There’s a hide not far from the canal – private land being developed as a mini nature reserve, with tree planting and a small pond. We regularly see badgers, foxes, rabbits, buzzards and garden birds there, having permission to visit as we please! The badgers are the main attraction, because they generally aren’t easy to spot other places. However, the hide owners tend to put down peanuts to attract them. Last night, there were no nuts. A lone badger of the dozen or so from the set came round to check, and that was the end of the matter. Still, seeing one badger is a joy, and we also had an encounter with a huge, unidentified moth.
We were just getting up to leave when Tom spotted lights amongst the trees. We all saw them – a cluster of small lights that could only be seen from one angle, and that all went off at once. It was nearly dark by then. The nature area does not adjoin any gardens, ruling out fairy lights, solar lights, anything gardenish – there’s a thick hedge and a grass walkway and another hedge between what we could see and the nearest garden.
There were glow bugs in the area, but we haven’t seen any in weeks now. There is a guy who studies moths, we pondered moth traps. Much work went in to looking for a perfectly rational explanation for what all three of us had seen. Increasingly aware that none of us were entirely at ease with the rational explanations, I eventually got round to saying ‘could have been fairies.’
It’s an interesting one for me. I’m a druid and a pagan, I believe in the idea of magic and otherworldliness, but at the same time I pride myself on being a rationally minded creature, willing to consider the evidence as dispassionately as I can. I’ll always look for the banal explanation first, rather than seeing everything in terms of gods, hobgoblins, aliens, Atlanteans etc etc. But there are times when the sense of wonder, the feeling of encountering something numinous is too strong for the rational explanation.
The last time this happened to me I was in Portland with Tom, and we both saw a tiny little whirlwind spinning leaves around. It was so small, so localised, the rest of the air so still that whatever the logical explanation might have been, the sense of seeing something otherworldly was powerful indeed.
Often it’s about the language we use. Thunder and earthquakes have perfectly sensible explanations, we know what they are, and yet at the same time the power of them, and other regular, natural and universally recognised phenomena is breathtaking. Spirit and science do not need to be at odds here. It may be tempting to call things we don’t understand ‘magic’ but there’s no reason not to recognise the known as magical, too. That first rainfall after days of dry heat. A full moon haloed by mist. There’s no reason for the experience of magic to be irrational.
We saw something last night. We don’t know what it was. Any speculation is just that, no version any more evidenced than any other, despite our best efforts. Of course I want to know what I saw, but for me, that knowledge would in no way reduce the feeling of wonder, awe and delight that the moment inspired.