In the movie “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Jeff Bridges watches Barbara Streisand on their first dinner date as she carefully assembles a forkful of food from the several varieties on her plate.
Then, much to her surprise, he compliments her on creating “the perfect bite,” with all the flavors blended in just the right proportions to suit her taste.
I don’t worry too much about perfect bites, but I do love perfect moments. Those are the times, sometimes fleeting, when everything in my world is aligned just right and my spirit is filled with a sort of euphoria, when delight and gratitude bubble up as refreshing as a spring of fresh water.
I don’t think young people are capable of moments like these. Just as thirst makes us appreciate plain water, and hunger makes us savor ordinary food, moments of peace and lack of stress are only recognized by people who have some life experience behind them, who have weathered storms and fears and anxieties, and who have come to learn that it’s the times without externally induced excitement that are the most precious.
The interesting thing about these perfect moments is that they’re nearly impossible to explain. To an outside observer, there’s nothing special to see. The euphoria is more felt than seen, like a mental conversation between two telepaths.
I had one of those perfect moments the other day. The house was quiet, the dog was sleeping on the couch and I was sitting in my recliner. Birds sang outside, newly returned from wherever they go during the winter. The sun was still low in the morning sky, and I had nothing on my agenda. For no apparent reason, I was suddenly awash in an overwhelming sense of well-being. I was seized by joy so intense that if it had been visible, surely I would have glowed.
Why? Why would that particular series of very ordinary circumstances create such delight? The only explanation that comes even close, in my mind, is that my history includes a jam-crammed work schedule, more responsibilities than I should ever have agreed to, and very little time for myself.
Some people, having grown used to a life like that, might feel adrift without it, might miss the frenetic pace, and certainly might not define its absence as a perfect moment. For me, it was.
I’ve had similar moments on rainy days, when the air grows close and dark, and a gentle shower opens up on the world outside my windows. Indoors, where all is warm and dry and there is time to simply listen to that liquid song, peace reigns.
Sitting on my deck, either in the very early morning, saying Morning Prayer and watching the birds at my feeder; or perhaps in the evening, with the fresh smell of the nearby bay and clouds drifting unhurriedly through sky–I find myself savoring each moment as if in slow motion, taking nothing for granted, reveling in these ordinary blessings that so often get ignored, but shouldn’t, because God gave them to us precisely for our enjoyment.
Watching my husband do breakfast dishes when he thinks I’m busy with Morning Prayer, or listening to him breathe as he sleeps when I’ve awakened early–more perfect moments, unmarred by worry or stress, joy-filled, life-enhancing, reflective moments colored by gratitude. Even if there were stress or worry from another source, those moments exist like time outside of time, little separate oases in life’s maelstrom.
Too often, we let our daily lives flow by too quickly. We don’t stop, step back, and taste the moments. We don’t hear the silence, we don’t see the extraordinary beauty in ordinary things. We don’t unwrap the little gifts of love and nature, or appreciate the small securities of hearth and home.
It reminds me of the Scripture story of the man listening for God, and finding him not in the grand explosions of the world around him, but in the tiny voice of a subtle breeze.
My perfect moments are found in those still, small slices of time.