Books Living Memories Presence

Good Memories

back view of a person walking on a forest path
Photo by Gabriela Palai on

“There is no explaining this simple truth about life. You will forget much of it. The painful things you would be certain you would never be able to let go of, now you’re not entirely sure when they happened, while the thrilling parts, the heart-stopping joys, splintered and scattered and became something else. Memories are then replaced by different joys and larger sorrows. And, unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well…”

Ann Patchett, Tom Lake

This passage about our fleeting memories reminds me of another Ann Patchett quote about life being just a compilation of small moments – either we pay attention to them or we miss it.

“It’s about paying attention to all of the small moments of your life, realizing that your life really is just the compilation of small moments. And either you are awake to them and pay attention to them, or you’re always looking ahead and you miss your life.”

Ann Patchett, PBS Newshour interview

There’s truth in that. Our sharpest memories fade when we fail to fully appreciate the little daily moments. We often overlook the power of presence.

Presence means living fully in the now, using all your senses with mindfulness and gratitude. Noticing the vivid colors of autumn leaves, the warm aroma of fresh bread, the crunch of footsteps on a gravel path. Tuning into the senses opens doorways to memories.

We can choose to cherish routine moments by fully immersing in the season at hand. In spring, capturing the arrival of ducks at the pond. In winter, photographing the tranquility of a rainy street or the drama of an angry sky. Describing in a journal the earthy petrichor smell after a rainfall. Or in snow country noticing the absolute stillness after a snowfall.

When we cultivate presence, ordinary life becomes extraordinary. Making an audio recording of a child’s infectious giggle so you can replay those belly laughs forever. Or interviewing an elderly friend or relative. Freezing time by photographing a baby’s tiny fingers grasping yours. Remembering to capture a photo at your next family celebration together. Preserving memories through the senses helps make them last. Journaling helps record them for future serendipity when you re-discover them and get swept back across your life to revisit moments.

The more we nurture presence, the more natural it becomes. It’s about shifting perspective to treasure the mundane moments we overlook. Being awake to the ever-changing beauty of each season, each day. Appreciating what an amazing gift it is.

So maybe the lesson here is to embrace the fluidity of life, while striving to be fully present. If we learn to cherish today through all our senses, those memories may never fade.

Yesterday I wrote about The Couple I noticed on my morning walk. And the sounds in my ears of Meryl Streep reading while I walked around the pond. I should have taken a photograph of that couple – and I’ll be sure to do that next time. Sometime a while from now I’ll rediscover The Couple – and I look forward to it.