This is a strange topic for me to talk about, because it's something I have specifically avoided mentioning in my daily life. The main reason for this is that generally, although I suspect people have similar experiences, they are one of the topics which are generally considered too odd for normal conversation. An effect which is only amplified by the presence of so many staunch rationalists among my friends.
With those irksome friends in mind, I thought I'd start with a brief disclaimer to try and clarify my position. You see, I would perhaps choose to describe all of these as stories, which I tell myself in an attempt to make my day to day world a little more interesting. That, with my mind refusing to lay quiet for almost any minute of the day, having little special moments to fill that time with is a pleasant distraction, it helps make life a little richer.
Of course, that's a very bland description, that these are 'just fun stories I tell myself'. So I should also say that, while I like to think about seeing angels, just occasionally I'll be feeling a bit disconnected and one will come upon me unexpectedly. Those experiences are something else, a way of tapping in to the world more deeply than I know how to otherwise. I still don't know that I would say they are outside my own head, but the area they reach within me is more brilliant and fragile than any I have found by other means.
I've been trying to think which is the best example of the magical moments in life. I think my current favourite, moments when time seems to stop, is the most easily understood.
The first time this happened I was in Japan. As me and a friend walked a butterfly flew into the space between us and, just for a moment, matched our speed. It seemed as though it was frozen there and, just that little thing, made all the usual laws seem fractured and limited. This creature, which ought, by everything I knew, to be in constant motion, no longer was. It seemed to mock the natural flow of the world and by doing so offered a window into something more. I think the experience, because it was shared, had an added significance (though we've never spoken about it, I'm sure his interpretation doesn't reflect mine).
I hunt these experiences now though, searching them out. There is a particular place to stand at my work which, as well as being near to the coffee machine, also yields these moments. Great gusts sweeping between the building and the one opposite mean that occasionally birds get caught there, held still by the wind so they fail to advance.
I like these because they are so unexpected. A strange wind whipping the rain upwards then letting it hang there, as though suspended, just for a second. They come upon me in times and ways where I couldn't expect them, and as a result I think they touch me all the more.
Another phenomenon I look for is what I refer to as the golden path. It happened to me first when I was still a student, probably nineteen, and I was walking back home, laden from the supermarket. Looking up from the street for just a moment I found the entire thing was shining gold. That the sun had hit just the right point that everything, from the tarmac to the parked cars was resplendent in its light. I can't explain how strongly that hit me, I actually put my shopping down and just stared. It didn't make sense to me that others weren't doing the same. I could feel that this was some sort of pathway to heaven. Only, not a Christian heaven necessarily, just somewhere perfect and shining and bright. I almost walked down that way I think, but then I decided I wanted to live my life first and, blinking, I picked up my shopping and headed home.
I still see echoes of the golden path occasionally, when the sun catches the city just right, turning a rooftop into something celestial for just a few moments. It's never quite the same though, there's never that feeling that I could go that way. It's still special though, I still take it as something of an honoured sign.
I suppose that leads nicely onto angels. I have no idea when I first started seeing angels and, again, that is just a word for something filled with warmth and protection, something that feels, to me, older than any biblical sense of the word.
Angels appear most often when there is a street light near a tree. Where the branches of the tree reflect the patterns of light in such a way that they form a series of circles around it, there you can see them most easily. Really though, that's too restrictive a description. Anywhere you can see a light defined as the patterns of reflection around them, there's an angel sitting there.
I can't explain how I experience these in the way I do. Pointing them out to anyone else they might seem pretty or even a little mesmerising, but when I see them (and more than ever, when I'm surprised by one) they have sense of warmth, of the encompassing nature of the light which comforts me.
I think I'll finish with the unchanging road, which is a different beast altogether. It is a single, fairly small, road in Edinburgh which seems to me to have never changed. In my years here, even when little things have been removed from it, similar replacements have appeared nearby.
This is probably the one which sounds the least mystical, the most like just a story I enjoy telling myself and, I suppose in a way that's true. There's something else though, when I'm walking through this place, it seems eerie and filled with a strangeness, as though the whole road is watching me as I walk through it. I enjoy trips through there, it brings a taste of something more to what may have otherwise been a fairly drab day.
So, I suppose I should finish by trying to explain again why I hunt these out, why I enjoy these, frankly strange, experiences. Honestly, it adds a weight to the world which sometimes feels missing. Each time I experience one of them I have to re-situate myself, re-acclimatising to the city streets as places which now contain just a little more wonder and doubt. Wherever they originate from, whatever odd little corner of my brain they activate, I can't help but feel like I enjoy having those feelings be just a little more tangible.
My only real worry about writing about these things, is that somehow by farming them out for others to see they are going to mean less to me. Possibly that is another reason why I've kept them secret all these years. Seeing them there on the page though, I don't think that's true, I don't even see how that's possible.