The Perfect Moment
After quietly eating breakfast and reflecting on my time at the Danville Conservation Area, I packed up the RV4, took down the window treatments, and cleaned up my campsite. Missouri had been nice, but it was time to go exploring. I wanted to continue my search – for whatever it was that I was searching for.
I got back onto I-70 West and continued on for the next several hours. I passed through Kansas City, Kansas, without stopping. Big cities didn’t really interest me at that point. I looked through my book of Free & Low-Cost Campgrounds for a site that wasn’t too far from the interstate.
Shawnee State Fishing Lake
I found one. Just north of Topeka was a tiny blue dot on my road atlas. Exiting the highway, I meandered my way through the grid-like road systems of rural Kansas, praying that my GPS wouldn’t cut out on me all the way out there. Finally, I arrived.
I’m fairly certain that it was a manmade lake, seeing as it was relatively small, only about a mile long by a half-mile wide, and sitting out in the middle of Kansas farmland (everywhere in Kansas seems to be farmland). But it was nice. There were dozens of families camped out all around the lake. It was a Saturday, and a beautiful one at that.
I found my own little spot up on a hilltop, a little bit away from the shoreline. I set about collecting firewood. The sparse, wooded areas nearby were picked clean, so I had to bushwhack my way through some thick brush to find anything decent. I collected small branches until I came across the gnarliest, and deadliest, looking spider that I had ever seen. Aside from the few tarantulas I’ve witnessed in my life, it was also the biggest (sorry, didn’t get to take any pictures). After that, I concluded that I had more than enough wood, and briskly made my way back out of this arachnoid paradise.
Fortunately, I later found a big log, which provided all the fuel that I could possibly need. For some reason, I didn’t have any desire to stay here for more than one night.
But the sunset was absolutely epic up on that hill top.
So Near, So Far
I heated up some canned lentil soup over the fire for dinner, and was boiling water to make some tea. As I ate, and the moon rose in the darkened sky, I began to look around me. All of the other campsites were lit up with their own fires. I could hear children playing and adults laughing.
But what struck me was how vastly different the atmosphere was here, compared with my experiences back at Hoosier National Forest. The people I’d met back at that campsite all came together into one big, united group. But here, everyone kept to their own safe, secluded campsites, without much apparent interaction going on. People didn’t wave or come over to your campfire for an unannounced, pleasant visit. These people simply weren’t the traveling, outgoing types – they were families who just wanted to fish for the weekend. And that was ok, I was happy regardless.
I know it’s cliché, but that moment gave me a new understanding of the phrase, “So near, and yet so far away.”
I decided to meditate again, next to the roaring fire. I sat cross-legged on my cushion, set my timer for 20 minutes, and closed my eyes.
This time was different. I had entered into a whole new level of relaxation. My timer went off. I opened my eyes, and for the first time in a long time, I noticed that my mind was devoid of the incessant, chattering thoughts that I’ve come to call “normal.” For that moment, I was engaged in my current environment, and living in the now. And I felt happy. Content, and excited to be alive.
Welcome to Now
A warm breeze was blowing across the dry plains surrounding the lake, sweeping across my face from the left. I took my shirt off, and felt the air gently brushing against my skin. I listened intently to the crackle of the fire before me, the laughter of the distant children behind me, and the chirps of the locusts coming from every direction in-between. I looked around at all of the glimmering pinpoints of fire-light surrounding the lake. And then up at the gigantic, glowing disc that hung high above all of our heads.
I picked up the cup of tea that I’d made just before meditating. I could taste the ingeniously crafted local honey that I had poured into it. As I drank, a feeling of joy swept over me. I was blessed to be experiencing this moment, and for once I knew it.
A thought came to me:
“This is the perfect moment.”
But immediately thereafter, another thought popped into my head:
“There isn’t anything particularly special about this moment – I’m just sitting next to a fire with some tea…can every moment feel this perfect?”
The answer was yes. I knew that it was – I felt it in my heart. At that time, I didn’t know how to achieve such a state of happiness, but I believed that it was possible. You see, there was an unsettling truth that I’d started to uncover, though for a long time I had tried to deny its validity.
We humans (including myself) are often under the delusion that, by shaping our external circumstances – where we’re at, who we’re with, what we have, etc. – we can achieve happiness. But – and it honestly hurts to say this – the truth is that absolute bliss has never been more than a moment away.
My last journal entry of that night, as I wrote by the light of the moon, is one that will stick with me for years to come.
“Every moment is perfect, if you will but only look, hear, smell, taste, feel, and – most importantly – stop.”