The One Place You Must See Before You Die
Forget 1001 historic sites/gardens/natural wonders/architectural feats you must see before you die. I’ll tell you the one thing that you really must see before you leave this world for the next – the here and now.
I’m not talking here of a cursory glance around, so you can check it off that mental list of things seen and done. To my mind, unless you give yourself completely over to experiencing the moment, this exact one happening right now, it won’t matter if you’re seated outside the Taj Mahal, touring the pyramids by camel, standing at the viewpoint overlooking the steep cliffs of the Grand Canyon or climbing the many steps ascending the Eiffel Tower. To fully experience life, it must be lived, not measured, evaluated and checked.
Here’s a quick exercise for you to try:
- Walk for no more than 5 mins from where you are sitting now – this may take you to your living room, your garden, a local park etc. – and bring with you a notebook, a pen and your camera.
- Find a good (safe!) place to sit, and close your eyes for a few minutes and just breathe. Allow your body to relax and your mind to unwind. Push to one side all those concerns about what you still have to do today, the money worries, the work woes. They’ll all still be there when we’re finished, so they can be ignored for the time being.
- Still with your eyes closed, give over to your senses. Feel the grass tickle your fingers. Smell the honey-scented blooms. Hear the sweet chirp of the birds. Of course, depending on where you chose your spot to sit, your senses may convey something entirely different from that which I’ve described here. The important thing is to give yourself over to it and to experience it for what it is.
- Now, open your eyes, and look around you. Take in the whole of the sight, allowing your eyes to drink in the unique beauty of what surrounds you. You may be viewing tall oaks, rolling grassy hillocks, colourful flowerbeds, or, if you stayed inside, maybe you’re viewing overfilled bookcases, softly draping curtains, and finely grained floorboards. Whatever the sight, accept and appreciate it, without longing that you were somewhere else entirely.
- After absorbing the bigger picture, it’s now time to zero in on the details. Pick up your camera and, turning on your macro setting, get up close to your subjects and start capturing the intimate curves of the petals, the gradation of colour in the leaves, the textured grain of the wood. Try new angles, new perspectives, new takes on the familiar. Make the known, new, fresh and strange.
- Time to uncap the pen and open the notebook. Find a fresh page and begin to write about what you’ve experienced since you first sat in that spot 5 mins walk away. Remember to try and capture the sensual experience of what you felt, heard, and smelled as well as the sights you saw and photographed, and really try to use as descriptive language as you can. Write as truthfully and as mindfully as you can – try and express the truth of the moment to the best of your ability. Wax lyrical!
- Optional: What I do following this exercise is, I upload my photographs, cropping and editing them to make them more clearly represent my perspective, and then create a post combining my words and images. A record of that time and place to be shared and experienced by all who come across it.
I think you’ll find that if you follow these steps, you’ll have see the one place you ‘must see’ before you die – the present moment. But do you know what the great thing is? Life is just full of these moments!
I’m reminded of this wonderful quote which my mum used to keep on her fridge:
Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had my life to live over, I’d have more of them in fact I’d have nothing else, just moments, one after another instead of living so many years ahead each day.
Nadine Stair age 85 in Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison
I couldn’t have said it better myself :-)
If you do decide to give the exercise a go, why not report back here with how you got on? I’ll be posting about mine tomorrow! If you decided to take the option of blogging about it, leave the link so we can all go and share in your experience of a moment. Also, you could contribute one of your photos from the exercise to the Photography Less Ordinary time capsule. If you’re planning to do so though, you’ll need to do it today, as the deadline for entries is midnight (your time) tonight!