I distinctly remember it the first time. It was autumn in Beaumont, Texas. I was a senior at Forest Park, and it was the first cold (okay, barely cool for the rest of the US) day. The afternoon sun shone through 106 deciduous trees, all of whose leaves I would move to the leaf pile in the next few weeks.
The clarity of the light felt different than all of summer’s bronzy hazes. Decisions about school next fall, whether to continue dating Gwenn, a couple of friends who were pregnant and getting married, the reality that all of my world was about to be scattered to the four winds with as little effort as a dandelion, and the sun somehow lingering low on the horizon with that amazing golden light stole my breath.
My heart raced as if it would not get in all of its beats in my allotted life span. The words of the Psalmist seemed overawing “For what is your life? It is a mist on the lake, burned off by the noonday sun!”
And all of my life was racing by, and I had to sit for a few more minutes and soak it in. I had to see it. I had to listen, breathe deeply so as to smell the leaves, the rain on the wind somewhere almost far away. The phone rang and I didn’t move: a teen not racing to answer a phone, because it would distract me. Anything could distract me from this one, fleeting, insubstantial reality.
Life is fleeting, and that somehow makes every second more expensive, every decision more important, every inaction somehow more incomprehensible.
Now I know. It is the days when night steals in sooner, unbidden as if it must do its work of undoing spring’s new greens in darkness that take a little longer. Those days still catch my heart in my throat, and blur the feeling that was so young now so much older and yet still the same.
Life is fleeting, and that extorts every second as expensive, every decision as less regrettable than indecision, and inaction as a common excuse and curse.
Oh, and the light is still clearer, more piercing, beautiful, and unbidden shining into my quaking heart. Precious. Golden.