Almost nothing in the body works in the way we perceive that it works. What we experience as a simple reaction – smell, touch, warmth – is a complex set of sensory, muscular and neural activity, so efficient and smooth that we can walk into a room and say, “Those lilies smell fantastic,” without it feeling like any sort of a big deal. Which is brilliant.
But I sometimes like it better when things don’t quite go to plan. For example: seeing something is a process of the eye transmitting the image to the brain, which then, essentially, flicks through its filing cabinets to see what the new image matches. Once it finds the match, it confirms it in your consciousness (if you hadn’t already realised, I’m no neurologist) and you know what you’re looking at.
Occasionally, this system has a little failure. Have you ever come downstairs in the morning and seen a dead rat on the floor, only to realise a moment later that it’s actually a dropped sock? That’s the brain thinking it found a match, when it didn’t, quite.
One cold morning last week, my brain got itself confused. On the way out through the garden, it spotted this
and thought, for a second, that it was looking at some beautiful purple ground-cover plants spreading happily behind the lavender.
Closer inspection showed that these plants – which hadn’t been there the day before – were in fact a trick of light on frost on freshly-dug earth.
Which was equally lovely. Twice the pleasure, in fact.
(Alan had dug over the flower bed. I really feel I can’t imply any responsibility for gardening, apart from driving to the garden centre and pointing and saying ‘ooh’.)