A couple of weeks ago I came close to being in a bad car accident. It’s the kind of thing that I can brood about: Did I make an error in judgment by stopping too suddenly? What would have happened if I had been rear-ended, as appeared so likely? I imagined a crumpled car, injuries, the hospital—and worse.
The next day, driving the same route, I couldn’t get my mind off what nearly happened. Then I realized that I needed to be present to that moment to watch for any new traffic conditions—a car drifting into my lane, a deer bounding across the road. Even beyond that, I wanted to be aware of the shifting pink light on the mountains, the new views that opened up with every passing moment and turn in the road.
Last week at the cabin, meditating one morning, I watched the light go from complete darkness to gray to seeing the first rosy light on Mount Meeker. Soon the sunlight was brushing the tops of the green pine trees on the hill across the valley, then burrowing its way into the bottom of the valley, warming up the grasses and several small pine trees and willow bushes. It was a tender, yearning light that slowly crept up the valley sides, bathing the trunks of the ponderosas.
And then my mind wandered off to something else, the work I was doing, and when I came back, the day had changed already: clouds were moving in, streaming across the sky, and the wind had picked up, shaking the trees. Again my mind wandered off, onto some pleasant tangent of meeting a friend for dinner later, and when I came back, the day had moved on without me being aware of it, the sun higher, hitting the face of Mount Meeker. It wasn’t just that the physical conditions had changed, but already the day had a different feeling.
Every second the world changes, and yet how often do I get stuck in holding on to one moment. While I’m fixated on that perfect picture—the first light of morning—the world moves on, and I’m left behind. How wonderful it would be to be present for every moment, to be carried along in life’s stream, aware of every precious breath of life.