“When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted among adults as the thing children lack, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living. This much at least is sure: my earliest impressions of wildlife and its pursuit retain a vivid sharpness of form, color, and atmosphere that half a century of professional wildlife experience has failed to obliterate or to improve on.” (A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, 1949)
There are moments spent and there are moments felt.
Whether the differentiating line lay with the company we keep in such moments, the weather when we wake, the day of the week we wake on, or the emotions perching heavy atop our shoulders, it seems the difference between sarcastically saying “living the dream” versus truly thriving exists as an ever-elusive formula. We humans experience varying moments (in varying degrees) valued in either time or sentiment without always understanding why.
In a way, even as we age, we still recognize the difference at its most base level. Just watch as we guard our wild-eyed children, encouraging their perpetual energy for experience: afternoons spent with cookie dough on their chubby hands, bedtimes shared with a picture book, or mornings tucked between Play-Doh and puzzle pieces. We play, we sing, we dance, and time is not wasted within the minutes but instead it’s cradled and cherished.
I feel like such a child some days, feet wet from dawn-lit grass or curled up on the porch listening to the tree frogs. With the dogs, muddy chests and tails-wagging, reminding me the sun will greet us over the next levee. There are brief minutes of such sensory joy that I forget. I forget the clock and the dollar.
But never do I feel more like a spirited child, unbridled and tireless, than when I learn something new.
This morning there were hours spent on a gently rocking boat, Dad’s low voice and helpful hands teaching me things I could spend a lifetime learning. He, like Leopold, has spent half a century memorizing the different heartbeats of wetland ground and river water. Conversation between us turned to some of his favorite memories on a boat, both as a child and an adult, and (at my own hesitation) the words:
“I’ve caught plenty of fish in my life. It’s fun just watching you.”
It was the first time in years I’ve felt the peck of a channel cat at the end of a line, there and gone, teasing before the aggressive tug. I don’t know what was particularly funny but I imagine my (not so calm, cool, or collected) face was the reason for his laughter. And it was in those hours, I forgot. I forgot tomorrow was Monday. I forgot my savings account is running dry. I forgot I have a pile of laundry to do. I forgot I need to have an oil change in the car.
Just a few hours with him and the river and I was a child again.
Leopold goes on to write: “I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer. It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever from human view. After that it exists only in my mind’s eye. /// …come quietly and humbly, as you should to any spot that can be beautiful only once…”
I’ll leave you this Sunday in hope you have a “river” of your own. And plenty of time to forget.