I steal an hour beside my garden table; hard wooden upright chair and book, watching sparrows to-and-fro from the dense forest of hedge to my left; that which I have named Leylandii Hotel. Some have their bath-towels slung over one wing as they head for the bird-bath, some are involved in passionate discussion, others have beaks stuffed with detritus to embellish their comfortable beds. Everything with wings is engaged in breeding – the pleading of hungry children punctuates the silence warmly; an almost-melody only broken by paranoid blackbird fury. He loudly insists the entire garden is his. I’m sure the sparrows tease him mercilessly: in their place I know I would.
A tiny fly, a fraction of an inch in length, settles upon the table and I half-notice it, absorbed as I am in my reading. At taxiing speed it heads purposefully towards the table edge. It clearly has a mission; a plan. It does not stop, or even pause, until it senses it has my attention. Then it freezes, ready, I suppose, to fly. Yet it does not.
Rightly, it does not.
In its tiny head is a clear objective, for one moment set aside. Yet the look that has startled holds no malice – does it know? A few seconds of wariness then it crawls on, leaving me, admiring, in its past. It reaches the table edge and is gone.
Immaculacy. No other word could describe that slender thorax of iridescent blue, wings of powder-fine lace, the minute white dots behind those tiny cellular eyes or the sinuous dance of its feeling hands – fibre-thin antennae so fine as to be scarcely visible, but sentient nonetheless. So neat, so faultless that I cannot help but marvel at the natural god whose creation this is.
I am struck dumb sometimes by the slow intelligence of those who claim to understand the relationship that exists between time and size in this great universe, who seem to dismiss the brevity of a tiny life as of no importance. Do we imagine this miniscule miracle of nature perceives its life to be any shorter than our own? Do we think it sees its span to be a mere moment, or a full and rich lifetime? In that same scale, how short are our own lives, and how much slower is the rhythm of the planets, the movement of the stars?
Within a head little more than microscopic to my eyes there lives a brain no greater or lesser than my own: a mind capable of decision and scheme, aware of danger, equipped for its defence. To say it is no more than a basic life-form, that it is there merely to breed and then die, is to acknowledge a state not dissimilar to my own: for what else, when all’s said and done, is our function? Yet I would not accept that as a full assessment of my life and its worth; and no more should I dismiss the life of that small creature. For inside its head I am sure it worries, and thinks, and dreams just as I do. The secrets of the earth and the keys to the universe may lie within that little brain.
And so it is, in that much greater mind above us, with the stars.