Cheryl Strayed gets a lot of credit for getting me through some of the most challenging moments of the last couple of years. She has a wonderful line in Tiny Beautiful Things: “Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before…” That line still makes me sit back in my seat because it’s so simple, but so true.
While I was paddling this morning, I realized that presence happens on the level of the gesture too. I don’t bring a phone with me on the water, which means I also don’t have a camera with me. It’s the quietest part of my day, the part when I most notice the beauty of what’s around me – and I have no way to capture it.
Presence is watching how someone’s body language betrays their words. Presence is not taking photos and instead opting to watch the way the indigo of mountains contrasts the orange of a sunset. It’s taking a minute to notice the feeling of another person’s hand in your own, rather than just rushing to a destination, hand-in-hand .
That presence is what creates our memories. Science tells us that memories that involve multiple senses and emotions are the ones that we hold onto the longest. Being present in a moment, though we may not have a physical ‘thing’ to show for it, gives us something much more. It gives us a moment to go back to, in the quiet of our own minds, when we need it most.