Nature provides the best moments. Just before the sun rises at the beach, the night sky and stars continue to fill the sky. The sand is cool and the waves lap on the shore. The moment before the sun breaks the horizon, the sky with all its stars transforms instantaneously into a soft blue, gray that fills every part of the sky. Nature provides this show every morning for those people willing to wake up early, but the reward and the solitude make the event worth the inconvenience.
People provide genuine moments in common places at common times. An inexperienced American is travelling in China with his Chinese girlfriend on the sleeper train; the bunks are stacked four high with a small aisle to move people and bags through the train. A Chinese mother catches the American’s attention and passes down her child from a top bunk with a trusting smile. The child calmly accepts the situation as his mother collects their bags to depart the train. This moment illustrates trust and our mutual experience as people in the world despite physical, linguistic, and cultural boundaries.
Animals provide moments to those willing to slow down long enough to take notice. Pets don’t apply in this case, because pets have been domesticated and adapted to life with people. Wild animals act of their own accord and retain an unpredictability to their behavior. During a weekday visit to the Washington D.C. zoo, a female cheetah behaved like a pet in the big cat exhibit. Cheetahs can move silently. The zoo was empty; it was a school day and everyone else was at work. The enclosure appeared empty as the animals were all napping for the afternoon. The cheetah appeared at the edge of the fence sitting on her haunches, same as any house cat. She didn’t turn her head to look at the person standing still, two feet away, on the other side of the fence. The cheetah wasn’t large, but exuded power, grace, and majesty. The cheetah slowly walked away as I lifted my camera for a photo, as to say, “Keep this experience in your head and your heart, but don’t reduce our meeting to a photo for other people.”
Moments represent small, significant chunks of time. Major life events do not equal moments, because they involve premeditation and expectation. Moments appear and disappear like a beautiful ghost. The ghost always leaves a feeling or impression behind. The magic of our natural world gives moments in predictable cycles. People display the best features of humanity for brief moments of time. At times, wild animals stop to recognize a kindred spirit in our humanity and take notice. Time behaves differently during moments, usually slowing down or coming to a stop. A great artist has the talent to record moments for others with the time and patience to translate the artist’s experience into the viewer’s/listener’s consciousness.
Chasing moments involve placing oneself in a time and place where moments might happen. Chasing the moment proves impossible and implies some prior knowledge of the event. Prior knowledge contaminates the experience and makes it common. A real moment appears without warning like a welcome guest you weren’t expecting to meet. Once the event happens, we have few precious minutes to reflect and decide what it all meant; moments and dreams reflect each other that way. Moments combine dreams and reality in our waking life. Once experienced, we crave to revisit that elusive place where dreams and reality coexist.