The woman lamented at not having her camera at the ready to capture such an amazing moment.
I knew I should have looked more for it.
The colors set the mountain on fire, the migrating cranes purring above her head, and the up close and personal appearances of the Dall sheep convinced her of it.
Of course I'd have no camera on this day, and I'll forget everything...she thought for a moment and then a vision of her grandfather appeared in her mind.
Only if you choose to, he replied quietly.
If I choose to? What do you mean, grandfather?
Open your heart to let it in and etch it into your soul.
The woman laughed.
Don't laugh, my child with what is best. Etch it into your soul and you can take it with you when you die. Can't take your pictures with you, now can you?
Grandfather! I'd just like some good photos to show my friends.
So you can show off.
The woman shrugged.
That's one reason I'm sure, but also so it can stir up memories later. I especially like to stir up good memories when I feel sad...it gives me hope
Etch it in your soul and you will never forget while you're alive. That's much better than any picture.
No, do you have a record of the first time you felt a crush? Bet you can still remember the feeling of electricity searing you from the inside out.
The woman nodded.
Do you remember your first kiss? Your first love? The first time a work of art made you stop and absorb it? The first time you felt your body surrender to music and the dance that ensued as a result? Good times with friends? The first time you traveled to a country not your own? Happy Birthdays that are extra special? Every feeling of success you've ever had to work for?
Yes, of course I remember.
Do you have photos, movies, and recordings of every special moment of your life?
And you're telling me that you can't transport yourself back to those moments?
Yes, Grandfather, of course I can.
That's the stuff, child, that you take with you when you die.
What of the bad and the sad, Grandfather?
What of them, dear? They are part of life.
I remember those at will too.
What in hell are you doin' that for? Dump 'em. Go brew a pot of coffee and savor the smell while it's percolating. Make sweet potato bread and lick the bowl of leftovers while the spices permeate your kitchen.
Easier said than done.
It's as easy to do as to say. Your choice. Why fill yourself up with bitter memories of those who take, betray, take some more, and betray some more? The mistakes we make and the villains we meet are the waste of a life fully lived. Do you resist taking a shit when the urge strikes you?
The woman laughed. Of course not.
Then don't be such a sucker. Let your bowels do their job and dump your memories of them. Make something pretty. Go on a hike, listen to the water flow, feel the mist of a waterfall on your face, go molest some silk, dropping it a notch in luxury with your grubby human hands. Fill yourself up with the stuff that you'd want with you later.
The woman smiled as she hiked along the mountains aglow with the colors of fall, the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and blue of the sky competed with the setting sun as she walked down the path she came up.
It would be a good night for the aurora.
Etch it in your soul...
PS I think this was one of my favorite entries of the booktour/roadtrip. I was hiking in Denali and forgot my camera. Fitting really, because I did not take any pictures of that trip, which I both regret and kind of respect. But on that hike, all these amazing things happened, and I felt like an idiot for not bringing my camera. But a memory of a woman I met on one of my tours when I worked as a hiking guide made me see it differently. She was so moved by the experience and the beauty of SE Alaska that she said on the hike back: “These are the things we take with us when we die.” Remembering that on that hike, I really took the time to absorb the day and wrote this lyrical piece to my friends and family on my email list. If you’d like to see the previous post about that book tour/roadtrip, click HERE.