There are moments in life that are subtle, yet meaningful. Many important moments are obvious, like your first kiss, or starting your first job, saying goodbye to a loved one. But some of the most profound moments are subtle and not easily understood. Here Charles Fischer tells a story of one such important moment in his life, viewed from the wisdom and distance of time.
It was many years ago when I first knew with certainty something mysterious and Unseen existed in the world. I had nudges and feelings and inklings when I was younger. As a child, I remember walking amongst the trees knowing they were vibrant and alive in ways I couldn’t quite understand. Listening to the wind through the branches, I felt somewhere deep inside that the Unseen was somehow speaking.
On many occasions I walked under the canopies, enjoying the dappled sunlight and cool shadows, feeling the spongy grass beneath my bare feet. I recall the excitement of discovering strange rocks, or salamanders, or rusty farm tools from ages ago. And every once in a while, there would come a moment of pure connection, a moment when I felt that I was a part of something bigger, much bigger than the earth and perhaps even the heavens.
These special moments were often accompanied by the wind playing through the leaves—whispers of unseen muses. It was the secret language of trees, the susurrations of the profound calling, calling to me. I could never seem to translate the language, but it was always so close, like if I just listened hard enough, I would be able to make out some of the wind’s messages from worlds unseen. When I think back to those days, I realize I had no way to translate those moments, no way to understand them, other than to stand under them in awe and wonder.
But that never bothered the child in me.
I was twenty years old when I experienced a moment that impacted me in a more profound and tangible manner.
I was living in Egypt, and one morning well before dawn, some friends and I decided to go to the Pyramids to watch the sunrise. We rented horses and rode out into the desert darkness. We first stopped at a small plateau, where we dismounted, poured ourselves coffee and watched the sun peak over the sprawling city of Cairo. There is something purely magical and awe-inspiring about watching the sunrise from desert emptiness.
But that is not the moment to which I am referring.
After the sun’s disk dispelled the darkness, we remounted our horses and rode toward the Giza plateau, approaching the pyramids from the south side. As I understood it, there was a specific location that offered a panoramic view of the Great Pyramids, those wonders of the ancient world still here with us so many centuries later.
By this time in the morning, we were all fully awake, chatting and laughing in excited amazement. And then came the moment.
I felt a subtle shift in the air. The lead horses slowed and then others slowed with them. The conversation stopped in a wave from front to back. I felt pressure on my skin, as if I had passed through a membrane, like passing through a soap bubble or a thin spider web. In a single moment, we shifted from riding in lively conversation to contemplative silence.
The horses slowed even more.
We rode a bit farther until we reached a high, flat point in the desert emptiness, the panoramic viewing area. We dismounted without talking. We wandered away from each other, splitting up until each of us was alone in their own space. I wandered over to a place where some rocks formed a small seat and sat down. The others sat down as well.
The air was still. In the distance, I could hear the stirrings of the city, but here there was silence and serenity and stillness. For many minutes we sat, not saying anything and hardly making any sounds. Even the horses were quiet and unmoving. It was like we were in some kind of dome.
I sat staring at the Pyramids, those majestic monuments of millions of pounds of stone. We should have had a lot to say to each other in such a moment. A thousand questions could have been asked, a thousand wonders pondered, a thousand conversations started. But not one of us spoke a single word.
My mind seemed as empty as the desert.
After a while, without any signal, I stood up as if from a timeless dream. The others slowly got up as well. In silence, we remounted our horses. We rode back the way we had come. I remember looking over my shoulder several times. What was I looking for?
A short time later, I once again felt the slight shift in the air. The lead horses sped up. Conversation returned in a wave from front to back. I felt the pressure on my skin again, that soap bubble feeling. Suddenly I was chatting again with friends, as if nothing had happened. I don’t remember what we talked about all the way back, but it wasn’t about that solemn moment at the panorama view. Somehow, we couldn’t talk about this timeless moment. A few riders in the front even spurred their horses on and raced all back to the edge of the city, perhaps eager to rejoin normalcy.
I may have forgotten our conversation. But I have never forgotten that moment, for that was the first time as an adult that I touched the Unseen Worlds and they touched me.
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