What happens in the space between thoughts

Have you ever been startled by an audible but faint noise, or the unexpected movement of an inanimate object? What is going on in your consciousness when this occurs?

The studio is quiet this week, people are hushed and the phones generally aren't ringing. I was drawing, using the computer to copy ethereal digital circles of pale green, when the roll of yellow tracing paper sitting on my desk slowly unfurled in my peripheral vision. It made a tiny noise, a kind of scratchy wheezing as the edge of the trace was drawn across a piece of creased bond paper on my desk.

It happened in one of those fleeting micro-moments of sudden stillness, and due to the meditative nature of the drawing exercise I was immersed in this strangely drawn-out, tiny, sudden movement startled me. This was a personal moment, a tiny sliver of time of about three seconds, and yet I felt my perception suddenly shift as if the floor had dropped out beneath my feet.

Call me odd for saying so, but I like that sensation. It is the diametric opposite of being in control, and I only ever experience it when I am relaxed. I don't think the insignificance of the experience (for it is certainly insignificant) disqualifies it from consideration. It is a cliché to say that life is made up of such moments, but it remains true nonetheless: just hanging around and being is quite a rich experience, if we can tune our senses to its subtleties.

Of course, most of the time I, and I imagine you, are far too busy to smell such invisible roses. While we are on that topic, and speaking of clichés, have you ever stopped to smell the roses? It has become something of a superstition that I must do this whenever a rose presents itself. It’s true: I really do. This obsessive little habit has rules, though – cut roses do not invoke the reaction, and going to a rose-garden would also not satisfy the conditions of the act, as it would be far too obvious. However, if I am on site, or wandering out in the world, and I unexpectedly come across a rosebush, I almost always stop to smell it.

I attribute this to the notion that much of my inner life is lived in language, and a phrase ‘stop and smell the roses’ is something of a provocation or challenge, as well as being a well-worn cliché. I experience a tiny moment of reflective pleasure when I am able to make physical and real a concept with a meaning so debased and diluted that it scarcely conjures the image of a real rose when said aloud. It is as if the act strips the phrase of its cliché, if only for a moment – and the words are recharged with descriptive power. Don’t you think that is fascinating? In a similar vein, there have been days when I have left a lunch appointment and said ‘back to the drawing board’, and meant it quite literally.

Like most of the things that fascinate me, I have no idea what this means. Yet still, I like it.