It was one of those Moments. The daylight waning, the sky a magnificent stew of cirrus wisps both vertical and horizontal to the west and south, stratus puff balls north and east, the trending-toward-full moon already up and peeking from behind the latter.
At that still-point dusky moment transitioning from day to early eve, with the world perfectly poised between its in- and out-breath, the color palette of pale oranges, golds, purples, pinks, magentas and more seemed both fathomless and intoxicating.
And then came the geese.
They were in their classic extended V formation, winging southwest towards their home in the Laguna de Santa Rosa after their usual daytrip to the cozy confines of Spring Lake Park, where I assume they came across plentiful tasty creatures to slide down their impressive gullets. (“Oh, to have a neck like that,” I hear every model and ballerina in the world sighing…)
And mere seconds later, the celestial lighting techs went for broke, and the geese’s entire wingspans suddenly became rimmed in a piercing heavenly light, every feather seemingly outlined and glowing, utterly ablaze.
The descending sun had caught them in a perfect marriage of its unconscious light and the birds’ sentient life, meeting in a scene so intense, beautiful and brief—the golden rim around their wings is there and then it is gone—as to leave me both astonished and wildly desirous.
The desire, I knew, had to do with a primal impulse to swallow even more of the world than had gifted itself to me in that Moment—and then to share it.
I wanted to rush inside and search the Internet for Mary Oliver’s phone number so I could call and beg her to write a poem about what I had just seen.
I wanted to call out the scene to every friend in my address book, drink an entire bottle of wine, make ravishing love, sink my teeth into some chocolate, gaze at an original Matisse, and plug into a Rachmaninoff symphony.
And then look for something else to do, right now, some other way to absorb, process and compound the entire experience, to continue gorging myself on the sudden drunken feast that had come to me unbidden in this Moment of good fortune and grace, this sight I had never witnessed in six decades of previous existence and likely would not again.
What I did instead was go back inside the house and begin to gather up various documents for a church meeting I had to attend.
So onwards I went to consideration of our property tax assessment and the building maintenance budget. Ecstasy be damned.
“The only constant is change,” more than one sloganeering copywriter has penned in discussing the relentless creative destruction and reformulation—only to be destroyed again—of the business world. And so it goes in life.
Just when we clap our hands and think, “Finally! This is it, perfect, my ducks lined up, my naked longing for love and beauty (and a measure of financial solvency!) has been answered, I am finally happy,” we discover there is no longer any “it” where we thought “it” was—because “it” has already taken flight and moved through an ever-changing set of conditions like those Canadian geese whose wings were one moment ablaze with the sun and the next, not.
Buddhists grasp this truth about the ungraspable nature of life probably better than any other religion does. Nothing stable, nothing permanent, all is flux, eternity is now. Watch, touch, acknowledge, release.
Sometimes moments of beauty string themselves together on our behalf and we are fortunate to be engorged with joy through entire long afternoons or evenings of special conversation or performance or natural splendor. Or the moments extend to months of bliss in love with a new person or project or idea.
Other times, the moment—just the one moment—is here, and then it is gone.
In truth, though, every moment is fleeting and unto itself, never guaranteeing the next, as vanishing as the furious beating of hummingbird wings that transport their bearers dartingly from flower to flower, leaving only a puff of breeze in their wake.
We had a good church meeting after my encounter with the celestially lit Canadian geese. It was not particularly more nor less inspired than many others—serious people (who manage to have quite a bit of fun) doing the serious work of keeping pace with an intentional religious community of disparate souls brought somewhat mysteriously together by a common set of ideals and aspirations.
Many moments in church life are lit up by a communal sense of wonder and appreciation for beautiful words and music and shared ritual. Many others come from a common language of the heart that members of a community recognize in each other, paving the way for overcoming differences in background, age and temperament.
Would that everyone in this pluralistic, sometimes shockingly different human family of ours also recognize their deeper commonality, revealed both in the kindness and decency that suffuse most people’s everyday lives and the occasional blazes of light that serve to take our breath away before we return to our next and different breath, in the next and different Moment of these Moments comprising our lives.
Music to watch swans (and geese) by…
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Deep appreciation to the photographers!
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Wispy clouds photo near top of page by Andrew Hidas, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
Geese in flight photo by Gayle Trautman, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gayletphotos/
Angel in ecstasy photo by Eke Midaner, Zurich, Switzerland, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eam/
Hummingbird photo by Aaron Tubbs, Stamford, Connecticut, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/atubbs/