Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Moment at Williams Lake

Burn. Sweat. Quick breaths.
Cold. Shadows. Short breaths.
Thick pine.
Ice. Mud. Ice. Mud. Rocks. Mud.
Pine on my hands. Pine on my shirt. Pine in my lungs.
Stumble. More rocks.
A lake.
Williams Lake.

A moment is a time differential representing not what was or what will be, but what is. My recent trip to New Mexico, specifically to the Carson National Forest, reminded me of how precious is a moment.

My 'moment' at the 11,040-foot-high and completely secluded alpine Williams lake was strange because I did not experience time the way I always did before I arrived. Time, of course, is a series of moments of reality that, sequentially, add up to the past after revealing the present -- if momentarily. Not only are we aware of the passing of time, we also calculate its demise – expect its collapse into the past in order to get to another set of moments in the future. Sometimes, we treat time like carbohydrates, in that we consume and exhaust clocks without any regard to usage or mileage. We also use time as a recorder, in reflection of what once was: memory, regret, love, retelling of great narratives. Most often, and naturally so, we are aware of only the present.

At Williams lake, with my family, I lived in the moment of past, present, and future -- and I felt that I could have lived within that moment for eternity.

Before my family and I returned to our hike down the mountain, I was distinctly aware that I was experiencing time not sequentially, in a series of moments, but static, in only one moment. One undefinable moment, as if time was stilled; or, set aside for us to witness and to breath and to play by the clear, barely stirring lake surrounded by mature alpine trees and multi-million year old rock with grayish faces as young and as old as the latest freeze-thaw cycle. I knew that I was experiencing a unique state of mind and soul and an awareness to the fundamental natural laws of being. And, sadly, while my family and I were living that moment, I knew that what we were experiencing would end...and end all too soon.

The hike down the mountain was full of longing for that one moment spent at Williams lake.

At that place high in the air, we were somehow juxtaposed with the normal continuum of change, as if change stopped for us as the Universe revealed itself, transitioning from the unknowable calculations of resting and active states of energy and matter into a pristine New Mexico alpine oasis as potent as a realization. All my senses took note as I carefully stepped down into the small valley, my head spinning with in the wake of that realization. I suddenly was able to feel the living, the dead, and the somewhat in-between. My small existence on Earth -- I saw myself as young boy waking up in a camper, realizing the morning wilderness was beckoning me to venture -- and I was not only late, but so very late and possibly the last one of my fellow campers to escape the box on wheels and hit the trails; I was part of something much larger, something much older, and something yet to come. My existent was finite, and that was certain; yet, I was part of the universal truth.

I heard no sound but Earth's silence that always fell into place between the muffled chatter of my family. I felt no breeze but the air passing in and out of my lungs. I felt the warm grass wear I sat next to the lake's shore, and I worried about crushing some precious species of life. I felt the sun on my head, though I felt the chill, too -- a kind of painless death, but without the sadness of loss -- when the clouds crossed over and buried us in darkness. I felt the ceasing of heat, rather than the dilution of it, in the lake's water, too, when I dipped my left hand in its clear glass as if to prove the lake was real.
My mind felt free to wander, too. I thought of a dozen topics, all at once, and I almost spoke my thoughts, which surprised me, so I had to walk further along the shore, in the case my thoughts did spill out.

When this was a sea.
When we return home.
When the Pterosaur glided.
When our house is sold.
When salt choked the crustacean.
When we find alien life.
When I am buried.
When the mountain crumbles.
When they return here.
When the air swells.
When they are elderly.
When the sun swells.
When all is dust.
When all is dust.

This audible silence. These thoughts. This moment of truth. These thoughts.

Some would feel blessed. Some would feel God’s presence. I felt everything, and all in a moment of knowing the expanse of the reality across time, from the primordial to the collapse of existence; an understanding that this moment is unique, and it will end, and it will end all too soon.

Will I ever have such moments again? I can’t know. What I do know is when my family and I were hiking back to our car some 2 miles away and 1700 feet downhill, I knew that I was leaving something behind, and that something was us; a moment of experience I can never re-capture so definitively. My family and I did dwell forever in a moment, and that moment is now recorded in the memory of a mountain in the middle of a high plain New Mexico desert.

Life became ordinary again for me once we reached the parking lot, though life should never be so.

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