I caught this sunset on Monday evening. The sky appeared as a painter’s palette, blues, pinks, oranges and purples colliding with urgency. In those few minutes, I paid close attention to the clouds, the disappearing colors and the sky’s quick wardrobe change. Within minutes, the hues disappeared, the certainty of what I experienced seconds before a part of my past.
I am aware of how much I write about the passage of time, my struggle to engage in the present and the melancholy in understanding each second is unlike any other. These thoughts teach me to sink into the word, cherish. I’ve talked about paying attention, in this space and on my Instagram feed. When I run or walk outside, I notice the green-bark on the surface of a tree trunk, the eyes of the sun peering through the leaves and the various aromas in the air — the fumes of a car exhaust, the smell of curry from a backyard or the fleeting scent of lavender lingering near a set of homes. Paying attention though, doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve learned to always cherish these moments. In some ways, I almost take for granted that the desert sky will always present such vibrant hues or my running route will glitter with nature’s gems. I’ve realized it isn’t enough to notice, but to cherish what means the most to you.
The word cherish kept tugging at me this past Sunday on Father’s Day. I woke up with the urge to visit a local donut shop. As a little girl, one of my fondest memories of my father involved a blue Toyota Camry, Sunday mornings and Southern Maid donuts. He said “Let’s go” on these mornings and I didn’t need an explanation; I knew the plan. I suspect the intersection of Father’s Day landing on a Sunday heightened my need to focus on this particular memory.
These are the tricks time plays on me, on all of us. I had no idea this particular memory of my Dad, donuts and Sunday would show its importance 30 years later. What will I see as important five years from now? What memories will surface as the ones I cherish the most? It isn’t necessarily the milestone moments, but the way we spend our ordinary days. The way my daughter says, “Momma,” the countless family dinners where we joke around our dining table or the hours where we cheer each other on through the passions we enjoy, whether it is my writing, my daughter’s tennis practice or my husband’s love of basketball.
Writing this piece compelled me to read and share Mary Oliver’s poem, “Gratitude.” This is exactly it. Paying attention is the first step. Cherishing it, the second. It deepens how I sink into the present.
What did you notice?
The dew snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.
What did you hear?
The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.
What did you admire?
The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the
pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid
beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.
What astonished you?
The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.
What would you like to see again?
My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her
recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her
sturdy legs, her curled black lip, her snap.
What was most tender?
Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.
What was most wonderful?
The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.
What did you think was happening?
The green breast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve
of the first snow—
so the gods shake us from our sleep.