Collecting Moments

“I’ve never felt a more moving moment in my life.”  The man in front of me is not given to dramatics, but is a down-to-earth fellow, just taking a break from his 9 to 5 retail job.  Our conversation has run the gamut from a discussion of the merit of microphone stand designs to his dismal weekend of moonlighting as a Karaoke DJ.  Somehow the conversation moves to a recent trip he took to New Orleans, where the emotional experience mentioned above occurred.  As he speaks, his countenance softens and his voice, once loud and boisterous, lowers in timbre and volume.  He describes an early stroll through the streets of New Orleans, just before daybreak one chilly morning.

His steps took him through Jackson Square, past the statue of General (and later President) Andrew Jackson and up the steps of the Moon Walk to stand near the mighty Mississippi River.  As he stood, looking almost due east and welcoming the first rays of light from the rising sun, he realized that he wasn’t alone.  He glanced behind him and saw an elderly gentleman, wearing a hat and a long coat.  As the man, probably about seventy years old, approached, he stood for a moment looking at the rolling water and the sun’s rays reflecting gently off the shimmering surface.  Then, rubbing his hands together, he doffed his hat and dropped it onto the sidewalk in front of him and from somewhere under his coat, produced an ancient brass trumpet and put it to his lips.

As the sweet notes started from the horn, my friend recognized the opening passage of an old patriotic favorite, “America, the Beautiful”, perhaps better known to many as “Oh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies”.  He reports that the old fellow never missed a note, never searched for the next tone, but played through the tune with many a flourish and grace note, flawlessly.  As I listen to him tell of removing his cap and standing by the river’s edge with tears flowing down his face while the sun begins to rise full and bright above the water’s surface and the old musician plays on, I too feel the tears start to well up.  The beauty of the moment is enough to move even me as I view the scene through his misty eyes.  It is a moment to savor.

I have become a collector of moments.  If you’ve stuck with me for long, you already know that.  Most of the articles I post are remembrances of such moments.  I don’t want to lose them in the fog and mist of age, when memories dim and existence is limited to meals, and personal needs, and waiting.

I collected another moment recently.  I had heard that the momentous event called the “Transit of Venus” was occurring and had shrugged mentally, giving the obscure phenomenon only a peremptory nod with a joke posted on my favorite social network, and then retreated to “real life” once again.  I couldn’t help but notice though, late in the afternoon, that a fellow had pulled into the parking lot across from the music store and was setting up some sort of optical equipment.  Some time later, a phone call from a friend suggesting that I walk across the street to see what was going on was met with another verbal shrug.  Big deal.  A spot on the sun.  Then I remembered.  This event would happen once in my lifetime.  The next time it occurs will be in another one hundred and five years.  I don’t intend to be here still.  I made the walk.

Photo by snowpeak

What an eye-opening experience!  The gentleman with the telescope was happy, almost eager, to give me a view in the lens of his expensive equipment.  I inquired about eye protection, but he assured me that it was safe.  A filter was in place and would block out any dangerous light.  The view was breathtaking.  I had never in my life looked at the sun through a telescope, much less even imagined the sight of the tiny (when put in this perspective) planet Venus as it crossed between the Earth and the Sun.  A tiny, but distinct dot was really all that appeared of the planet, and my brain went into overload as I contemplated the immensity of the celestial body that provides us with warmth and light.  My thought immediately shifted to the realization that, if Venus is roughly the same size as the Earth, it follows that Venus’s comparison to the Sun is also the Earth’s.  The next natural step was to realize how small I am in comparison to the immensity of the Earth.  Right about then, this little speck on a speck started feeling mighty small in the grand scheme of things.  It was definitely a moment.

Still feeling small, I once again crossed the street to enter the front door of the music store.  As I entered the building, a young voice called out, “Hi Grandpa!”  One by one, other voices chimed in as they vied for my attention.  It was only for a short period of time, but suddenly, I felt huge.  I was important in their world!  There is nothing like the love of a child to put thoughts that have been skewed back into perspective.  Again, a moment to be collected and savored.

Certainly, the huge Sun still hung overhead; the tiny, yet immense, planet Venus continued its transit across the sky between Earth and that great ball of flaming gas.  But here, in my world,  we were all life-sized, living and loving, making a difference in the moments that matter to each of us.  Memories are being made and these moments will be gathered into the collection. 

Like all collectors, I will continue to enjoy taking out the accumulation of moments, both moving and eye-opening, joyful and heart-breaking.  The collection of a lifetime is all of these and more, ever growing and changing.  Thankfully, even in the midst of collecting thoughts of immensity and insignificance, I find again, in my collection, that moment of realization that One, who cares for every single part of His creation, loves this small, insignificant man.  And once again, I feel humbled and important at the same time.  What a moment that was!

 What’s in your collection?  There will be many moments today, even.  There is still plenty of time to gather a memory or two.  Maybe you could even share one with a friend like me.

I promise, I’ll try not to cry when you do…

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 
Old Time is still a-flying; 
And this same flower that smiles today, 
Tomorrow will be dying.” 
(“To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time”~Robert Herrick~English poet~1591-1674)

“Indeed the right time is now.  Today is the day of salvation!”
(2 Corinthians 6:2b~NLT)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012 All Rights Reserved.

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