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Yesterday I drove around Humboldt Bay to Eureka, just as late afternoon slid into evening. As I headed out of town, a fog bank hung on the horizon and an ethereal mist clung to the Arcata Bottoms – those pasture lands alongside the highway. Grazing cows appeared ghostly in that expanse of meadow, their bodies partially obscured in the mist.

The effect was a mystical beauty that took my breath away. What a photo opportunity, I thought. I looked around for a place to pull over, but I was already late for my meeting and it was dangerous anyway. So I reluctantly pulled my eyes back to the road where they belonged, glancing over to my right as often as I could to drink in the magical scene.

As I curved around the bay another visual gift greeted me. Sunset colors glimmering on the bay at low tide, reflecting mauves, oranges and pinks, a living work of art. I couldn’t tell which was more beautiful the sky or the water, and again I longed to take a photo to record this fleeting moment of beauty.

For a second I let frustration override my sense of wonder. I needed to record this moment! How would I remember that I’d experienced it otherwise?

Then I shook myself, chuckled, and let my foot lift a little off the accelerator, slowing the car so I could drink in the shine of the sky, the light on the water, the full effect of it all. I allowed it to enter inside, to just live there and bless me with the present moment. I whispered a little prayer of thanks and gratitude for being in the exact right place at the exact right time to witness another of Mother Nature’s spectacular shows.

So funny how we’ve gotten to this point with our modern technology. We’re so anxious to take a photo or a video that we miss out on actually experiencing what we are seeing in the present time. We travel around to majestic spots on the planet, camera or cell phone at the ready, and take photo after photo, attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to capture and record it for our own personal archives.

I’m not totally knocking it. I enjoy looking at my photos of the places I’ve visited, reliving the fun times. And it does help me to remember those days a little more clearly. But, wow. Sometimes it’s just time to put the camera down.

I was reminded of a similar episode a few years back when I went to watch Rosie perform in a variety show. Tim couldn’t make it so I promised to take a video of the skit. She and some other girls were dressed in berets and funny hats, singing and acting out a silly French song and skit. The show was some sort of benefit put together by one of the local community theatre groups.

I hung on the edge of my chair, camera at the ready throughout the first acts, impatiently waiting for it to be Rosie’s turn. Finally, she was next. I stood up and threaded my way to the aisle, bumping knees in my haste to start recording.

I am by no means an experienced video shooter so I struggled to get the camera to follow her around the stage, and capture the rest of the act too. It was such a fun little act! The song hilarious, their costumes so cute. The only problem was, I was viewing the whole thing through the little screen on my camera! My daughter was performing live right in front of me, and instead of taking in the reality of it I was too busy recording it.

This was ridiculous.

I stopped worrying about my video technique and just held the camera still and watched the finale as a live act. I’ll never get back the opportunity to see the whole thing live. And that amateur video  pretty much sucks.

It was a good lesson. Now I try to check myself when I get too obsessed with the recording of a beautiful moment, rather than the experience.

So today I’m happy with my memory of the mystical fog and unusual sunset I experienced on my mundane drive to Eureka. And I can share it in words instead of on a digital screen.

Yet another reason to be grateful for my many blessings.

A completely different sunset. This one in Trinidad.

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