Thinking back on several moments in his life, Reverend Ames writes that “ a moment is a such a slight thing, I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve” (162). We all have our moments. Some are more worthy of storing away in one’s memory vault than others. William Wordsworth writes that there are moments in our lives that have a “renovating virtue.” I think that is what Reverend Ames means that a moment’s abiding is a “gracious reprieve.” As a fourteen year old I remember lying down on a camp bunk in a cabin in New Hampshire late one rainy afternoon listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops hitting the cabin roof. To this day, the gentle rhythms of raindrops on a roof bring me back to that afternoon so long ago. I remember feeling an incredible sense of thoughtless repose, as if my body had peeled itself away, as if I had become pure essence. When I am troubled by something I often think back to that moment in time. It does not always help, but sometimes it does. I believe that this is what Ames means by a moment’s capacity to gift us with a gracious reprieve. These are not grand moments at all.
Growing up I spent quite a bit of time on a farm not far from here. Most summer afternoons were spent haying. We hauled the loose hay up into the mow with a huge fork pulled by a tractor and once the load cleared the hay mow door we pulled it to where it would be stored and released the fork’s tenacious locking mechanism. There were always several minutes between loads, which afforded us a chance to rest by flopping down into the most recently dumped pile. Talk about a memorable moment! There are few feelings possible on this earth as sweet as lying on a bed of freshly mown hay, perhaps sinking down low enough that chaff gets in your hair and stiff, scraggly stalks scratch and tickle your face.
Life is a composite of moments whose significance is revealed to us over time. Like the strand of dried hay that tickled my face in that haymow many years ago, these moments abide as knots in a braid that constitutes our lives.