How long has it been since you experienced beauty so intense and so transitory that it made your heart ache?
Friday evening I drove to Mechanicsburg for a meeting. It was a beautiful drive through rich Ohio farmland. The sky was blue, accented with great, fluffy white clouds. The fields were deep with color: tawny wheat surrounded by a complete palette of greens displayed in the corn fields, in the grass along the highway’s edge, and in the trees at the far edges of the fields.
But a little later when I started for home, oh, the difference! It was 7:35 on June 28th. The position of the sun, its angle at just that moment, was perfectly situated to bring the whole scene to perfect luminance, to life. The scene came into sharp focus, each stalk of corn or wheat and each tree seemed to cry out to be seen. The panorama, bursting with intensity, took my breath away. And filled me with an aching desperation.
I felt I should take it all in – all – someone must, but that was impossible. I couldn’t absorb it all. I couldn’t see each detail; it was too much. It was too much for just one person. Someone else, many others, needed to see it just as I was seeing it. Perhaps each of us could capture a part of it and, collectively, the whole would be seen. But I was alone. It would be more real if another saw it, if there were others. A car approached me on the lonely road, but I don’t think the driver was looking.
I wanted to stop and drink it in, but there was no shoulder on which to pull over. I would have taken a picture, but I had no camera. Besides it would be futile; no camera could do it justice. Part of the ache came from its transience. It was perfection, but it would not stay, could not stay. It would change; the colors would fade into the muted hues of twilight and then into the deeper grays of night. In fact, it was already changing. What I was seeing was different than what was a moment before and what would be a moment from now. There was no way to capture it. If I stopped for five minutes to watch, what I saw then would be different. And if I came back the next night, or the next and the next and the next, to the same place at exactly the same time, it would never be this view. The sun would be in its approach to setting, the fields would be there, there might be the same cumulus clouds, but it wouldn’t be this scene. Even if I planned to be there next year at 7:35 on June 28th, it might be beautiful, maybe every bit as breathtaking, but it wouldn’t be this picture. It was there for that moment alone and for me alone to see. And then it was gone. I couldn’t save it for later. I could never look back at it again.