Even I, dogged chronicler that I am, have to admit that some moments are impossible to capture in words or on film. This weekend was full of those moments…
My fifteen year old came back from his pilgrimage with his youth group to Arizona. I picked him up late at night in the church parking lot. I drove him home with a smile on my face as I listened to him talk about the adventures he’d had.
“The Grand Canyon is amazing. Even more amazing than you can imagine. Pictures don’t do it justice.”
As we pulled off the interstate we slowed down so that I could show him another of the world’s wonders in our own backyard. There is a scrubby, weedy tree to the left as you exit the highway onto the dark country road which leads to my house. I believe it’s called a Tree of Heaven. In the daytime you wouldn’t look twice at it. For the past few nights, the whole canopy has been full of twinkling fireflies. The effect is indescribably beautiful.
My very dear friendy Wendy, whom I’ve known since high school, came to visit me this weekend to say goodbye. After teaching elementary school kids in Arlington for almost twenty years, she is moving on to a new chapter of her life. Sadly for me, that chapter takes place all the way on the other side of this great big country.
There would have been more photos, but for the fact that we spent the afternoon, evening, night, and the next day doing nothing but talking, talking, talking. (OK, and maybe we ate
a little, too)!
As we drove back home late on Saturday night, I was glad to be able to show her the firefly tree.
The next day as my friend prepared to drive back, I tried to express the ineffable sense of joy I felt for the new direction her life is taking mingled with my sorrow that she will be so far away.
“It’s NOT goodbye, Ada,” she said, using my old childhood nickname, “We’ll see each other soon, I promise!”
Later that night, I met up with my friend Katherine to go to the Charlottesville Free Clinic’s annual benefit concert at the Pavilion on the Downtown Mall. I was dismayed to see all of the signs forbidding any photography or recording. But as I sat with my friend in the sultry summer air and listened to the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter without once picking up my camera, I felt like I could swim in the music. For the final song – in gorgeous three-part harmony, some of it without any accompaniment at all – all three women sang The Water is Wide. I was spellbound.
On my drive home, I decided that I had to record an image of the firefly tree. I exited the highway, and pulled off to the side of the road where I tried and tried to capture the picture. No matter what setting or camera I tried, all I could get was a black frame. I finally gave up and drove the rest of the way home. My son was still up when I got back. We chatted about the music I had heard, and I looked up some of my favorite songs and played them for him on youtube. It just wasn’t the same. I kept finding myself saying apologetically, “It sounded much more amazing live…”
The truth is, sometimes the most beautiful moments can’t be pinned down. You just have to show up and be there.