“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a thought that’s been bubbling up in me lately, and it’s a comforting one. Maybe it’s part of growing older- or, the nicer way of saying it- maturing. Or gaining wisdom. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it.
You see, I’ve always felt, when looking on something remarkably beautiful, that I had to grab it and hold it somehow. This impulse isn’t necessarily a bad one- I believe it’s often what makes artists paint and writers write and photographers grab their cameras- we want to hold onto beauty. But as I stood, one month ago, surrounded by an aspen forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico, breathing in the crisp, cool air rich with the smell of autumn, instead of experiencing my usual feeling of wanting to grasp tightly what I was seeing, I realized that what I was seeing was becoming part of me.
Without me doing anything.
And I just stood and drank it in. So much beauty, the impossible yellows of the aspen leaves against white trunks juxtaposed against broody gray storm clouds, and it is now part of who I am. Just like all the amazing books I’ve read and incredible meals I’ve eaten, this beauty has made me, I’d like to think, into who I am.
If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Walt Whitman, from one of my favorite poems:
“There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder or pity or love or dread, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day . . . . or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morningglories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phœbe-bird,
And the March-born lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf, and the noisy brood of the barn-yard or by the mire of the pond-side . . and the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there . . . and the beautiful curious liquid . . and the water-plants with their graceful flat heads . . all became part of him.”
Maybe this means I’m getting better at living in the moment? Or becoming less Type A (which definitely needs to happen)? I don’t really know.
But don’t worry. I still took pictures. I’m not that relaxed yet.