by amy – February 24, 2016 in Words
One morning I saw a ship burning in the sky. I looked up and there it was. Crimson flames engulfing it, black smoke billowing out around its sides. The ship was still sailing, slow and smooth, a dying monstrosity. It looked like it was moving in slow motion, like a giant crashing to earth after receiving a fatal blow. It was a sight that caught my breath.
The ship was, in fact, a cloud that I glimpsed at sunrise over the bay. I had climbed the ridge at dawn, inspired by the first light in the east where the sky was ablaze with fierce pinks and purples. Upon the ridge, I sat on a bench where there is a 360° view of the bay. I felt like I was at the center of an unfolding drama. A breeze carried dark clouds off the hills at my back and into the sea, and the clouds hid the sun as it rose over the wild and rugged Eastbourne slopes in the distance. For over an hour I sat there, shivering in my t-shirt despite the unusual warmth at that early hour, hoping to catch sight of the sun through the clouds and all the while guessing at its position. That was when I saw it. The clouds parted for an instant to make a window in the middle of the sky, and through that window I saw a cloud on fire, its edges glowing fiercely as they were touched by an unseen sun. Those glowing edges shone so brightly in comparison to the dull grey light in the bay. A few seconds later, the window closed. The sky would be cloudy for the rest of the morning. I realized I was the only person to have seen a magnificent sight: what looked like a burning ship in its final hour.
When you find yourself the sole witness to a beautiful moment, you can’t help but feel special. It’s as if you were gifted with a rare treasure. To lose oneself in a moment is to live, truly.
When I was little, I often got lost in the woods on purpose. These solitary journeys happened when I was spurred by a restless feeling that came from boredom, a need to break the routine of my days, a need for adventure. The restless feeling would grow and grow until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I would pick a direction at random and head out into the miles of forest that surrounded our house, and try to lose myself. I wandered in the woods for hours, seeing things I had never seen before. When I had had enough and became tired, I’d search for a landmark to help me find my way home. When I eventually got back, I was often exhausted, sore and hungry, bearing new scratches or bruises perhaps, but mentally invigorated. The need for adventure was satisfied. I had submerged myself in the experience of discovery. I had lost myself in the moment.
In the moment, time doesn’t exist. You’re watching a cat stalk a bird. You’re unaware of yourself, because you’re focused on the cat and what’s happening in his moment. He’s crouched in the grass, his neck extended, all ears and eyes on his prey a short distance away. You can see every muscle in his body tensed, waiting for the moment to attack. What’s going to happen? You are carried away by the drama building in front of you. In that moment, you and the cat are truly alive. Both of you are consumed with a purpose, fixated on what is happening right now. That is where life is. Life is not the reflection on all your life’s moments. Life is the moment when other moments cease to exist.
When I wake up in the middle of the night and listen to the stillness, it is so deep and profoundly tranquil. The weight of the silence is heavy, as if it’s waiting for something to happen, pregnant with possibility. When I find myself awake at such an ungodly hour (I love the word ungodly) and unable to sleep, sometimes I feel tempted to step outside into that realm of possibility, the place where I’m the sole observer, the sole participant in a play that only I am narrating. Try taking a walk at night. Witness the dawn. Watch the world awaken. Just to see the changes unfolding as the earth turns toward the sun is incredible. Observe the sounds, sights and smells. Watch the light touch things, one by one. Do you feel the world inhale in those instants when the sky becomes perceptibly brighter? Do you feel the pulse in the air quicken ever so slightly? These are magical moments to be a part of.
Sometimes you can’t expect such moments to come to you. You have to go out and grab them, make them yours. So go, and don’t think about it.