Our moments are what we make them, how we choose not only to use them, but to view them and think about them.
Even though they connect to form a life– especially because they connect to form a life– the singular nature of a moment is important, because it means that no matter the moment before, and no matter the moment to come, this moment is still its own, and therefore has unlimited potential.
I have been contemplating my purpose, value, effectiveness, legacy, and potential. I have been contemplating my life, and have realize that, in effect, I have been contemplating my moments: moments recognized and moments lost.
It is never too late, nor too early, to make all moments matter.
Last weekend, my husband and I visited the Morris Arboretum, mostly because we had other business to do in Chestnut Hill and didn’t want to make the drive to only be there to run errands. We had visited once before, for a wedding (which was beautiful, of course), but didn’t see much of the grounds. This was our first real visit to explore and enjoy and experience what the sanctuary has to offer.
I use the word sanctuary because it felt like that to me. Don’t get me wrong, of course I pretended I was the Queen of Highgarden while strolling through the carefully designed gardens, pretending my life was a medley of beautiful dresses, carefully prepared feasts, audiences with highborn nobles, and clever chatter with my ladies in waiting. Of course. No nerd can walk through gardens like that and pretend anything otherwise.
But as we left the orchestrated beauty of the gardens and found ourselves in a forested area, on an unpaved path, walking downhill towards a wetland area filled with bullfrogs and turtles and what felt like every insect in Pennsylvania, the desire to make-believe fled as I was filled with a sense of harmony, completeness, and joy. I was stunned into silence by the music of organic life and earth around me, harmonizing into a chorus of complexity and completeness. Every living thing in that wetland had its place, its role, its purpose. Every living thing belonged there, and was placed there for a reason, to play its role in creating the natural music of life on earth.
Experiencing nature in such a way provides me with moments of peace and clarity, and fills me with a sense of belonging and intimacy. Just as all these insects, trees, grasses and wildlife belong, just as they each hold a place of vital importance in the harmony of the world, so do I. I am connected to each one of them, to each one of you, to every other thing in this world, in a web of love, need, solidarity, purpose, and life. Without my part in the chorus, the harmony would be missing a beautiful piece created just for me by God, that only I can perform.
We all have this role to play in the harmony of the world. We all must work to harmonize with each other, with the Earth, with those who agree with us and who disagree with us, with our loved ones and our adversaries. This living harmony is the fabric of the world, and its beauty depends on us: our thoughts, our words, our actions– our moments, each an every one of them.
When I was a kid, we lived in a twin home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Our next door neighbors were a young couple named Mike and Laura. Now, I recognize them as a young, newly married couple. To my six-year-old-self of 1994, they were grown-ups. Nice grown-ups, but still grown-ups.
I remember that Laura loved frogs, and had little stone frog statues all over her yard. Whenever she would come outside I would run into their half of the yard and count them, and ask her if I was right, and ask her if she had frogs inside her house too. One day she invited me inside, and I ran through their house, counting frogs. When my mom realized where I was, she told me it was fine to talk to Mike and Laura, but not to become a nuisance. I couldn’t see how I was possibly being a nuisance. Mike and Laura were my friends. Mike and Laura thought I was fun. Mike and Laura loved hanging out with me.
Twenty-some years later, and I stand in my own yard, with my own husband, talking to the three kids next door. They’re sweet kids. They’re also kind of obsessed with our dog. (Though with a face like hers, who wouldn’t be obsessed with our dog?)
Every time she is outside in our backyard they yell from their trampoline, “Hi Colette!” and ask to give her treats, pet her through the fence, and throw a ball to her. It doesn’t bother me. I like that they like her, that they’re comfortable talking to us, and that my dog gets loving attention from some very nice kids.
But what I realized, with a frightening start yesterday as I made dinner, listening to the kids play with Colette in the backyard with my husband, was that I have become Laura. Without even realizing it, I have grown from that seven-year old kid counting frogs and bothering my grown-up, newlywed neighbors to the newlywed neighbor of three kids who just wanted to play with their grown-up neighbors’ puppy.
I am the grown-up neighbor. We are Mike and Laura.
It’s funny how we don’t notice it happening. I know that we do, in a sense, but it happens so slowly, we don’t realize what’s happening until one day it hits that we’re not growing up anymore, but we’re grown. And we realize, then, as grown, adult people, what myths we held about adults before. The world we understand grows with us; always, we fit and understand just enough world to make us feel small and insignificant. As a child, the world felt so big, but as an adult, I realize how much bigger it really is. What will I learn in the next thirty years? Will my world grow yet again to be twice as big as I know it to be now? Will my perception of what it means to be sixty change from what it is now? I don’t doubt it. I hope it does.
We talk about the wonder of children, and the loss of it as adults. I disagree. I am still filled with wonder as an adult. My wonder is different, now, though, as I see the world and the people in it from a different perspective.