Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Intensity of Moments

Hollywood gets it. They make millions every year because they understand what moves us... often better than we understand ourselves. The movies we remember and desire to watch over and over again aren't always the ones that had the best overall plot or character development. In fact, we rarely think about our favorite movies in their entirety, but as a collection of memorable snapshots. Often, a favorite movie is as such simply because of as little as a single moment that moves some facet of our emotion. When I say that we are moved, it does not always mean a life-changing epiphany either. One example of this for me is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (a Christmas classic if you ask me). The remote gets a lot of attention when this DVD is enlisted.

The scene that stands out for my wife and me is when the hotel staff, led by the bell captain, chases Kevin up to his room. They are met by an excerpt of the audio portion of "Angels with Even Filthier Souls" as Kevin plays back several lines as if an adult male (presumably Kevin's father) is angrily addressing the pursuing mob while brandishing a Tommy Gun. The interchange is hilarious. But the single funniest moment to me is when the entire group is led to believe that if the don't do as they are told, they face eminent gun fire. Per instruction, they all recite the words "I Love You" in dramatic unison. We watch that over and over again, the laughter builds with each playback. It's priceless!

Of course this does not illustrate what one would call an intense moment, but it is a great example of my point... that it is this few moments that most frequently jumps to mind when I think about this movie. There are others but this one is just hilarious to me!

In my experience, just as in movies, life's greatest moments are just that... moments! They usually exist within a particular experience or chapter of life. When we are asked to define ourselves or our strengths and experiences in resumes and interviews, we tend toward the big accomplishments and list our work experience and education in outline form. In essence, we condense the big chapters of our lives into bullet points. Instead, we should remember that life is better defined by those, often unexpected little happenings that beg to be expounded upon.

It was 2:00 on a January morning a number of years ago. It hadn't snowed here in the Chicago area yet that season. I was leaving the next day... I wouldn't be coming back. I was moving to Phoenix. I have always loved when it snows. My sister knew that. I was asleep. Did I mention I was going to be driving a bit the next day? From within a dream, I heard my sister calling my name. Once I was fully awake, I realized she was standing outside the door, not inexplicably and suddenly part of an already incoherent story that I couldn't remember much less explain.

She woke me to tell me it was snowing. She knew I wouldn't want to have missed it. Strange, it wasn't supposed to snow. How could the weather man have been wrong? The weather reports here in Chicago are always so accurate. Hmm? Wonder what happened. Anyway... it was snowing. In fact, it was snowing quite heavily. I wanted to be fully awake for this... I probably wouldn't see snow for quite some time. I looked out the window a few times and then stepped outside for a minute to make sure it was going to last. (I am an expert in these things) Once I determined that it looked like it was going to be around for a while I went back inside to prepare properly for the impending experience. Anyway my bare feet were turning blue. I took a shower and got dressed. Several layers.

Once I got a fire started in the fireplace (for stage two of the ritual) and tightened the laces on my boots, I quietly opened the door and stepped out into my private midnight utopia. I stood in the driveway for a minute and just took it in. I could feel an extra measure of life filling my lungs with each breath. It was dark and I couldn't see much. I could, though, feel the elements. It was absolutely still... not the slightest hint of a breeze. It wasn't very cold either. I could feel the snowflakes settling on my face and the top of my head. They were huge, nearly weightless. I stood there and just tried to become part of the landscape. I breathed. I listened. I began to consider all that I was grateful for. It was incredibly easy to do. In that moment I stayed.

I began to walk. Down the driveway listening to the gentle, yet crisp, sound of my feet crunching the initial layer of the seasons first snowfall. When I moved away form the house and my eyes adjusted, I realized that it wasn't that dark. The night was enveloped in a pale blue glow that had no apparent origin. I looked straight up first. My field of vision was filled with the intricate dance of millions of the new descending additions to the landscape. A few more steps brought me to to the end of the driveway into the rural cul-de-sac that we lived on. From there I could see several of the lamp posts that garnish the neighborhood yards. In the glow of one of these silent sentinels I could see that my senses had not betrayed me. The snow was heavy with the biggest snowflakes I'd ever seen falling nearly straight down, yet so slowly.

I walked for a long time. I began talking to my friend who had quietly joined me for the trip. We discussed the beauty of each detail of the gentle snowfall. The tree branches that grew ever whiter yet unmoved by any weight, the thick blanket beneath my feet that offered no resistance whatsoever, the slowly changing texture of the freshly plowed farm field to the south, the sound... the silent crystal sound of the snowflakes greeting the surface that filled the night. It was everywhere. I tried to explain it to my friend... he just listened and walked alongside and slightly behind me. We walked for a couple of miles. We considered each and every vignette created by the event and discussed how each impacted us. Lot's of stops along the way.

I didn't worry about anything that night. I just walked, witnessed, and expressed wonder and gratitude. As we parted, I said goodnight and thanks for the snow. I believe he said it was his pleasure. I went home and sat by the fire watching the snow as it fell in the woods behind the house until the daylight replaced the night. It kept snowing all day. I had to wait an extra day before I could leave for Arizona. I'll never forget that night.

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