Death will break her claws on some I keep

Being alive is a tenuous experience, even on the best of days. But every once in awhile, there are a few moments — a few shining, gorgeous, glowing moments — when everything is perfect. It happens like this:

One moment, everything is ordinary. You’re thinking about work, or what you need from the store, or something dumb you said the other day.

Then it happens. Maybe someone you love catches your eye, or a song you were just thinking about comes on the radio, or you crest a steep hill, or you see a seagull wheeling high up over the bay, or a dragonfly darts into your path and then just hangs there as if by magic.

Whatever small thing it is, it happens, and it tips you gently over some invisible edge. Time seems to slow, leaving you suspended, suddenly observing your own emotions. A second ago, you felt happy. Now happiness is something you exist within, and its borders expand to encompass all the world, all the way out to the sky and the stars.

All is well, and that is not a thought that you have, but a certainty that seems to permeate your body from within, until you feel it in your bones, in your breath, in your heartbeat, in your fingertips, in your skin. You’re suddenly sure that everything is alright; is, and was, and will be. You feel alive, awake to every detail, all your senses awash.

Everything, for once, is exactly as it should be. There is nothing to regret, nothing you would change — and right now, you have everything you desire. The past and future hold our failures and miseries, our losses, our missteps, the shadows that haunt us and the pain we fear. But all of that is a distant country now. All that is real, all that is certain, exists right now, in this one present tense stretching out to infinity.

This is what it’s all about. This is what you are, or perhaps why. This is what you get, and nothing is without a price. That is why you must breathe in these moments with your whole being, savor the taste of them on your tongue.

This is how it happens. These perfect moments, treasures that I hoard against the ones I know lie in wait for me, the dark moments when nothing is right.


…I had a very nice weekend, internet friends. I hope yours was excellent as well.

Yellow dust on a bumble
bee’s wing,
Gray lights in a woman’s
asking eyes,
Red ruins in the changing
sunset embers:
I take you and pile high
the memories.
Death will break her claws
on some I keep.

— Carl Sandburg