The Big Moments

Image: 'Disappearing Act,' by Lulu Lovering on Flickr

[Image: “Disappearing Act,” by Lulu Lovering on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!) Apparently this is a self-portrait; the photographer says, “This morning instead of a thunderstorm, it was a very billowy fog that was brushing up against the windows. Even though it was just beginning to be light, I tumbled out of bed and ran around the house trying to find my snuggly parka and tripod and remote. Then I made a quick dash out the back and tried to play it casual for the passing cars as I ran along the road a little ways to the big field where the fog was sitting in clouds on the ground.”]

From whiskey river:

Last Day on Earth

If it’s the title of a movie you expect
everything to become important – a kiss,
a shrug, a glass of wine, a walk with the dog.

But if the day is real, life is only
as significant as yesterday — the kiss
hurried, the shrug forgotten, and now,

on the path by the river, you don’t notice
the sky darkening beyond the pines because
you’re imagining what you’ll say at dinner,

swirling the wine in your glass.
You don’t notice the birds growing silent
or the cold towers of clouds moving in,

because you’re explaining how lovely
and cool it was in the woods. And the dog
had stopped limping! — she seemed

her old self again, sniffing the air and alert,
the way dogs are to whatever we can’t see.
And I was happy, you hear yourself saying,

because it felt as if I’d been allowed
to choose my last day on earth,
and this was the one I chose.

(Lawrence Raab [source])

and:

I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab onto and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I’m about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting.

(Shauna Niequist [source])

and:

Waiting for God

This morning I breathed in. It had rained
early and the sycamore leaves tapped
a few drops that remained, while waving
the air’s memory back and forth
over the lawn and into our open
window. Then I breathed out.

This deliberate day eased
past the calendar and waited. Patiently
the sun instructed the shadows how to move;
it held them, guided their gradual defining.
In the great quiet I carried my life on,
in again, out again.

(William Stafford [source])

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Time, Time, Time, See What’s Become of Me

Image: 'Behind You,' by Tom Waterhouse on Flickr.com

[Image: “Behind You,” by Tom Waterhouse; found it on Flickr, and used here under a Creative Commons license (thank you!). The photographer says that he first saw the stencil of the girl looking over her shoulder, then crouched down and waited about twenty minutes for the shot. He knew he’d recognize it when it came.]

From whiskey river:

Preludes
(excerpt)

II

Two truths approach each other. One comes from within,
one comes from without—and where they meet you have the chance
to catch a look at yourself.
Noticing what is about to happen, you shout desperately: “Stop!
Anything, anything, as long as I don’t have to know myself.”

And there is a boat that wants to put in—tries to, right here—
it will try again thousands of times.
Out of the forest’s dark comes a long boat hook
that’s pushed through the open window
among the party guests who have danced themselves warm.

(Tomas Tranströmer [source])

and:

Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatters… “Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer?… You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless…

But there is more to the present than a series of snapshots. We are not merely sensitized film; we have feelings, a memory for information and an eidetic memory for the imagery of our pasts.

Our layered consciousness is a tiered track for an unmatched assortment of concentrically wound reels. Each one plays out for all of life its dazzle and blur of translucent shadow-pictures; each one hums at every moment its own secret melody in its own unique key. We tune in and out. But moments are not lost. Time out of mind is time nevertheless, cumulative, informing the present. From even the deepest slumber you wake with a jolt — older, closer to death, and wiser, grateful for breath…

But time is the one thing we have been given, and we have been given to time. Time gives us a whirl. We keep waking from a dream we can’t recall, looking around in surprise, and lapsing back, for years on end. All I want to do is stay awake, keep my head up, prop my eyes open, with toothpicks, with trees.

(Annie Dillard [source])

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Atmospherics

'Clam Chowder, Bouillon, & Biscuits,' by Professor Bop on Flickr

[Image: “Clam Chowder, Bouillon, & Biscuits,” by user Professor Bop on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) The building is unidentified, only noted as “in New York City’s Meatpacking District.” (Curious about the user name? The photographer’s profile page cites “Professor Bop,” by Babs Gonzales: “He can do it so can you / Take a song like Auld Lang Syne / Then you add a bebop line / Oop be dop la kloog a mop / Like Professor Bop.”)]

From whiskey river (italicized lines):

Wait for an Autumn Day
(from Ekelöf)

Wait for an autumn day, for a slightly
weary sun, for dusty air,
a pale day’s weather.

Wait for the maple’s rough, brown leaves,
etched like an old man’s hands,
for chestnuts and acorns,

for an evening when you sit in the garden
with a notebook and the bonfire’s smoke contains
the heady taste of ungettable wisdom.

Wait for afternoons shorter than an athlete’s breath,
for a truce among the clouds,
for the silence of trees,

for the moment when you reach absolute peace
and accept the thought that what you’ve lost
is gone for good.

Wait for the moment when you might not
even miss those you loved
who are no more.

Wait for a bright, high day,
for an hour without doubt or pain.
Wait for an autumn day.

(Adam Zagajewski [source])

and (italicized lines):

Halleluiah

Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!

And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.

Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.

(Mary Oliver [source])

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A Moment, a Place, a Story, a World

'Ghost Card,' by Ross Griff on Flickr

[Image: “Ghost Card,” by Ross Griff (user “rossaroni”); found it on Flickr, and used here under a Creative Commons license. For more about the image, see the note at the foot of this post.

From whiskey river:

August

August rushes by like desert rainfall;
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
Expected,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame,
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.

(Elizabeth Maua Taylor [source])

and:

I wanted to ask you about your vision of perfection in an imperfect world, or what side of the earth calls out to you when you touch a physical globe, or maybe about your greatest heartache and how you still go on as your world continues turning, or what you do with a memory once lodged inside your bones that’s still breathing, and burning.

But you’re still a stranger, and I’m overly polite, so I’ll ask all about your day when I’d rather know about your life.

(Victoria Erickson [source])

and:

Cavalleria Rusticana

All the fireflies in the world
are gathered in our yard tonight,
flickering in the shrubs
like an ostentatious display
of Christmas lights out of season.
But the music in the air
is the music of heat, of August—
cicadas scraping out
their thin, harsh treble
like country fiddlers settling in
for a long night. I feel at home
with their relentless tune
minimalist, like the eighties.

Events repeat themselves,
but with a difference that makes all
the difference. As a child,
one summer night in Verona
at my first opera,
I watched a swarm of matches
light up the Roman arena
until we were silent. It was as if
music were a night-blooming flower
that would not open
until we held our breath.
Then the full-blown sound,
the single-minded combat
of passion: voices sharpening
their glittering blades on one another,
electing to live or die.
It was that simple. The story was
of no importance, the motive lost
in the sufficient, breathing dark.
If there was a moon I don’t remember.

(Lisel Mueller [source])

Like the quotations above? All credit, then, to the anonymous (and unknown to me) whiskey river blogger — who served them up this past week, and who has been inspiring me for over ten years. Below, some relevant (?) discoveries of my own, along the same lines. (More info here.)

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Right Here (or There), Right Now (or Then)

Opening title from 'Now and Then, Here and There'

[Image: opening narration/subtitle from the 1999-2000 anime series Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There), critically and commercially very successful — but also but very dark . One site which I consulted about the series highly recommended watching it, but added that you won’t want to watch it a second time.]

From whiskey river:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.

(Natalie Babbitt [source])

and (italicized lines):

Night and the River

I have seen the great feet
leaping
into the river

and I have seen moonlight
milky
along the long muzzle

and I have seen the body
of something
scaled and wonderful

slumped in the sudden fire of its mouth,
and I could not tell
which fit me

more comfortably, the power,
or the powerlessness;
neither would have me

entirely; I was divided,
consumed,
by sympathy,

pity, admiration.
After a while
it was done,

the fish had vanished, the bear
lumped away
to the green shore

and into the trees. And then there was only
this story.
It followed me home

and entered my house—
a difficult guest
with a single tune

which it hums all day and through the night—
slowly or briskly,
it doesn’t matter,

it sounds like a river leaping and falling;
it sounds like a body
falling apart.

(Mary Oliver [source])

and:

One of the saddest realities is most people never know when their lives have reached the summit. Only after it is over and we have some kind of perspective do we realize how good we had it a day, a month, five years ago. The walk together in the December snow, the phone call that changed everything, and that lovely evening in the bar by the Aegean. Back then you thought “this is so nice.” Only later did you realize it was the rarest bliss.

(Jonathan Carroll [unknown source, but quoted all over])

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