Snapshots of the Mind

Six years ago I was camping in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, in the White Mountains.  It had been a perfect day and as it drew to a close I walked about a mile from the campsite to a remote part of the Saco River.  I tore off my rugged hiking boots and sweaty socks and soaked my poor, tired feet in the ice-cold river.  I was in a gorge with no other people nearby.  The sky was deep blue, the trees were thick and the water from the river reflected off the sheer rock sides of the cliffs above.

Although we really had no idea that our lives were about to change dramatically in a few years, it occurred to me, thinking deep thoughts as I am prone to do in these mountains, that our elderly parents would someday be depending on us in ways that I couldn’t fathom, and that the luxury of things like time away and excursions to the White Mountains would only be a fantasy in the future.  Rather than be saddened by this thought, I instead made a conscious effort to study the scene before me in minute detail.  When I felt I could commit the water, the rocks, the cliffs, the trees, the blue of the sky and the clean smell of the air to memory, I closed my eyes.  Concentrating hard, I whispered to myself, “Click!” and photographed the scene in my mind.  I knew that no matter what happened in the future, I could go back to this picture consciously stored in my brain and recall this scene, which was mine and mine alone.

I have used this technique often.  These mental snapshots aren’t solely about beautiful places, but are always sensual moments – the moment of the birth of one of my children, or even the smell of melted chocolate.  In the midst of travail I can willfully transport myself back to a moment in my personal history that was especially wonderful.  I have taught this trick to others, as well.

This past summer, in the midst of an unrelenting heat wave of 102 degrees (very hot for Maine!), I drove 10 minutes from my home to 307-acre Kewaydin Lake.

Kewaydin Lake on an autumn day

You can go just about anywhere on the lake and not see anyone else, despite the many lake-front summer cabins that dot the edges.  The water is cold and pure, and so clean and clear that one can see tens of feet below the surface.  Usually the water is so cold that you can’t swim without turning blue, but because of the above-mentioned heat wave, the water was warmer than usual yet still cold enough to be refreshing.  The utter calm, the sound of the water lapping at the edges, the consistency of my stroke, the deep blue sky and the mountainous backdrop were a nirvana for the soul.

Virginia Lake, a short distance from Kewaydin Lake

Once again, I consciously memorized every possible detail of my surroundings as well as my feeling of quiet euphoria:  “Click!”

The shoreline of Virginia Lake

Even now during the bleaker days of autumn, I return in my mind to that day.  I don’t just “see” it; I feel it.  This is but one aspect of my goal to live consciously and conscientiously.  And I cannot help but smile.

This beautiful stream connects Virginia Lake to Kewaydin Lake

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