If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn. The moment is dear to us, precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for the magic that will make the moment stay. Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as to time?
– Stanley Kunitz
Once again…one of my favorite bloggers, Lindsey Mead, gives me a quote worth pausing my hectic pace to sigh over. “The moment is dear…precisely because it is so fugitive.” Fugitive moments. Fleeting, fleeing, fugitive moments of our lives hide from us in the days that unfold upon one another. They are precious because they are gone. To hold them might devalue them, and yet we ache to do it anyway. I recognize these words as truth the moment I read them. As a compulsive journal writer and scribbler of the wispy thoughts that float through my mind and then are never seen again, I, too, have hunted for the magic that will make the moment stay. I have felt myself be in a moment and known that I wanted to pin it down forever, to feel it so deeply that I would be able to reach into myself and touch it again, press “play” in my head and be there once more long after time has moved on from this spot. To keep the sunset staining the sky for just a minute more. To stop the ocean spray midair and watch it endlessly hanging for as long as I want. To close my eyes and know that when I open them, the scene will not have changed, the breeze will still lift my hair gently, the snowflakes lazily drifting through the air will not melt, the golden crimson leaves will not fall from the trees all wreathed in glory. I feel the sharp remorse sometimes as I watch my grown children and wish that I had been able to flash freeze moments from their past…so I could see their little shining eager innocence one more time now and then, capture and re-see their delight in the world, their surprise in things that are long since “not new” but were, at the time, amazing. “Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence.” Such words. I think about my fascination with stories of time travel or bending, tales of people who stand in “the thin places” in the universe and cross through them. Maybe they resonate because it is transcendence I seek, that we all seek. The ability to not have our days pass away into forgetfulness of what it meant to stand here and now, to live here and now, to feel and be and work and hope and love and breathe. The sharp deep beauty of the moment…captured, run to ground, not a fugitive at all, but ours to hold or at the very least, to cross back into and revisit when we wished. If we could, we would not always be leaving something behind at the last station as we moved forward but taking it with us…precious cargo…to the end of the line. I think of poets who have captured and preserved with spare and lovely words and phrases the fleeting instances of life that they experienced–the beauty or the pain or the painfully transient beauty. If poetry is the pinning down of these moments for others long afterward to open, animate, and feel again, then poets are, for sure, the heroes and heroines of all humanity.