Treasuring the Moment, Not the Future

When I learned my application for an academic sabbatical had been accepted, I immediately began to craft a to-do list for this current school year. My goals are - to publish a book (the book is written), continue to write poems, take photos and, as the Italians say,"Enjoy the art of doing nothing." It strikes me as odd that a child's ability to play is indicative of his/her emotional and social wellbeing but somehow we don't assess an adult's health in a similar manner. So, when I was granted the sabbatical, I knew the underlying theme of this adventure would be recovering a sense of play.

As a child, I was (and am) mesmerized by the flickering flames of the Northern Lights. Given that my inner-child has been charged with directing my sabbatical, I reached out to Laura, my friend at Magnetic North, who helped my husband and I plan a trip to Norway's Arctic Circle.

Three days into our trip, Dan and I were chasing the Northern Lights in the Lofoten Islands. A dusty, swirl of green light swooped across the highway and snaked it's way through the sky. Our guide immediately found a safe place to pull over, and I began to quickly assemble my tripod under the red light emanating from my night-vision Petzl. After frantically adjusting the tripod's legs, I quickly jammed my camera on its perch only to realize the nighttime photography class I had taken in NYC hadn't prepared me for the Northern Lights whatsoever. I have a Cannon DSLR camera and have become quite comfortable with the manual functions, but my lens lacked an infinity focus setting. With tears burning in my eyes, I acerbically barked at my husband, "I give up. I'm just going to enjoy the lights and not take any photos." If I'm being honest with you, I think I had tossed in a few expletives to further punctuate my frustration and exasperation.

The guide, perhaps hearing my cranky tone, quickly came over to assist me. He suggested I focus on a house light in the far distance and then keep that setting as I tilted my camera towards the sky. Success!!! We then hopped in the van and drove to Kabelvag, which is where I took the photo that accompanies this post. When we arrived in Kabelvag, I set up my equipment like a pro and began snapping away with unleashed frenzy. The instant gratification of digital photography is not to be underestimated. I held my breath each time I pressed my remote shutter and waited the thirty seconds or so for my camera to capture the spritely bands of color that whipped across the Arctic sky. I squealed with delight when I saw each photo appear on my screen. The magic had been captured! As time elapsed, my attention began to drift towards the anticipation and expectation of seeing more Northern Lights and capturing even better photos. I became feverishly rapacious and abandoned the present moment entirely by launching myself into the promising future.

Well, guess what...That night was the only time we saw the Northern Lights. I fully understand why she is often referred to as the Fickle Lady. The conditions have to be just perfect to see her - strong solar flares, no clouds, and minimal wind. The weather in the Arctic Circle changes rapidly, and we were quite fortunate to have seen her when we did.

Talk about life presenting me with a lesson. I abandoned the beauty and thrill of the present moment in expectation of further goodies and delights. Message received. Lesson, hopefully, learned.

For additional photos of our Arctic experience go to my PHOTOS page.