Friday Firesmith – In The Moment

When I was a kid we had a hell of a good time with practically nothing more than what we found lying on the ground, and, of course, bicycles. I remember when Mark Kelly and I climbed up in a tree in a cow pasture and were way up high, in the crook of a branch that was really scary. Suddenly, the cows in the pasture came wandering up to sit in the shade of the tree, and we felt both trapped by the massive animals, and oddly like predators, ready to pounce upon the unsuspecting prey below.

In the moments that followed, we both whispered about getting, possibly, trampled in a stampede, which didn’t happen nearly as often as television shows suggested, as often as, let’s say, amnesia and quicksand, and how we might get one of the cows home, were we able to kill it, with a limb sharpened into a spear. Having nothing but a small pocketknife between the two of us, spear making was going to take a while, but hey, we would work up an appetite, right?

As the weather is wont to do in the Summers of South Georgia, the wind began to blow, a gentle breeze, welcomed, then hard enough to make the tree sway; a thunderstorm was about to begin, and we had to get out of that tree. The rumble of thunder hinted that we might be part of a cookout, and on the menu as well, were we struck by lightning while still stuck in the tree.

Of course, we climbed down, spooked some of the cows, others ignored such small creatures as we, but we managed to get close enough to the fence to drop over to the other side, just as the bottom fell out of the skies, and the deluge began. Sheets of rain pounded us, blinded us, as we ran towards my house, which was closer, and we finally gained the sanctuary of the carport. Soaking wet and breathless, we watched as the storm spent its fury and eventually, perhaps a half hour later, the sun came back out as if nothing had happened at all.

We didn’t need or want dry clothes, didn’t care that we were soaked, and no one did back then. We were barefooted and nearly feral. We wandered off to watch the water run out of the field and into the pond, or somewhere else. There was a sense of constant motion back then.

There is no record of any of these events. Not a video, not a photo of any sort, no mention of anything on social media at all. We weren’t tied down to chargers, had no fear of getting anything wet, and never paused to record a moment or take a photo. We were simply alive, and in this, had no need or means to save the moment in which we experienced life.

Do you think the ability, and the desire, to record memories, keeps you from making the most of the actual experience?

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

23 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – In The Moment”

  1. Yes I think it does. I was thrilled when electronic storage came along. I could take as many photos as I wanted. But then i realized turning yourself into a human camera stand was only taking away from my experiences. If I am busy taking photos or videos I am not fully experiencing the world around me. I am missing the smells, interaction with those around me and anything outside the screen. My phone/camera is not my brain. It is a poor substitute. Now I take some photos that summarize whatever I am doing but store the rest in my memory. It’s much better technology.

  2. Yup. Enjoy the moment now, instead of trying to relive it later. I’ve had to break myself of this habit, and enjoy the now, not the later.

  3. I think it’s an age thing. I look back at old photos of grandparents, parents and us as kids, they were mainly unassumingly posed. Not like today, where social media is full of ‘look at me’, shots whether it’s sport or partying etc. The good thing about your piece Mike, and our own real life experiences, is having someone to yarn to about ‘remember when’.
    We had a visit last week from a cousin of mine who now lives interstate, her parents and two siblings stayed with us for a couple of months back in the 50’s when they migrated from the UK. There were so many ‘remember when’ moments, and laughter that ensued about silly times with 4 of us girls sharing a double bed top and tail etc etc, all recalled as if they were yesterday, without the necessity of photos.

  4. That all sounds very familiar:

    Coincidentally I used to spend a good chunk of my summers at my uncles farm in Hickory Flat Ga; (up in Cherokee County; nearing the foothills of the Appalachians; quite a different landscape than Hickory Head Ga in the southern part of the state); some of my fondest memories included our excursions through the pastures of his and many of the adjacent cattle pastures (mostly owned by his extended family from an original land grant back in the 1830s which consisted of around 500 acres of rolling hills, streams and lots and lots of cow pies. We rode horses, got to drive the farm tractor and truck (in the field) as early as 10 and had occasional sips of his home made muscadine moonshine distilled in the blockhouse out back. – He had 5 acres devoted to his vegetable plot and grew all sorts of things that I wasn’t quite so fond of when I was 10 as I am now; Brussel Sprouts and collard greens were plentiful and were the scourge of the dinner plate but my Aunt was a wonderful cook and always had a variety of other options nearly always served boiled. he had at least an acre of corn stalks every year and we’d have all sorts of fun chasing each other through the towering stalks and of course he had a lot of muscadines for his distilling operation 🙂

    They had a well with a bucket and water that tasted much better than what we normally had in the city. We worked hard during those visits; picking vegetables, milking cattle and goats; corraling cattle, occasionally taking a group of them right down the middle of the highway to the slaughter house; he had around 60 head of cattle, around 20 pigs, 4 horses and probably around 100 hens; his was just one of 6 adjacent properties that had been split among his siblings. Working hard though never felt like ‘work’ – we were out in the pasture; away from the city; it felt more like an adventure.

    I doubt it would have seemed nearly as much fun if I had been growing up ‘now’ in the age of cell phones and on demand streaming and ubiquitous internet access but those are without a doubt among my favorite memories and I don’t think I have a single photo from any of those visits.

    • My playground was the Australian bush, swamps and open spaces. something I could revel in it after the confines of early childhood in London, and we encouraged our own kids the same type of freedom. So many of us older folk can describe our childhood as idyllic, which unfortunately not many of today’s kids could apply that term. When we weren’t outside living it, we lived it through our books.
      I doubt many kids today have even read the adventure type books, like say Huckleberry Finn, it’s all about zombies, aliens and vampires. No games of cowboys and Indians, just shooting the zombies on screens.

      • SandG, it may just be us older people wondering what went wrong, but I agree that the lack of time spent reading has caused irreparable harm to children. I was reading way above my grade level when I hit the first grade. I can remember looking at the books they offered and wondering why anyone would waste their time with such simple fare.

  5. Not only is your experience keener when you live it fully but your memory of it in later years will be that much more so. When the snapshot is the main event, people looking at those photos down the road and just feel hollow inside. Some of my friends already do. That’s why they get deleted or people feel they have to keep taking more. It’s an addiction. The high doesn’t last and you need another hit.

    You can’t feel and relish a memory you think you should have if you never experienced it.

    The selfie experience is all about that “perfect” narcissistic me-snap high. That’s the moment, the entire moment, and the only moment. And despite different times, different places, different people, different props, they are all, literally, the same moment.

    For some, that moment is all that matters and they can and will re-live that adoration of themselves into eternity. For others, it will be found wanting, or worse, they’ll see for the first time what they missed.

    Selfies also obliterate a lot of incidental anthropological history. An incredible boon from the internet happens when people share old photos online. There’s so much to see historically from the person to background because of their unassuming nature.

    Today’s selfies are all distorted ducklips and blurry backgrounds if any background at all. There’s literally nothing to see but narcissism.

    • Blimey, I think your articulated perfectly the flaw in the ability to take endless photos. It’s like going to a Buffett and eating until it hurts; you haven’t had a meal but rather a feeding. The simple joy of existence has been replaced with the expectation of photos, sharing, likes, and comments. What about the smell of the air, the sounds, the feel of the earth beneath your feet? I think you nailed much of what I was trying to say, and perfectly. Thanks!

    • I really don’t understand the appeal of constantly taking pictures of yourself; taking pictures of your food, taking pictures of landmarks that have already been photographed a million times… – i can find better pictures with a simple google search;

      Those pictures seem to be motivated by some egocentric desire to ‘show off’ or inspire envy in others or by some narcissistic craving to be the center of attention and seem to have little value in preserving or enhancing memories. – i go to museums to enjoy the exhibits; not to take photos of myself in order to brag to my friends about some “lifestyles of the rich and famous” illusion.

      • I once took a weekend bus trip through Northern Ontario to mostly to see the fall colors but surprisingly it included quite a few landmarks as well. I thought I was getting a real deal on the ticket. But as it turned out it was A bus trip but a CONVOY of 10 buses trip and mostly from Toronto’s Chinese community.

        I guess because there were so many landmarks included, every stop was short. And at every stop, 10 busloads of super-duper fancy and expensive cameras filed out and lined up to take the exact same tourist shot in the exact same spot; —- every —- stop.

        It was funny but also not.

        When we got to Agawa Canyon to see the fall colours I was the only one that walked the trail. Everyone else just sat by the bus —– waiting —–I kid you not —– to take their picture by the sign.

        I never took a photo that trip but I remember vividly the colors from the canyon, along with all the endless lines of super-fancy and expensive cameras all wanting the exact same photo in the exact same spot —— for the memory.

        If someone hasn’t already made one, it would make a great timelapse video compiling all the shots people have taken likewise at major landmarks.

  6. Nobody cared where I was or what I was doing as long as I showed up on time for supper. They knew if I was getting into mischief they would hear about it from one mother or another.

    Back in the day we were warned about Big Brother watching us, now they worry Big Brother isn’t watching them.

    • Bruce, when we hit the woods it would be hour before we saw an adult. Odd, we called everyone old enough to drive a car a “grownup” and I wonder when the last time I used that word was. We had that neighborhood watch thing going, too. Bunch of bore housewives spying on kids, dammit.

  7. I had nothing as exotic as rural Georgia, having grown up in a central England small market town. What I can relate to is always being out and always doing things. We climbed trees, made rope swings, played football, and later rode cheap motorbikes across the surrounding scrub land. Our greatest achievement was building a dam in a trickle of a creek to create a 200 meter long, 5 feet deep swimming pool that entertained us for the best part of the hot summer of 1976. The only photos I have from my youth was from my first foreign vacation in Spain with my friend, I even just managed to avoid having a police mugshot taken.

    • Mick, it’s only exotic because we made the most of it. A cows pasture, some woods, a field, the city swimming pool, but we were young and alive, and we didn’t need anything more than that. There really wasn’t much more, actually. I miss the motion of life, the never-ending and ceaseless drive to do rather than to sit.

  8. One of the saddest things I have to say is that most of the wide open space and small family farms I once was familiar with has given way to massive subdivisions. Where I once fed, watered farm animals is now a car dealership in town, not outside of town like it used to be.

    My sister tried to find the old house we grew up in on a trip by there with our Dad and literally could not find the house. Nothing was familiar to her anymore. I reminded her that the house is there, but you now have to look for the road to the subdivision due to the growth around it.

    Photos only show basically what happened at the 1/60th of one-second in time. A friend was telling me he was looking at the photo albums of his Mother and there were him (age 5) with a young blond girl (age 3 taken in the 1970s with a Polaroid) and he confessed he didn’t know her. After asking mom who she was he learned he had a little sister. Didn’t remember her at all as she drowned while swimming at the lake shortly after the photo was taken. His mother then told him the whole story of how she died, how she dealt with it and why his Dad became an alcoholic.She kept the photo to remind her of happier times.

    I also have known paramedics who arrive at the scene of a auto accident and the first thing they do is take a scene photo. They tell me it’s for documentation, I just find it to be odd.

    Take care.

    • David, all in all, we lived a charmed life. No one died or got killed, but there at the end, in the early 70s, a retired couple built their house between our house and the next door neighbors, the Clevelands. There was space aplenty everywhere in town, yet they bought a lot slam damn between two house. It felt like an invasion. Now, Google Earth shows me there’s house between houses all up and down the street, and no room at all to play anymore.

  9. I always find it strange at concerts that people are recording it on their phones and watching the tiny screen rather enjoying looking at the whole stage. I do take a photo or two at concerts but never record it.

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