I am in the beautiful town of Big Sky, Montana, on a hike to Ousel Falls, a hidden gem of the area. Accompanied by my family, we stop at a bench atop a hill to catch our breath. We take the time to observe the beautiful scenery around us and then look down to see a plaque on the bench. The engraving is dedicated to a deceased man from “Rebecca and Family”. We immediately begin speculating who this ‘Rebecca’ is and what her relationship is to this family and man. Within a minute, Rebecca is the man’s mistress and secretly made this plaque as her way of coming out to the family. The next bench belongs to an illegitimate child, the next to two polygamous families. With each bench we pass, the stories become weirder and funnier and I look forward to each new tale we tell. Although the falls were beautiful and the surrounding nature spectacular, what I will always remember from this were the little moments in between of creating these fake narratives and sharing that genuine laughter and fun with the people I love.
There is a certain kind of precious memory that is formed in the little moments. They define us just as much as the big things; in fact, they shape and prepare us for the big things. It’s the long forgotten joke between friends, but the happiness and bonding that still remains. It is the feel of lake water on your skin as you float calmly and stare at the stars. It’s finding a new favorite flower or word or color and reveling in the beauty of discovery and wondering how you went so long without knowing it before now. It’s the realization of the importance of such things and taking more time to relish and cherish them.
For without the small moments of connection, how could you make best friends or fall in love? Without our times of solitude, could we truly appreciate being surrounded by happy company (and vice-versa)? If I didn’t take time to find beauty in an interesting looking tree on a walk home, how could I truly embrace the awesomeness of a lake surrounded by mountains 9,000 feet above sea level?
There is excitement and incredible things all around you, no matter where you are: from the overgrown park you’ve lived next to since childhood, to a new view in a place you’ve never been. Appreciate the old as much as the new, the broken down as much as the recently constructed. Both are filled with the potential to be something marvelous; it’s up to you to see it. If you can find a passion for living, then each breath is filled with energy, every sunrise and set are miraculous, and each step is a journey leading to something unexpected. To realize the significance and absolute joy of living while you’re doing it is one of the most important things we can give ourselves.
We define our lives by the big moments; first days, that one near-death experience, weddings, funerals, reaching the summit, times of immense happiness or sorrow. They stick out in our minds as life-altering occasions and they undeniably are. These experiences have the power to shake the ground beneath us (particularly if this experience is an earthquake) and shift us in directions we never thought we would take. However, it’s what leads up to these radical, character building times in our lives that may be even more life altering, ground shaking, and profound.