Moments

I share with you one of the loveliest articles I have ever read. It speaks volumes about living in the present.

A Ramble in Wales

By Bruce Northam, in National Geographic Traveler, March 2002

An elderly woman encountered on a mountain hike shares the wisdom of a lifetime.

My father and I walk together a lot. Last summer we undertook a 180-mile trek across Wales, coast-to-coast along Offa’s Dyke-the grand earthwork project conceived in the eighth century by King Offa of Mercia to separate England from Wales. Our walk was a celebration of sorts. A year earlier, my father, who was then 70, had undergone open-heart bypass and back surgery.

Now we were walking together atop the long, curving ridge-boundary of Brecon Beacons National Park. En route we befriended Erica, a Welsh woman who was clearly oblivious to the beck and call of stress. At dusk the three of us encountered an elderly lady and her beagle hiking toward us. Teetering along on a walking stick, she wore a motoring cap and held it bunch of wildflowers. I said hello and asked her where she was going. She replied in Welsh, “Rydw i yna yn barod.” We looked to Erica for a translation.

“She said, ‘I’m already there.'”

They continued their placid conversation in Welsh until the old woman resumed her walk. As she faded into the distance, I declared my envy for her simple philosophy. “Let’s catch up with her. There’s something else I’d like to ask.” We spun around and caught up with her. She walked a few more steps along the trail, traded her flowers to the other hand, and raised an eyebrow. Erica translated my question, “What’s the secret to a long and happy life?”
The old woman and I scrutinized each other for an instant, beings from different eras and opposite sides of an ocean. She directed her answer to Erica. “Moments.” There was a quiet pause. Then the old woman smiled, squinted at my father, and spoke slowly, “Moments are all we get. A true walker understands this.”
After a silent minute, we all clutched hands with the old woman, then we waved good-bye as she trudged off with eternal poise and bearing. As we turned to continue on our way, my father and I exchanged smiles.

Moments. They’re all we get.

(Bruce Northam’s books include The Frugal Globetrotter and In Search of Adventure: A Wild Travel Anthology.)

The Old Wolf has quoted.

3 responses to “Moments

  1. One of the star Oberlin professors in the ’70s was a religion professor named Harry Thomas Frank. He had enormous street cred when it came to the historical Jesus as opposed to the Christ of faith. He also had cancer, which he never talked about—in class, at any rate.

    I forget how he got to it, but he almost discussed it once. In a very rare personal moment, Mr. Frank told us that all we had was the present. The past was gone, and the future might never arrive. So we had to live in the present, he told us.

    Man, you could have heard a pin drop. He had us right in the palm of his hand. And it’s just about the only thing I learned in that class. I find that’s true of a lot of my college classes; I remember only a couple of things, and they often have nothing to do with the subject of the class. They were what made college worthwhile.

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