The morning light in the brook could have been scraped off a Bierstadt canvas. Ribbons of sunlight filtered through the arms of the tall pines. The shafts cut through the mist rising from the cool, dense forest air as it collided with the warmth of the spring morning. A gauzy curtain formed just over the roiling brook, which was in a stupendous lather of crashing white water set loose after winter’s final thaw.
Even after a string of 60-degree days, much of the trail was still coated with slick patches of ice and snow pack. I didn’t venture very far along my walk, but I didn’t need to. The light arrested me, made me root myself to the spongey, muddy earth carpeted in pine needles and leaves. I stood at the edge of the water trying not to breathe too loudly, afraid it would disappear like a half-hearted promise. My thoughts jogged along to the current: if I had waited twenty minutes longer to take this walk, if I had decided not to take this walk at all, if I had bypassed the trail and kept walking along the road, this moment would have missed me.
What massive machinery must exist to jigger with time and space and will and intention to maneuver a common anybody like me right to this exact spot, standing in Nature’s cathedral, witnessing this light and soul show.
We all know how to catalogue and note the BIG MOMENTS—the first time, the last time; when the call came about the Pulitzer; when the call came about the diagnosis; the “yes” to the rest of your lives; the instant the baby came into view; the decision to get sober; the second when freedom rushed in. It’s not just about the experience, it’s also about the awe that this moment exists at all. It’s the recognition of the Universe’s precision to render things just so that sucks the oxygen from our lungs, that makes us take a knee, that pricks our eyes with tears.
“Every day is a gift,” “every moment is precious.” Eye. Roll. Those seem to be the sentiments we trot out when the dark clouds are well over the horizon, when we are standing comfortably at a distance from someone else’s pain and tragedy and hardship. It’s like throwing salt over your shoulder, a bit of juju magic against the bad shit. But I see that those statements are really about honoring what arises and gives itself up to us at any given time every single day. The ordinary moments—the feeling of breath in your lungs, the sun on your skin, the hard conversation, the hilarious text exchange– don’t get the same “Dear Diary” treatment as those big ones, but they deserve it. These moments are for you, gifts for you to unwrap over and over again.
The light shifted in the woods, honoring its ancient rhythm of flight from east to west. The moment receded making room for a new moment to take shape. I waited, alert, ready to catch it.