I have been to Utah twice now, once in 2001 by myself and again in 2006 with my partner, Marge. It is a place of captivating beauty that left its mark on both of us.
Our favorite stop was Arches National Park, not only because one of our favorite movies (Thelma and Louise) was filmed in part there, but also because the park contains some of the most amazing scenery either of us has ever seen. Views such as this:
And this (Delicate Arch, at left, is the arch featured on Utah license plates):
Oddly enough, though, of the hundreds of beautiful photos of arches and bridges, hoodoos, and mountains from our vacation, one of my favorites has always been this close-up I took of an ant making its way along the sun-baked earth of Arches with a chunk of a tourist's Doritos chip:
This moment fascinated me not only because the ant's seemingly endless struggle stirred feelings of existential empathy, but also because I had even noticed the ant in an environment in which it would have been entirely easy to miss.
I don't always observe what is around me in great detail. I will freely admit that my mind is often a mad dash of thoughts: thoughts about the past and the future, about things I shouldn't have done and things I should do, about why things are the way they are instead of the way they could be. I am not someone who easily occupies the "now."
But in Utah, amid the stunning beauty and free of my daily stresses, real or imagined, I was wholly present in the moment. My photo of the ant, I suppose, was a product of the macrofocus of both my camera and my mind.
It shouldn't require a vacation to have such moments, although we sometimes have to make the time for them. Lately I have been feeling stretched a little too thin, and realize that I need to slow down a bit.
I plan to try to set aside some time each day to sit quietly, clear my mind and just see, hear, smell, touch and taste the life around me at that particular moment.
Our culture doesn't always make it easy to be present in the moment. At our local Stop & Shop on Saturday, the Halloween decorations were already on the shelves.