There are times when an absolute treat just sneaks up on you.
On Sunday morning, I was heading back from a birthday party, having stayed up far too late. Stumbling zombie-like out of the bus at Aldwych, I then waited an age for the next one, and in the end decided that, zonked though I was, it might be quicker to walk across Waterloo Bridge and get the train home. Muttering imprecations on Transport for London under my breath, I trudged along the Strand, past Somerset House, and turned left onto the bridgefoot. I was completely zoned out and staring down at the pavement, but then looked up to notice the Thames, as calm as a shallow puddle, with the beginnings of a smoggy sunrise filling the sky above and water below.
Moments later, the sun peeped over the horizon, overwhelming the pastel colours and washing out all those atmospheric silhouettes. No one else was around: the bridge was deserted. I stopped and realised that I had this all to myself. It was magnificent.
It’s not the first time I’ve enjoyed a moment like this. Here’s another one: same river, similar time of day, different bridge, different year, different sky, same feeling of awed privilege.
It’s not all rivers and sunrises, though. Here are another two photos that connect with each other, in an odd way that I hadn’t realised until I thought, just now, of posting the first one. This was taken in Lillie Road Recreation Ground, where (I think) some kind of caterpillar had encased a thorn bush in gossamer silk:
And this was taken near my uncle’s house in Sweden, where caterpillars had encased an entire tree in the same way, stripping it bare of foliage in the time it had taken us to ride on the tram to the seaside and back. (Sadly my camera didn’t quite do justice to the extraordinary sight of a tree wrapped in silk).
Noticing moments like these correlates pretty closely with my mental state. If I am preoccupied, worried or stressed, I rarely seem to notice. If I am feeling relaxed, I seem to be more open to serendipitous observation.
And the nice thing about serendipity, compared to anticipated pleasures, is that it always more than lives up to expectations.