A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to go on an epic backpacking adventure in the Wind Rivers with my family of four, my hiking-idol uncle, and a very dear friend and cohort of Adam’s. It was amazing in all the right ways, as if we had stepped onto the trail and into an alternate reality where everything goes even better than you could have hoped. We had exactly only what we needed and got to leave absolutely everything else behind.
I loved it more than I ever imagined I would.
I’ve spent a lot of time since we got home processing the entire trip, but especially reliving and trying to understand my response to seeing the eclipse in totality from the top of Lester Pass. When relaying my trip to others, I have tried to describe the beauty of the eclipse, tried to capture how incredible it felt and looked and sounded during those amazing two minutes, but my descriptions come up short. Not a single photograph or video I’ve seen accurately captures what the eclipse really looked like.
It was one of the most impactful experiences of my life and yet, like so many impactful moments (like falling in love, getting married, giving birth), words fail me.
The most distinct memory for me was when the moon shifted just a touch off-center, allowing the sun’s rays to escape and burst out from behind its shadow. The birds who had gone quiet erupted back into flight and the wind again began to blow. It was exquistively beautiful; I immediately wanted to see it all again.
I actually ached knowing it was over and I haven’t stopped aching since. I immediately wished I had appreciated every second of the eclipse just a little bit more, wondering what I missed, wishing I had looked harder, absorbed it even more.
I often find myself wishing, lamenting even, times and experiences gone by. Life goes by so unbelievably fast. It feels like just yesterday I was falling in love with Adam, sneaking across Copeland Hall to tuck into his twin bed; laughing hysterically as Adam proposed to me on Cannon Beach as the sun set over the ocean; our beautiful party of a wedding at Chateau Lorraine on the banks of Lake Louise; giving birth to Anna, her eyes opened wide with wonder and with awe; giving birth to Grace, who owned a world of wisdom from the moment she was born.
In the shadow of the anniversary of 9/11, flooding in Houston, hurricanes in Florida, wildfires throughout the west, including one right here in Ogden last week, I have been hyperly aware that anything could change at any moment. Any moment now, the moon could just slightly shift, altering everything all at once.
What I am realizing is this: the very impermanence of our lives, the reality that moments are fleeting, is what makes each moment that much sweeter. The eclipse was that much more beautiful because it only lasted two minutes. Giving birth to and raising my girls is that much more poignant because they will move on. My love for Adam feels that much deeper knowing one of us will have to experience the other’s death. This breaks my heart and yet fills me with wonder.
Life is beautiful, because it isn’t forever.
If we were vampires and death was a joke
We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke
And laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind
It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone
Jason Isbell, If We Were Vampires