Wyrdsmiths – Wyrd examples

Examples of everyday wyrdness are not hard to find – we all know of ‘coincidences’ and happy incidents of serendipity that have made a real difference in our lives. The hard part is in recognising them before they happen, so that we can make the best use of them when they arrive! There are plenty of historical examples of wyrd in action, changing the course of history in some weird way. Yet it’s also easy enough to find our own examples of ‘everyday wyrdness’ – though we may need a slightly weird point of view to see them! To get you started, here are a couple of published examples. The first is from Tom Graves’ book Positively Wyrd:

I’d arranged to go on a long-weekend camping trip with a friend: we’d planned to go down the coast, but at the last minute we changed our minds, and went inland instead. Odd: both of us had the same disturbing dream in our tents that night, the same fear echoed… Weird, perhaps, but by now we’d become used to that.
Heading back to the city the following day, on a rough strip of road it seems for a moment like the steering has gone on the car: suddenly swaying from side to side, for no apparent cause. Definitely strange: but a few long seconds later it stops, so we stop worrying.

We’re heading towards the city on the usual route; for no particular reason we change our minds, and decide to come in on the longer northern route. That’s odd: I’d have thought we’d have been able to see the city lights from here. And the traffic lights are out too. Strange. Doesn’t matter, though.

So we go home. Odd… everything here seems quiet, yet strangely breathless… phone doesn’t work, either…

And it’s not until an hour later that someone tells us what’s happened. The date is October 17th, 1989; the city is San Francisco. The biggest earthquake here for decades. So that’s what we’d felt on the road, then – well over a hundred miles away. But that’s also what those dreams had been about; if we’d gone to the coast, as planned, we’d have been exactly at the epicentre when it struck; and with roads and bridges collapsed and debris everywhere else, the route home we’d casually chosen ‘on the spur of the moment’ had in fact been the only one possible. And yet we hadn’t consciously known a thing.

‘Precognitive recovery’, one friend calls it – the art of not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Weird… definitely weird…

The second example is from Bill Bryson’s travelogue / autobiography Notes From a Small Island (Black Swan, 1996):

Among the five hundred or so patients at the sanatorium was a remarkable idiot savant named Harry. Harry had the mind of a small, preoccupied child, but you could name any date, present or future, and he would instantly tell you what day of the week it was. We used to test him on a perpetual calendar and he was never wrong. You could ask him the date of the third Sunday of December 1935 or the second Wednesday of July 2017 and he would tell you faster than any computer could. Even more extraordinary, though it merely seemed tiresome at the time, was that several times a day he would approach members of the staff and ask them in a strange, bleating voice if the hospital was going to close in 1980. According to his copious medical notes, he had been obsessed with this question since his arrival as a young man in about 1950. The thing is, Holloway was a big, important institution, and there were never any plans to close it. Indeed there were none right up until the stormy night in early 1980 when Harry was put to bed in a state of uncharacteristic agitation – he had been asking his question with increasing persistence for several weeks – and a bolt of lightning struck a back gable, causing a devastating fire that swept through the attics and several of the wards, rendering the entire structure suddenly uninhabitable.

It would make an even better story if poor Harry had been strapped to his bed and perished in the blaze. Unfortunately for the purposes of exciting narrative all the patients were safely evacuated into the stormy night, though I like to imagine Harry with his lips contorted in a rapturous smile as he stood on the lawn, a blanket round his shoulders, his face lit up by the dancing flames, and watched the conflagration that he had so patiently awaited for thirty years.

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