Moments of Awe

<strong>TEN THOUSAND THINGS</strong>

Everyone except the benighted have memories of awe (even without the use of mindful molecules). I have written about walking into the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris and about realizing, on a wooded path, in light fog, that I was running parallel to albino deer. And there have been many other occasions. What a joy to recall a few of them, even more to savor them while they're happening.

  • For example, gazing at stars wheeling over a ranch in New Mexico, stars long hidden from me by city lights, grateful as I am for electricity, one cost is the dimming of the night sky
  • Painting so intently that I forgot to eat, in my case with no training in art
  • From the end of a pier in the Hudson River, watching Manhattan black out in sections from the north end to where I was in the south, leaving only vehicular lights

The novelty encountered in travel, and the leisure, are conducive to moments of awe and reverie:

  • Sitting on a porch overlooking Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii next to a friend playing the didgeridoo, watching spinner dolphins, and humans kayaking so the dolphins back under water must have seen a paddle on one side of the narrow hull, then on the other
  • Skiing down from the Swiss border to the Austrian village where I had learned the rudiments, the skis having been carried up by horse-drawn sleigh
  • Watching, from a high place in the hills,dusk fog come in from the coast fog that looked as dense as water
  • Meditating in a Kyoto temple, before a garden of rocks and raked pebbles, as a tourist, not a monk

As Wordsworth knew, magic moments e are not strange to most children: lo mention a few examples from my won life:

  • Descending from a high elm by bending skinny horizontal branches, grabbing the next lower branch, and continuing to the ground, while pretending to fall
  • Making sounds back and forth with an unseen bird, conversing with another kind of anima)
  • Waking in a pasture on an overnight Boy Scout hike and seeing a cow standing right next to me, calmly chewing grass
  • Running to school so fast you feel you are about to take off and fly, like Superman

Encountering the “sublime” is a sure way.

  • Looking down prior to descending into Desolation Valley in the Rocky Mountain National park, Colorado (would there be a way out?)
  • Just after dusk on the freeway near Shasta, California,visually tunneling through snow and looking for an exit

Or being surprised by some moment of “culture”:

  • Hearing Cecilia Bartoli sing Italian love songs in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, or discovering that the cellist in the shadows at a dance concert is Yo-yo Ma
  • Hearing from somewhere an answer to a koan (“how many times does the candle flicker?”)
  • Finding a mural by the artist and poet David Jones in the pantry of a holiday cottage in Wales that had been part of an artists’ colony
  • Writing a poem as if taking down dictation, after being introduced to the moon by a Basque elder

Breaking through fear:

  • Losing control in while beating deleterious patterns in the Hoffman Process about training in my family of origin, after being helped to see and name the patterns)
  • Learning to swim in deep water after fear of drowning which has given me sympathy for people suffering a trauma they can't get beyond
  • Giving a speech to a audience of hundreds in a Manhattan hotel ballroom, not memorable except to the speaker in an altered state

Getting lost in an athletic activity:

  • Sculling on the Charles River, started to meet a requirement, continued because I loved it
  • Hiking up to Nevada Falls in Yosemite and, seeing the flow was very low then, walking across the stream at the top
  • Kayaking down rapids in the Rogue River in southern Oregon (“just keeps flowin’ along”)

Almost everyone has such moments. What are yours? For me, surprise is often the gateway.

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