Maybe I’m a strange person. But, since I was a child, I have been aware of the sky most of the time.
Look, I know it’s not possible to gaze steadfastly skyward when driving. And I was used to driving – a bike – for the majority of my young adulthood.But times when I wasn’t driving, or engaged in study, or reading before going to bed, I’d be running Sky Watch 2.0 on my brain’s operating system. Quietly. In the background. But ever ready to snap into full Wonder Mode at the slightest aberration in the heavens.
I can find Venus in daylight, and I know almost without thinking about it where the relative positions of sun and moon are at any given time of day or season of year.
Maybe this is what stokes my antipathy towards cellphones. I caved in and got myself a smartphone a little while ago. I make maybe one call on it per day – to Warren – and the rest of the time it’s a handy-to-have internet connection, weather predictor, moonphase calculator, and camera.
Except, of course, that I don’t really need all those things. The phase and sign of the moon are, as I have already mentioned, mostly a given fact for me – I’d only have to think about it for a few seconds max -and the weather I can foretell much more accurately than any app running on the phone. The internet is nice to have – you can look up on Twitter just what accident has caused you to be sitting in traffic, looking up on Twitter…yes, well you see what I mean.
Nevertheless, I do catch myself checking in with my son on Facebook, fielding tweets around as if they were penny wisdom cards, and even saying Oh look -it’s 2 degrees this morning, while tapping the touchscreen of my phone.Oh yes, and spelling very slowly and badly, too. My fingers are a bit big for the virtual keyboard and I can’t be bothered to have to keep track of a bloody stylus as well.
So, looking down from the balcony at work this afternoon, I took in the sight of about a dozen people who, when they weren’t actually talking on their phones, were sitting alone in rapt communion with them.
I think I’ve gone on about this before, probably more than once.
So I turn my face back up to the sky – high and wide and blue and white – and drink in the radiance through my pores. Birds careen across my vision and I recognise each one. Trees and construction cranes sway gently in the late Winter air. I feel my whole body reaching out to the World, its magnificence sheathing me like a vibrant extra dimension, and smell, faintly, the first stirrings of the coming Spring.
No one else is looking up. No one else is seeing, feeling or smelling these things. Their windows on the world have narrowed their perceptions so sharply that I – who loves the human animal but often doesn’t like it – grieve deeply for them.
Pic: Sparrows exalt in the sky. Yes, Sparrows, not Larks.