No Picture Necessary

I was laying in bed last night, and my Facebook feed began to scroll out of control about how beautiful the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis to you non-Alaskans) were dancing.  Living in Alaska, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, however experiencing an aurora display always provides breathtaking moments . Many of my friends on Facebook were posting pictures, and some were driving to higher elevations to enjoy even more breathtaking views.  Although I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the “lights” in person uncountable times, I’ll admit that I usually take the more passive approach of continual refreshes of my Facebook and Instagram feeds.  For some reason last night, my heart felt the ping of the excitement, as I began to see the pictures in my news feed.

I wanted to see and experience the magic of the evening firsthand.  I wanted to take pictures and post them to social media.  I wanted to be one of the cool people who climbed out of bed in the middle of a cold dark night to drive to the top of a mountain to gaze at something that very few people ever get to experience.  I wanted to go to the unofficial party of those who chased moments of magical beauty. And so I did.

Within a few quick minutes, I had crawled into sweatpants and Bailey, my wonder dog and I were outside under the night sky, and walking to the car under an umbrella of bold green streaks.  I planned on taking pictures, but since I was dependent on my iPhone camera, I decided to wait until we got to the top of the mountain in order to have a better chance at capturing the true beauty. Driving up the mountain was challenging as I could hardly keep my eyes off the sky and on the road.  I began to get more excited – but not only because of the beauty of the night.

I began to realize I was beginning to focus more on the picture I was going to take and post to Facebook, than the miracle that was dancing over my head.  My focus was shifting from actual self-fulfillment to the need to prove that I was being self-fulfilled.  Instead of allowing myself to experience the magic of the moment, and the overwhelming emotions I was feeling standing under one of God’s great miracles, I was mentally preparing the “post” that would ensue to validate those emotions.

I’m beginning to recognize more and more that I’m spending far too much time attempting to capture the proof of moments, instead living those moments.  For some reason I have equated the subsequent validation of moments like last night’s Northern Lights, as some profound acknowledgment that I’m whole, fulfilled and a person who appreciates the little things.

As I stood on top of that mountain last night with my iPhone camera in hand, I looked around at all of the others focused on the night’s dancing lights, and I realized that no picture was capable of capturing the emotions of my middle of the night jaunt and the crayola like sky I was standing under.  A picture would not show the beat of my racing heart, or the tears beginning to swell in my eyes as a result of greatness of the night. It wouldn’t capture the excitement I was feeling about my decision to make a midnight run up to the top of the mountain.  The moment was one that needed to be lived, not shared.

Looking up at last night’s sky helped me realize that it’s impossible to photograph self-fulfillment, and despite my previous attempts to “prove” myself to others, I was trying to take an impossible picture.  I spent almost an hour at the top of that mountain staring up at the sky through my teary eyes, and although I have no picture for Facebook or Instagram, I do have a memory that will be ingrained in my heart forever, and by that I am blessed.

8 thoughts on “No Picture Necessary

  1. I appreciate your post so much. I am not one to take many photos or to post images on social media, despite being told repeatedly that people won’t notice my posts without a picture to go with it. Still, I prefer to take in events and make memories and write about them, rather than trying to make every event into a photo shoot. I’m glad that you had an amazing encounter with the beauty of the Northern Lights and that you shared it with us through your words.

    1. Thank you so much Joanne! I’m sorry for the delayed response. I just stumbled upon your comment when I was updating some things on my page today. I appreciate your understanding of the importance to making memories, instead of advertising them. I think the most important piece of that is knowing that the most beautiful moments live in the heart.

  2. This is beautiful and I see myself in it. I too have “caught” myself in recent times leaping ahead to when I would document (and somehow validate) an experience. I never used to be like that but having an online life has changed me. I am more mindful now about what’s even motivating me to do certain things. I say to myself, “If you want to do such-and-so, do it, but not so you can document/share it.”

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