Every now and then, something reminds us of the vast extent of riches that surround our lives. A few weeks ago I was walking along a bridge over the Thames when I found myself standing two feet from a peregrine falcon. It flew down and perched on the railings of the bridge, looking at us slightly haughtily. As a group gathered in awe, and in acknowledgement of this bird’s undeniable class, the surrounding pigeons and seagulls seemed suddenly insignificant by comparison. Although fairly similar to a crow in size, a falcon exudes what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins referred to in his poem ‘The Windhover’ as, ‘the mastery of the thing!’ Falcons are birds which have inspired ecstatic poetry and it’s easy to see why.
Quite possibly I was more excited to see it than the people around me. After a recent conversation with one of our speakers – an expert on all things of the animal kingdom – I became slightly obsessed with peregrine falcons. One brief chat led me to a happy spree of watching clips of falcons and learning all sorts of facts about them. Aside from a couple of pub-quiz worthy snippets (when diving, they are the fastest member of the animal kingdom, reaching speeds of up to 200mph), there are also some phenomenal videos of them. A particularly impressive one is of a fearless female falcon defending her territory and her chicks against some very unfortunate pelicans and a slightly more menacing snake. In some ways it's chilling, but well worth a watch if you have two minutes.
This experience made me think, how often in our adult lives do enough of us take the time to learn something new and positive, whether that be going to an exhibition, trying a new skill or just looking up at the buildings and places around us and allowing our minds to be curious? Some people are very good at doing this, but so many of us, myself included, find it all too easy to exist within the boundaries of the worlds we have created for ourselves – it often feels like too much of an effort to be curious. The more mental resources we have to draw upon, the more we allow our brains to forge new links which improve our understanding of the world around us.
We try not to neglect our physical health, so let’s not ignore that buzz we get when we know the answer to a quiz question, or when we’ve just discovered something new and interesting. It’s the feeling I got when I saw the peregrine falcon and I was able to identify it to myself when I overheard others asking each other what it was. It’s exciting and rewarding, and more of us deserve to be experiencing how it feels to learn and discover more.