That thought; that feeling

Sometimes when I’m walking along, I spot something mid-process. Not a static sign (neither literal nor metaphorical), this is some action, some performance. It might involve the derring-do of a speeding young driver, a verbal altercation between two people, or perhaps a pair of birds: two magpies, or a seagull and pigeon, having a flappy confrontation with one another.

Sometimes, as I find my gaze pulled into these situations, I seem to lose myself (or my self?). It is as though I become entirely entwined in the scene before me. I’ll be walking, but I realise after that I have no knowledge that I carried on moving. The sensation is as though I’m stopped in my tracks. The process normally only lasts a second before I (literally) come back to my senses.

After, I always conclude that my walking continued; that I didn’t actually freeze in awe, but I have no way to know for sure (I’m always walking alone when this occurs). Like the person asked to consider whether what they perceived is really real, all I can answer with is: it must have happened! What other explanation can there be?

But whatever explanation I conjure up to rationalise that pause, I am still left with that momentary escape, that seeming dissolution of my body. And here’s to many more perturbances between ‘my self’ and ‘my surroundings’. Nan Shepherd seemed to know the feeling. As she notes in the Living Mountain upon wading into Loch Etchachan in the Cairngorms:

Then I looked down; and at my feet opened a gulf of brightness so profound my mind stopped.