Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Forever Moments

There are times in life when what comes into your mind is "I will remember this forever."

Sometimes it is just a second or two, just a vignette.  The wave curls, sparkling under a rising moon, and is so perfect, powerful and fleeting.  A gull sounds, the air is salt and kelp and so is the taste in your mouth.  The sand tickles your feet and the warmth of knowing wards off the ocean chill.

I will remember this forever.

It can be minutes, a short sequence of events that must be remembered in time, through space.  A girl is walking towards you, long brown hair held back with vintage silver barrettes.  She wears a woven wool serape with geometric shapes in muted burgundies, ochers and pale yellow.  Her boots are high and leather and worn.  As she approaches her smile and her almond eyes come into focus.  She looks into your soul and says, simply, "Hi," and moves on.  A minute later you turn and chase after her.

I will remember this forever.

It can be a couple weeks camped in the high forests of Arizona - the Milky Way so bright at night and the sky so blue at noon, both bordering on the surreal.  The quiet so deep it sometimes startles the frogs and insects so they stop altogether and listen themselves to it.  It is the flames of cairns reaching into the stars like happy pyres; it is white driftwood under Aspen and Birch and Pine along a wet meadow's edge; it is satellites slashing across the sky, yearning urgently to do it again.

I will remember this forever.

Sometimes, often, it is the symphony of a storm.  Low rumbles in the distance, lightning streaking over blue-gray clouds, ominous, low.  Then staccato cracks and the wall of rain coming at you, one side of a porch deluged, the other still dusty dry.  The wind cries and the rain-tears slap the screens and scatter into  a fine mist that blows over the aluminum chairs and wets the burnt tobacco on the butts in the ashtrays.  One final movement pushes the storm away, a sun peeks out to say goodbye and you turn around and see it, a rainbow as the gutters drip and the thunder fades.

I will remember this forever.

A child - or two -being born.  First steps and words and stumbles, stitches and dripping tears.  A fresh faced kitten playing into the future and the golden or calico shell of fur in your arms and one last, silent breath.  A wedding, a funeral; this dance, that song.  A perfect sea bass baked whole with a brown butter sauce, a can of beef stew warmed in a fire in a gloved hand watching that same fire in the woods of Kentucky.  Another year of loneliness, a second of connection.

I will remember this forever.

We spend a lifetime seeing and making and anticipating and recognizing these moments, we know the weight of their import, but...

How many of these forever moments have I forgotten?  That answer might make me weep.


One of the boy's soccer practices this year has been from seven to eight on Friday nights.  In the humid heat of late August it was nice to have it in the evening, but, as Fall begins its slide to Winter, the evening comes earlier and earlier each week and they practice in twilight.

Two Fridays ago, as I sat in the truck listening to music and watching the team, I also had my eye on the sky and I knew.  High, wispy cirrus floated above lower, cotton ball clouds against an azure blue.

I knew because the fields sit on a high spot circled by woods that drop off to the north and south and, importantly, to the west.  The sun had made long shadows on the pitch and, not ten minutes into practice, it began to blush low over the trees.

A sunset is not a picture perfect shutter click, it is a carousel of color that rides through time, certain, sure and eternal.  This one was, I knew, going to be a beautiful ride.

I was sitting in the cab facing north so I got out of the truck and went and leaned against the bed wall in a position so familiar it comforted me.  I watched the west as the clouds slowly kaleidoscoped - pink, orange, red - behind a sky slowly fading from sky blue to indigo and deep purple.  Along the edges of the field the oaks and sugar maples and honeysuckle and goldenrod caught and held on to the colors and shimmered as though gilded in the waning light.

As I watched I wondered how many sunsets I'd seen in a lifetime, easily thousands, and nearly every one was, perhaps not better, but different than the others.  My home growing up was on a high spot and the porch faced west and I'd seen the sun make its exit in every season and all kinds of weather by the time I was twelve or thirteen.  For some reason I had the sense that I'd seen one like this before, these colors and trees and clouds and I was struck by the notion that it is all just one sunset, really, and it is also the sunrise, because the sun is coming up and going down at some longitude at every moment of every...

Oh, right, practice.

The team is done and are collecting their balls and bottles and offcast sweatshirts.  I watch as Nick gets his stuff and Zack takes another shot at goal.  Nick tips his head back to drink from his water bottle and stops, mid-drink, and stares silently, wonderfully into that majestic western sky.  He shouts and Zack turns and looks up and is uncharacteristically still.  He walks over towards Nick as the other boys drift off towards the parking lot.

I head out to collect the boys and as I walk the maybe sixty yards I watch them.  Zack gets his water and they lay down on their backs, balls for pillows, and watch the sun's dance.  I walk slowly, they know I am coming.  We should be going but I don't yell for them to come along.  Time elongates and seems inconsequential.

I reach the boys and they say 'hey' but they know they don't have to point the sky out to me nor even tell me what they're doing, they understand I understand.  I sit behind them on the grass and dirt and chalk and know this is the best sunset I have ever witnessed, will ever witness, could ever have hoped to witness.

Two brothers, two sons, watching a perfect sunset as their dad watches them.

Zack breaks the silence.

"I will remember this forever."

 So will I, son, so will I.

I vow right there and then that I'd make sure he did.


I was going to write about football today.  I have a long and complicated history with the sport, it is a story I am just coming to understand, as happens when you grow older.

I'm glad I didn't.

This morning I went out through the garage to put a wool blanket that had been soaked in a rainstorm at a soccer game, now dry, back into my truck.  Off under the windows to the east I noticed the two Cornhole platforms I'd made so many years ago, the first year we lived in this house, well before the boys were born - back when I was still just noticing sunsets, not yet considering them.

I saw this and all these words were written:

For context here, this is what you are seeing, two platforms with holes cut out of them decorated with a sunburst pattern leaning one atop each other.  The sun is coming in at a steep angle through that window beside the yellow ladder.  The sun comes in and is reflecting off the back, which is also shellacked, of the top piece.  This brightly illuminates an offset edge of the sunburst below.

It was weird and striking and important.

Thanks for stopping by, you here today.  I am mad at Facebook and am taking a break from it.  Hopefully, Marci will post this on it for me.  The thing is, because I've been so inactive lately, Facebook is cross with me, too, and its petty algorithms won't share it with others.  If you think someone might like this, share it with them.  I appreciate it and, as always, peace to you.

Man, stories pile up on each other don't they.  There are, like, seventeen others I could knit into this one if I wanted.

Sixteen can wait.

Last Friday the coach had bumped up the practice to five and Zack was annoyed at this.  I couldn't really figure why.  He was stomping about and kid-cursing under his breath.  It was cute.

I finally asked him why he was so annoyed.

"I wanted to show Mom the sunset."

from my "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ... "

"Seriously, I just want to be a normal pedestrian!" 



  1. When my kids were small (they're in their 50's now) I used to lift them up so they could see the sunset through the window over the kitchen sink. Thanks for reminding me!!

  2. Bill, I come to read your work so I can feel the love. This one, as with so many others, never disappoints. Thanks for being a bright light in an otherwise dismal world.

  3. I have the same wonder - what will stick in my memory and what makes something stick?
    I surely hope the moment described here does indeed stick. Very cool.
    Great line here - A sunset is not a picture perfect shutter click, it is a carousel of color that rides through time, certain, sure and eternal. This one was, I knew, going to be a beautiful ride.
    Excellent post!