My sons Josh, 16, and Matthew, 20, and I recently spent a week with family exploring national parks out West. This required many hours of driving. We left home on a Saturday morning and drove Highway 60 toward the Mississippi River through the early morning fog, following our own glorious Wisconsin River. As my boys slept, I marveled at the beauty of the wildflowers, the lush growth and the winding river. Two days and many miles later we were high in the mountains with glaciers, mountain lakes, lodgepole pine trees and wild bison.
If we had flown to the mountains, we would have saved time. And yet we would have missed the rolling corn fields of Iowa, the gradual transition to the plains in Nebraska that then gave way to the rolling scrubland and rocky foothills of Wyoming. Taking the time to experience those transitions and to feel each moment was profound. We only live in each moment. The past is over, and the future yet to be experienced. They are but memory and hope, a concept that comes from “The Order of Time” by Carlo Rovelli.
The idea of saving time for some later experience disallows us the value of watching landscape change and being aware of the vast beauty that surrounds us in each moment.
During the first of the Morrill Lecture Series at Spring Green’s Octagon Barn in July, I heard the stories of six octogenarians who, after lives filled with the memories of many difficult times, describe themselves as happy. To my ear, so much of what made them happy was their own focus on the present. They found joy in the simple pleasures of the everyday, regardless of their struggles.
Recently there was a news story of the teleportation of a photon. This is a major scientific breakthrough. And yet, even my 16-year-old wondered at what has been lost as so many things have become faster, easier, time-saving, and perhaps now, even instantaneous. Is seeing the landscape change important? Can our minds and psyches keep up? With so much knowledge available at our fingertips are we losing the joy of discovery, or seeing something for the first time; of being immersed in a truly new experience and taking the time to explore it?
While we have all heard this message before, perhaps for some, even too many times, it seems to play out in significant, meaningful ways all around us when we take the time to see it. As I listened to my boys marvel at the seemingly endless miles of rolling prairie, I could feel the truth in the lesson. I hope that you can, too.
As summer wanes, I invite you to take time to not be in a hurry, to take the long way: It doesn’t have to be to Wyoming — even a new route to a friend’s house can provide a surprise, or a glimmer of beauty that is worth seeing. The purpose is to embrace where you are, anchored in the moment between memory and hope.
Jennifer Moore-Kerr is a mom, a free spirit and a barefoot dancer living in Spring Green where she can walk to the river and commune with friends. In her spare time she leads discussions on meaningful topics in order to foster better civic, civil dialogue in the River Valley. She is delighted to share her thoughts on kids, time and nature on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on creativity, education and kids.