Sunday, March 13, 2016

221. Peak Experiences

Peak experiences are moments of intensity, good or bad, that are stamped on your memory forever.  Here are five of mine:

1.    Two thousand male bobolinks, singing in a bubbly chorus, one spring morning on Monhegan Island, Maine.  During the migration, weather conditions must have forced them to land on this little island ten miles out at sea.  I have never heard or seen anything like it since.

2.    Dawn on Mount Canigou in the Pyrenees, where, having hiked for two hours up the mountain and slept communally in a little inn near the summit, I woke up, looked out a window, and saw the entire sky suffused with rose – the most beautiful morning sky I have ever seen.  Minutes later, as I hurried through breakfast, I looked out again: the rose was gone, succeeded by a milky white haze covering the earth like a soft blanket – the second most beautiful morning sky I have ever seen.  When, minutes later, I ran out and within ten minutes was at the summit, where I was joined by a group of young Catalans, the white too had vanished, replaced by a radiant sun shining down from a cloudless blue sky: perfect weather for hiking, but minus the magic of dawn.

3.    From Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in  Queens, on 9/11, one of the Twin Towers sending a huge column of dark smoke up in the sky, and, shortly afterward, both Towers, now demolished (though I didn’t know it), completely shrouded in smoke that was then carried by the prevailing wind over Brooklyn to the sea.  I had gone there to see migrating warblers; warblers there were, but the catastrophe in Manhattan preoccupied me and the other visitors present; I didn’t get back home in Manhattan until the following day, being put up for a night by a friend in Brooklyn.

4.    The slightly drunk poet Dylan Thomas reading his poetry in a rich Welsh voice at Pomona College in California, and afterward, in a brief meeting with students, scandalizing us – evolved and sophisticated entities that we thought we were – with comments on his “organ” and male masturbation, comments that produced in us a total and embarrassed dead silence.

5.    The old medieval walls of Carcassonne, the famous walled city in the south of France, lit up by explosions in the sky and  seemingly in flames, an effect produced by a marvelous display of fireworks celebrating July 14, Bastille Day, one evening long ago when, a budget-conscious student in shabby khakis, I was traveling around the fair land of the Gauls.  The most breathtaking fireworks display I have ever seen.

What are your peak experiences?  Let me know some of them.

If Donald Trump is elected President of these United States, I will add a sixth item to the list, assuming I’m still sane.

©   2016   Clifford Browder