Perhaps you remember being a child, or perhaps you have recently had a chance to talk with a young child. The second doesn't apply to me, and as to the first, it is easy to edit memories long after the fact. The strange mixture of perception and reasoning of a young child is hard to grasp, decades after the fact.
Except for this: today I was looking at a creek in the declining, low-angled sunlight of a Montana afternoon in November, and I saw the twisting, serpentine flow of light along the bottom of the creek. These are merely the byproducts of how light reflects and refracts when it hits the wavelets and troughs of the future, and something that might normally be below our attention. But a fragment of my consciousness considered, or perhaps recollected, what that would look like to a child: an entity, twisting and squirming, something alive on the bottom of the stream, something that could be grasped. Children will soon enough learn this is not the case, unlike the great poet Li Bo, who only learned that lesson with his death. Its one of those things, like the fact that the the moon does not actually follow your car, that come from our earliest consciousness, a thing that it is hard to recapture.
Lately, my consciousness has been drifting in a way that is hard to describe. But these shifting lines of light on the bottom of the pool, so easily animated in the mind to some type of snakes, provide a good example. As an adult, I know that the snakes of light are not "real". But seeing the dead, tan leaves drifting in clumps through the water, I started to realize if they were "real". The reflection of light coming through the water is a "real" thing, it can be measured and explained. What isn't real is the idea that it is an integral entity, moving with animation and purpose. We can not pick it up. We can pick up a leaf, we can measure it and explain it. But just like the light on the bottom of the stream, it is a temporary amalgamation of phenomenon. For me, looking at the world is starting to look like looking at a child's version of the world, with faces and things and purposes everywhere, and realizing that they aren't "real".
All of this is in Buddhism 101. I have known of this before. As a theory, I accept it. But what is different now is that instead of being something that I would have to concentrate on to realize (the leaf is made of molecules that will decay through oxidation over the coming months, the structure of the leaf will be carbon dioxide in the air by next year, etc...) this view of objects around me being just as transient as a shimmering of light and shadow is something that is assailing me. As a primary way of looking at reality, it does require some adjustment. Earlier this year, I experienced a period of derealization and I reported that it was in no way positive or instructive. My current state somewhat resembles that, but since I am in positive circumstances, I think that I am undergoing a constructive, instead of destructive, period of derealization. I doubt that all of my fixed concepts of permanent objects and measurable forces will be erased as quickly as a child learns the earth isn't flat and their parents have parents too. A few weeks from now I will probably look back at this and wonder what I was going on about. But: I am certainly going to learn what I can from my newfound perceptions, while I can.