Canadian Geese, the faded green field was a mass of dark browns and greys. I got off my bike and took out my camera to video the congregation, it reminded me as if they were waiting for their leader to give a speech at the annual ‘Canadian Geese Rally’ that is held in the dirtiest field at the north east corner of wintery England. Then I heard a sound of a small aeroplane coming towards me, the area is quite flat and it holds a few old aerodromes from the 2nd World War, as it turned away from that Geese filled field there came a mass cry and a beating of wings as the whole flock took flight. The Canadian Geese rose into the air on mass and criss-crossed each other away from me and then towards me, a mass of black shapes splitting into smaller flocks and then moving away from one another, splitting and dividing, then reforming again, chaotic yet repetitive. I had seen flocks of Starlings nesting before and it reminded me of them as they swirl and manoeuvre around the skies, but these were a lot larger and a lot noisier. The plane had also startled other Canadian Geese from other fields and these flew over from behind me and they were heading towards the others. They were regrouping, multiplying, and safety in numbers perhaps. They did not seem as though they were enjoying themselves, they were not like the Buzzard who loved to fly for the sheer glory of it; these bleating long necked birds were confused and were looking for a leader to reunite them to a quieter patch of ground; but they did not find it and they were still flying in circles when I left, they seemed to prefer fields a long way off from where I was.
The day was not boring nor was it lost in my own selfish importance; I took nourishment in its detail, in the fragments of not rushing, and I noticed other worlds at play and realised my life was as important as other lives even if I was think it is not. We do what we do without programming it, we think we make choices but we are regimental as the migrating geese or the relay of black birds or the sprouting of fungi, how arrogant to think we are any different.