George Strait recorded this song called The Breath You Take. I read the above quote before I ever heard the song. I have a t-shirt from Black Rock Mountain State Park that carries the quote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” I bought it because it resonated with me so much. I don’t even wear t-shirts. But, I wanted that shirt for those days when I needed reminding that life’s not about the everyday. For me, it’s about the natural highs that happen every once in a blue moon.
I love the outdoors because the woods just seem to present miracles every minute. All I have to do is walk up on a little creek with a few little beautiful wildflowers growing beside it, and my heart just melts. I have to stop and take it all in. When I lived in Michigan, I loved walking in the woods. The winters were long. When spring came, the world just came to life. Deer overpopulated the area, so I was always running up on deer. When I see yellow flowers, I think of the sunlight of the spirit, and it’s a big lift for me. I ran a trail several times a week in Indiana Dunes State Park that featured meadow after wooded meadow full of yellow flowers in the spring. I was moved to tears more than once in the hugs that God was presenting to me. It was a time when I needed hugs badly, and I couldn’t get them from a person. But, I got them so beautifully from those little yellow flowers.
I wasn’t present enough in my younger years to really experience those moments that take my breath away. I was way too focused on getting things done, escapism and grasping for more. I never realized that I had everything I needed. I just had to take the time to stop and appreciate it. Even in the midst of despair, there are moments that take my breath away. For years, I toyed with the idea that I should divorce my first husband. I was horribly lonely, and we were basically roommates. We were good friends but no longer partners in any sense of the word. I hurt. I was scared to death to be on my own and even more afraid of disappointing my family with a divorce. One day, I’d had a particularly hard time of it, and I left work early. My car drove itself to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. I parked my Altima in one of the parking areas overlooking a meadow with the Smokies looming in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day. I had this overwhelming sense that the world was much bigger and friendlier than I imagined. I heard very distinctly from my heart that it was time to fly. That moment took my breath away. And, in the midst of 6 months of trying to decide if I did the right thing or not, I kept seeing that moment in my mind’s eye to remind me that there was something bigger than me getting me through it.
I had the same sort of experience when I moved to Seattle on my one-way ticket. I had my kitties in the cargo hold of the plane, and I slept through most of the flight from Knoxville to Seattle. My best friend at the time, Lorna, took me to the airport to go off on my adventure. I had never moved on my own. I always had my husband moving with me. In this instance, I had only been to Seattle once when I went house-hunting. I didn’t know a soul. I was following an instinct that said to move on, but I didn’t know for what. I was sleeping with my head by the window, and I woke up just as we were circling downtown Seattle. It was night, and the city lights and the Space Needle were sparkling like colorful stars. Puget Sound and Lake Washington’s shores broke up the lights making the city look like a little island oasis. I said to myself, “Take a picture.” It was a moment that took my breath away. I was a country girl who had dreamed of being a city girl, moving to distant lands and living life like a big adventure. And, that moment when I paid attention was the demarcation point between the dream and the reality. I’ll never forget it.
They say that the average person takes somewhere between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths a day. We take around 15 per minute. I don’t know how many moments I’ve had that take my breath away, but it’s probably less than several hundred. I feel it when somebody says something that speaks to my soul. I recognize any moment that makes me feel intensely whether its fear, sadness, happiness or anger. Emotions seem to always be at the forefront of any moment that steals my breath. New love is filled with those moments. So is death. It took my breath away when I held my kitty Nala as she breathed her last breath. Those moments are ones that I want to experience fully. That’s one reason I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. I don’t want to be sedated during a moment that will take my breath away. And, I never know when they will happen. I’m open. I’m present. I’m breathing. Come on.... let’s do it again … surprise me …… let me feel something that takes my breath away. Those are the moments I live for. The moment lasts seconds, but it lives in my heart for all time.