Saturday, July 26, 2008

Images I Will Never Forget

There are moments in life that you immediately recognize as "unforgettable," scenes so poignant or upsetting that they remain forever frozen in your mind. Yesterday I experienced just such a moment, and it prompted me to go ahead and share two others that are also eternally etched in my memory.

As I was driving home late last night me headlights suddenly illuminated one of the most disquieting things I have ever witnessed. A small animal, probably a possum or a raccoon, was lying on its side, flailing one arm helplessly in an attempt to right itself. I've never swerved so hard in my life. Though it was dark and the creature was small, I would swear I could see an expression of pure fear on its face, as it recognized its imminent fate. To see such a helpless creature in its death throes, and unable to assist it in any way, was crushing to me. And the fact that my headlights served as a sort of spotlight on its pitiful plight made it even more unforgettable.

The second moment, retreating back in time chronologically, occurred last summer. I was on a two-month UGA-sponsored trip out west to learn about the human and environmental history of the region. One night, while in Colorado, a few of us decided to climb the modest peak near our campsite. The mountain had no paths or markers, and we were forced to scramble up rockpiles and bushy outcrops, scraping ourselves on brambles and branches as we worked our way through. Time was of the essence, because we wanted to be at the top to see the sunset and still have enough time to get down before it was dark. After about 30 minutes of trailblazing, we reached a clearing. The peak was in sight. We rushed the next few hundred yards, anticipating a great view of the surrounding area. What we got, however, was better than anyone expected.

The opposite side of the mountain abutted an immense, utterly flat plain. Looking down, we saw a sheer drop-off of about 1000 feet. Never before had I been so in awe of Earth. Sublime, it was. Imagine standing on top of one of the world's tallest buildings, and looking out to see nothing but flat land. It makes you feel small, and it makes you feel lucky to be alive. The five of us witnessed the most magical, beautiful sunset of our lives on top of that mountain. A moment from that night has been my Facebook profile picture for nearly a year now.

The last scene is not a pleasant one. Several years ago my girlfriend of over three years cheated on me. This took me completely by surprise; only months before I'd bought her a diamond and gold "promise ring" to reaffirm my commitment to her. Nonetheless, our problems apparently became too much for her to handle, and she abruptly left me. Several days later I went out to a bar with some friends to try to forget about her (something I wasn't able to do for nearly two years). On the way home, around 2am, my friend made a wrong turn. As we turned around, I saw her (extremely distinctive) car parked outside an apartment building. Clearly she was already sleeping over with her new beau. It was in this moment that the finality and brutality of the situation truly became clear to me.

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