“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.”—Osho
“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”–Thich Nhat Hanh
“Mrs. Hill, why did you only record a part of our dance? You cut it off!”
Maanasa was laughing as she looked at me from around her computer screen. Her bright eyes flickered earnestly. She had been reading about the Tri-State India Association Diwali celebration of which she had been a part, and about which I had most recently written.
“I know I only videoed part of it,” I answered and returned to grading papers.
It was lunchtime, and my classroom had become a study hall for those who would rather study, read, and/or begin homework than go to lunch/recess. Usually, during this time of day, my classroom is fairly quiet with only the crinkling of food wrappers, the clickety-clicks of computer keyboards, the crunching sounds of food being chewed, and the whispers of students conferring over work. However, this was the last day before Thanksgiving break, there were very few students in my room, and no one was pressed with much homework. Therefore, I had no problem with the on-going conversation.
Maanasa, who had been part of the TSIA celebration, was showing a few of her friends my blog, with special emphasis on her images and dance piece. She had already spent time correcting spellings of names, which I appreciated; however, she was still in her teasing-critique mode when she lightheartedly made the comment about cutting short the video of her.
“But, there was more!”
“I know. I cut off all the video recordings after a minute if you would take time to notice other dances that don’t involve you,” I teased back.
“Why?” she queried with a hint of playful indignation.
“Because, if I spent the entire song filming you, or any of the other dances, then I would not have been present in the moment. I cannot enjoy and remember what I am seeing when I am focused on making a video—a video that wasn’t all that great anyway because I was too far from the stage. While I wanted to record the event, I also wanted to savor the experience too.”
Maanasa tilted her head from side-to-side, as if truly contemplating my words, then emphatically stated, “Oh, okay then.”
She giggled and resumed talking to her friends as she explained Diwali to them, continuing to show them pictures from my blog.
I’m not sure what possessed me to explain my present-moment-philosophy to Maanasa, but it was the truth. While I enjoy looking at photographs of past events, I am often terrible about remembering to take pictures unless I am doing it as part of a piece I am writing; and even then, my husband, John, usually has to remind me to take pictures as I often get lost in the moment. That is not to say, I do not future-think or past-dwell; believe me, I do, but during certain moments, especially those deemed, “special,” I often try to soak in all the goodness as if basking in the sun, rather than use my phone to snap pictures.
Likewise, I am often similarly guilty of doing the same thing with social media. I have friends, and even family, who assume I know something about them because they posted it on a social media site. When I confess that I have not seen their recent post, I feel both guilty and simultaneously selfish because they have seen that I have posted about something to promote my blog, yoga class, or students without taking time to look at their posts. Then, I feel compelled to hop on social media and troll all the family and friends I have neglected, but then, I find, I am neglecting the conversation/event going on around me at the time.
It is a vicious cycle it seems to me, balancing the right here, right now moment, with staying connected to the world around me. I observe friends and family who appear to have the ability to successfully sit in social situations holding their phone as they appear to seamlessly navigate what is going on around them with what is occurring on their favorite media outlet. In fact, I often feel inadequate that I cannot do that. Therefore, I try to be savvier like them, only to find I can neither fully focus on what is occurring around me, nor absorb what is occurring on the screen in front of me.
Even before the advent of cell phones (Yes, there was life before then!), I can recall events that I probably should have photographed or videotaped, but did not. There were the routine moments, such as changing my daughter, Madelyn’s, diaper—the way her little arms and legs kicked as she would tried to vocalize along to the songs I sang to her.
Then, there were those silly life moments, such as the “naked baby game,” as John and I affectionately called it. This was the time period when Maddie was a newly walking toddler, and I would bathe her. Then, once out of the bathtub, John would be waiting at one end of the hall outside the bathroom with a fuzzy towel. As I attempted to dry her with another towel, Maddie would “escape” and run stark naked from me to John as he wrapped her up in a big ol’ towel hug. She would then giggle, wriggle, and writhe her “escape” from him and run back to me. Her antics continued as she ran between the two of us giggling with that infectious toddler hilarity that is only present for a short number of months.
There are special moments, even further back, such as the night when I first met John . . .his smile, the way in which he talked to me as if I truly mattered . . .the yellow of his shirt, the way his sleeves were rolled up slightly . . . the sparkle in his eyes . . .
And still, there are older, precious memories with grandparents . . .drinking Tang from a green plastic cup with my Mamaw as we sat and watched the Rockford Files—her big belly laugh so good and pure. The long fingers of my Papaw proudly wearing the green Ohio University sweatshirt for which I had saved money to buy him as he grabbed my hands, looked straight into my eyes with his ever twinkling, devilment look, as he said, “Now talk without those.” The strong, swollen, sure hands of my Grandmother . . .gripping my own hands tightly, not wanting me to leave her because she would miss me . . .”Stethie, your ol’ Grandmother loves you, you know that . . .”
Even earlier . . .the scent of my mom’s Estee Lauder perfume lingering in the air as I followed her around the kitchen, telling her about my day’s events as she let me help (perhaps hinder) her with dinner and laundry . . .the scent of my Dad’s freshly laundered shirt as a I snuggled closer to him on the couch as he read the Christmas story to my siblings and me on Christmas Eve . . .the good baby scent of each and every one of my siblings as each shared a room with me when they were first born. . .their cooing, calling, or even crying sounds when they woke during night . . the light paddings of my Mom’s feet coming into the room to check on them . . .the warmth of their bodies beside me as I read to them at night . . .the emotional energy of our sibling rivalry and disagreements. . .
Window fans and summer nights
Fireflies flicker through curtain sheers
Sliver of light under closed bedroom door
Whispers and crickets
Backdrop to sleep
Earth scented walks
Carpeted with leaves
Red chapped cheeks and hands
Plaid purple jacket with hood
Winds a’blowin up good
Icy street, slip sliding along
“Hop on the Bus, Gus”
Is our favorite go-to-school song
Pungent aroma of spirea
Scenting signs of spring
Phlox creeping purple ‘round
My favorite hill rock sitting spot
Looking in window
Yearning to touch the past
Present moment is here
Better hold on it while it lasts
I am not sure that I will ever be able to successfully navigate between the cyber world and the life occurring around me. Maybe it is because I was born of another time, but given so many others my age, and older, successfully slide between the two worlds; it must be a personal flaw. Nonetheless, my thoughts serve as a personal reminder to me, that memories matter, they have real weight and texture; and when one is truly present, more moments are added to the memory quilt of a life.
May this holiday season serve as a reminder that while it is valuable to photograph special moments, it is just as worthwhile to sit back, savor the sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes of the day, before the moment slips silently through time, never to occur exactly the same way again.