Certain places imprint. When I was sixteen I swam under an inky sky off the coast of Sicily at midnight. The water was warm, the moon was full, and as I floated on my back looking up at the stars, I was filled with a sense of endless possibility that comes with youth and the wonders of travel. In that moment I was free.
I rarely think of that experience now and yet when I feel traces of it, I’m suddenly suspended in time. That moment created a sense of expansion. The universe offered me a gift and I embraced it greedily, appreciatively, and without shame.
The longer we’re on the planet, the more we can lose touch with moments like this that allow us to transcend the ordinary realm of experience. While it’s true we can find the extraordinary in the ordinary, we sometimes need to step out of the ordinary to find the extraordinary.
I have no idea what creates this sense of adventure. I only know what happens when I’m suddenly in the drama of it, playing the leading heroine. I get a chance to reclaim myself and life.
Often, these experiences come randomly and with luck. Other times, we consciously create them.
I recently taught a class in Hawaii. It was the second time I’ve been here for work and work is work. It wasn’t all play and fun. But Hawaii is international enough that it can leave you suspended in another world. Being welcomed with a wreath of orchids never fails to make me tear up. The spirit of ohana is alive and well. We are all interconnected. There is no denying it.
The world can be ugly, harsh, and dull. Suffering and hardships are more than real. Life can bring us to our knees in anguish and cripple us with worry. Yet the spirit of a place can make us see, even if temporarily, that there is so much more happening beneath the surface of the physical realm.
All we have are moments in time but it is the moments that most matter. They are only moments, yet they can alter our perspectives forever, leaving us changed and more receptive to the life around us.
As I floated in the ocean, I thought of that night in Sicily when the sky held wonder to my younger self. I had forgotten that experience. The warm water also brought to mind greeting the day in the Sea of Galilee while watching the sky turn pink and feeling deeply connected to God. I had forgotten that experience too. Yet when we catalogue the most important moments of our lives, what will they be? Who or what changes us? What takes us from the ordinary to the extraordinary and how does the extraordinary serve as a spiritual reserve to keep us going through the dull and mundane?
On our death beds, we will not be thinking of the mortgage or the losses. We’ll be thinking of the miraculous. Canals in Venice, a child’s hug, a lover’s embrace in the cold Alaskan night and a fantastic wave. We’ll think of profound conversations, beautiful music, a grandmother’s hug, delicious food, beloved pets and rainbows. We’ll reflect on the many wonders of life and the spirit of a place.