I’m on a train, and out of the window I see a red kite, Milvus milvus, circling high above. I notice it, with pleasure, but without any thrill as it is such a normal sight. I settle back in my seat. Then I remember, the first time I saw red kites; a pair, circling together, from a cliff path in Cornwall 26 years ago. I was 21, and walking some of the South West Coast Path, and I had never seen this bird species before. I stood still, and felt the sense of a special moment, recording that scene in my mind’s eye in case it never appeared again.
Contrasting these two sightings, I wondered; which was better? And I decided, after some thought, that the second one was far far nicer.
Because, the thrill of the rare is all very well; but, those birds were special because they were rare, because there were so few of them. Nowadays, after decades of intensive reintroduction efforts, kites are a common sight in much of the western British Isles. And I would rather know that they were no longer endangered, and be familiar enough with them that I can distinguish between kite and buzzard (Buteo buteo) by the shape of their tails. I like that much more.
Other birds that have acquired ‘common’ status in my life now (compared to the rarity of them in my childhood) are jays, Garrulus glandarius, and wrens, Troglodytes troglodytes, which frequent my garden on a daily basis.
In contrast sparrows (Passer domesticus) have dwindled; once the most likely answer to ‘What was that small brown bird?’ their squabbling noisy rabbles are unusual. Although at least they are now seen, when for some years they had vanished completely.
Similarly, I could relate to you examples of magick spells that worked spookily well from twenty years ago, while now they hardly register on my awareness.
Does this matter? I still get a slight sense of surprise when a spell does happen to coincide with the reality which follows it, but I don’t get the same open mouthed shock. Is this better, I wonder?
Given that this occurs partly because I have so many successful spells, and also that it allows me to hold more lightly to what could be adjudged as potential Epic Wins, I think I prefer it.
Like the sparrows I now appreciate as valuable the ordinary moments, the me doing normal, as extremely important and significant. Mowing the lawn, watching tv with my children, visiting friends, even working, all have a distinct savour about them, especially after they vanished from my life while I was laid low for so long with an inner ear malfunction.
The take home message from this brief essay has something to do with both appreciating the ordinary as if it were special; and, allowing the special to take on the qualia of the expected, the mundane.
All moments of existence have the possibility of either frame. We can even hover between the two states, circling categories without needing to decide. We can choose how we view our lives, according to circumstances.