Virginia Woolf once wrote about a concept that she called “Moments of Being.” According to Woolf, moments of being are those times in life when years later you can still remember how it felt, what it smelled like, the temperature, etc. They are those rare moments where no matter how much time elapses when you think about them in your mind you are magically transported back to that space. Woolf wrote that these “Moments of Being” are the things that one should write about. I can’t will an experience into being a “Moment of Being.” In fact, often they are fairly ordinary or common place moments, but for some reason I can remember them perfectly. An example is when I was little and a dog jumped up and knocked my snow cone over. I remember the air being crisp, and my hands being sticky. I also remember the extreme guilt I felt at the age of five as my mother wiped up my spilled cone and then gave me hers.
I have had many events that I wished were moments of being, but they just turned out to be magical moments in my mind. For example, today I was driving back on I 5 from a conference in Lake Oswego. All of a sudden I looked out and saw a fantastic view of Mount Hood. It was incredible. Because traffic was backed up, I had several moments to sit and stare at the snow capped mountain. While crossing the Ross Island Bridge, I was able to see Mount St. Helens in the distance. It just was so clear and crisp and enchanting. Will I remember it as a moment of being? I don’t think so. But it was a magical moment all the same.
I am intrigued by this thought tonight, and it is driving me to consider my own moments of being. I have decided to list a few below:
1. I remember when I was in 7th grade and had been working out in the barn on a particularly cold winter’s night in Western Kansas. When mom called us in to supper, she had homemade stew and homemade buttermilk biscuits on the table. I still remember the taste of that stew and the smell of those biscuits. I can still remember the steam coming up from those items on the table and how it felt when I swallowed all that wonderful warmth into my freezing body.
2. When I was 19 years old, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend at a retreat house in upstate Minnesota called the Villa Maria http://www.villamariaretreats.org/ We stayed in the main building that time had kind of left behind. The rooms were bare and cold. I remember waking up in the morning on the third floor and realizing that the cold Minnesota morning had crept into the room as we had slept. I jumped out of bed, my toes cringing at the cold linoleum underneath my feet, and ran to the bathroom. They had a couple of rows of old clawfoot tubs seperated by shower curtains. I filled one of the tubs with hot water and had one of the most soothing and relaxing baths of my life. No one else was up, and it was just me in this large bathtub with the steam rising up from the water. My feet are tingling just now as I recall how it felt to step into that incredible tub.
3. The first year after I graduated from college, my father passed away from a painful form of cancer. It was quite a year to say the least. I had taken a job five hours from home and was teaching Eng. 9 and Eng. 10, fall play director, forensics coach, and assistant basketball coach to the junior high. On the weekends I often went home to help mom with dad. On one particular Saturday I had stayed at school to work on the set of the play. It was just me in this large, old school. I worked late into the evening while rock music played on the radio. While I was blocking out the lighting system and when which lights should go on in the script, I started dancing to the music. Before I knew it I was dancing on stage to the rock music under the stage lights. I switch from green to yellow to blue lights as I danced more and more wildly on stage. I jumped and swirled in time to the music. It wasn’t dull dancing, but a form of wild/animalistic dancing. I was dancing out all of my stress and fear. It was like if I didn’t dance I would cry. I can remember the heat of the lights on my face and the beating of my heart as the sweat began to form and run down my cheeks. I can remember the thud my feet made on the stage as I ran around the stage dancing in an effort to bring back some type of calm and stability into my life Most of all I can remember the feeling of exhaustion and total muscle relaxation as I collapsed on stage in a heap of spent emotion. When I think about that moment, I am transported back to this time in my mind.
So, there are three of my “Moments of Being.” I have more, but then again we all do. I wonder what other people have for “Moments of Being.” What are your “Moments of Being?”