I’m sitting in the grounds of Surrey University, next to either a large pond or a small lake. What I call it is unimportant. The wind dances across the surface of the water, playing artist with the sunlight. With a mild chill it traverses the landscape, skipping around the trees and through the grass.
Have you ever considered a blade of grass? Billions of them exist on the planet, more than I can imagine, and yet most people don’t pay much attention to them. We walk on them; we cut them down when we decide they’ve grown too much; we don’t pay much attention to their abundance. Each one is beautiful, and when they combine they become greater than the sum of their individual contributions.
From here on this bench I can see more than I can measure; hundreds of thousands, probably millions. They combine to create a carpet of intense green, enabled by the nurturing combination of sun and rain that spring supplies in England. I pick one out of the ground and thank it for doing its part. I then realise I’ve killed it by ripping it mercilessly out of the ground. In my mind I apologise. It feels weird to consider the feelings of a blade of grass in this way, yet also instinctively natural. I release it amongst it’s siblings, knowing they will accept it back and reintegrate it into their numbers.
I turn my attention to the daffodils growing by the water; the three nearest to me. Two are standing proud, swaying in the wind, and the third has fallen over. Did the wind get the better of it? Was the weight of the flower too much for the stalk? Or was it cut down by a malevolent consciousness? Who knows. All that can be said for certain is that it now faces the ground while the other two face the other way, looking out across the water. Occasionally the wind encourages them to look over towards their fallen comrade, but they fight against it, only ever catching a glimpse of the consequences of giving in to the wind.
The fallen daffodil faces the ground; the wind has little effect now. How much did it care about standing proud? Does it prefer this new position, no longer at the mercy of the wind? Despite the stalk being broken it looks healthy. Did it fall recently or is the stalk still capable of supplying what it needs to survive? Is it slowly dying? Can you hear it scream?
Consider the bench. A former tree, cut down in its prime and fashioned by a, no doubt, skilled carpenter into an object of great beauty and practicality. Ok, so this one was probably built by a machine, but it was designed by a person. It was specified as a certain shape, with deliberate embellishments, but with a practical goal. It’s beautiful, and I sit on it and appreciate the time and effort it took to conceive, design, build and install it here.
There are birds chirping all around me, but I only hear them between songs. The small white buds of my headphones blast my usual Spotifyplaylist into my ears. I marvel at the technology involved in making this happen, even the relatively simple concept at work in the ear buds themselves. My iPhone is running an application that connects to a server via radio waves and streams data at a rate fast enough to carry the complex information contained within each second of music, and it does all this on a bench next to a lake surrounded by blades of grass, daffodils and trees. That in itself is pretty darn amazing, and I haven’t even mentioned the mass of technology that makes the whole thing possible from Spotify’s side of the process. Freakin’ incredible!
Since I was a very young child I’ve been fascinated by technology, but only recently have I recognised the intense beauty in the marvels of modern living that we see all around us. Cars, planes, traffic lights, tarmac, concrete, cat’s eyes. Even the lines painted on the roads amaze me. Many thousands of years of effort have gone into creating the world around us; more if you want to be really picky about it. Until recently I never thought about it, but now I do.
And I marvel and gasp and revel in the wonders of the modern age, with respect and amazement and awe at the natural world that coexists. Grass, flowers, trees, water, soil, ducks, squirrels, sun, wind and rain. I look up and I see the occasional cloud hanging in the sky against a perfectly subtle gradient in shades of blue. The sun is falling because the world keeps spinning and the moon is rising too.
And it’s beautiful.
And I appreciate it all.