Do you ever wish you could bottle time? Take a memory and seal it up, ready to get out and savour again whenever you needed to?
I remember wishing that I could, when the children were small. I would watch R concentrating on painting or cooking or a story, know that she was completely, one hundred percent happy, and I would wish I could store it up for her. To save those secure, carefree toddler days for when she was an anxious teenager or a stressed out adult or whatever. I have never asked her if she ever wished I could have, never asked if she needed one of those memory bursts. I just know that sometimes I would have liked one myself.
So sometimes I catch myself trying to absorb moments. I see something or experience something special and I want to bottle it, capture it for later. Trips abroad often provide those moments. Perhaps because I have time and space to notice them. Sri Lanka certainly provided a few – you might have detected a little enthusiasm when I described seeing the elephants in my last blog! But there were many others, some of them just lasted a second. Like smiling at a young child, sharing the international language of parenthood with a stranger. Or watching a pelican, clumsy and awkward as a clockwork toy.
I would even save some sad memories. Feeling the rain as I stood next to Dad’s grave, surrounded by the family’s shared grief. It was real. In a world so full of artificial, of pretence, real is important. There is life. There is death. There is God. There is a lot of weird and wonderful in between….
There was one moment in Sri Lanka, on the way to the airport. We slowed for traffic lights and the scene was so foreign, so alive. It told a thousand stories and I wanted to be able to paint it or photograph it, though neither would do it justice.
Try to imagine it for a minute. It only lasted a minute, sixty seconds. The traffic is slow and our car creeps forwards. There are people crossing: a man carrying coloured crates, someone with three sacks stacked on his shoulder. Women elegant in saris, boys sauntering in jeans, a man with no legs wheeling his chair up the road against the tide of traffic. There are beggars waiting for the red light so they can stand, silent, beseeching with empty eyes next to car windows. Small shops with tired workers, rubbish blown against the walls, bright signs with curly symbols I can’t read. And the traffic – lots of buses, patterned paintwork, inside the seats had crocheted covers under protective plastic, bright, hot, uncomfortable, with arms and faces leaning out open windows. Aggressive drivers, loud horns, pushing through the traffic scattering pedestrians and tuktuks. And tuktuks, multicoloured, personalised with cushions, flowers, pictures, beads, whole shrines stuffed in the front. Some ferrying tourists, others carrying families. Can you see it? All that life. Impossible to capture, yet very real. It all mattered to someone.
Sometimes life whizzes on.
I hope you have some wonderful moments this week, something you wish you could bottle. Even if only for a minute. Try to notice if you do.
Thank you for reading.
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