How else

An infinitely brief moment that did not slip by. Alexandria, September 2016.

An infinitely brief moment that did not slip by unnoticed. Alexandria, September 2016.

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone…”Vita Sackville-West

I agree with Sackville-West that writing enables us to capture what might otherwise slip away. For many of us, as for me, it is not an exaggeration to say it is necessary to write. Yet there are other means of savoring and saving precious moments. Photography is one way. Just seeing– really taking the time to look, and remember– is another.

The photo above was taken one lovely day last September, when Jeff called me out to the deck to see how many bees were swarming in the newly-blooming Sedum. Naturally I dashed for my camera, and took quite a few photos of the bees, one or two of which are sure to show up here eventually. There was a butterfly among them, and I took quite a few photos of it too.

Now when I see this photo I don’t remember just the flowers or the colorful insect feasting on them. I remember, more than anything else, a day that I knew was beautiful, even without knowing it was one of the last of its kind. I remember one of the delicious moments that retirees will understand, when life has slowed down enough for such precious times to be possible. How grateful I am for that memory, and for the photos that bring it back!

The days are slipping by for all of us. Whether you preserve the fragile “butterfly of the moment” with writing, photography, art, or simply sharing it with another person through a conversation or letter, remember the ephemeral nature of beauty, and savor it.



  1. Leah

    Julia, Your message today comes as I awakened, filled with thoughts of the mystery of life and the ineffability of God. I lay there for an hour, praying, listening to my breath, hoping sleep would return. It did not, and here I sit at my kitchen table with my notebook. My first writing is the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”, as, indeed, my being is saturated with thanksgiving to my Lord for all His works in my life. I have followed your posts for a few years now (without ever sharing my thoughts). I found you by googling John 16:33, your verse in upper right corner, which is a favorite of mine, also. Plagued since youth with chronic depression, I know well that yes, I will experience “trouble” in this life, but I also know that this world is not my home. I’m a stranger passing through a strange land. My heart has been full for you in your loss of Jeff. I pray for you and your family, and want you to know how much your posts have meant to me. I agree with you and Sackville-West that each moment is precious and fleeting, and unless we are intentionally mindful of those moments, they are gone. Later, we wonder where. Julia, you are a blessing to so many. Thank you.

    • Leah, thank you so much for posting this comment. I am always delighted to hear from a reader, and it’s a special surprise to hear from one whose name I did not know before. I always love hearing how people found this blog, and it’s so neat that you found me through a shared favorite verse. I am so sorry to hear that you have struggled with depression. If anything in my posts has been helpful to you, that makes me feel very happy. I am so honored and comforted to know we are in your prayers. I need and appreciate the support and encouragement. I am grateful for your comment today. It has touched me deeply, so it has become one of the moments I wrote about. I hope you will continue to visit and read! Thanks again.

  2. Ann

    Julia, your blogs are so special. Thank you for sharing your writing and photography with us.

    • Thank you, Ann. I am so happy to have people see my pictures and read my words. 🙂

  3. Another loved one who left us ( about one year earlier) was really able to grasp the “when life slows down enough” thing. When I think of the hours he spent alone in the vegetable garden, a couple hundred yards from his house, it makes me smile. He and I would talk, on a halcyon afternoon, about timelessness.

    • One of the great gifts we were granted, denied to many, is having been able to know our parents through nearly three decades of retirement. Daddy was blessed not only with an awareness of profound things, but with the ability to talk to his children about them, and even enjoy doing so. 🙂

      • from Aeschylus – “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
        falls drop by drop upon the heart
        until, in our own despair, against our will,
        comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

        • Eric, that is a beautiful quote that I first read at the grave of Robert F. Kennedy. It is engraved on a monument near his very modest tombstone. (You’ll have to scroll down to read the inscription on the flat marker.) There are several good quotes at his memorial, including one that has long been a favorite of mine. Perhaps you can go read them after Jeff’s burial ceremony.

  4. Janice Brown

    So proud this photo brings back happy memories. I wish for you many, many more.

    • Thank you, Janice. Right now the happy memories are, of course, mixed with deep sadness, but still the happiness is the foundation, and the dominant note. For that, I am very grateful. Thanks for being here with us.

  5. Janet

    Thank you, Julia!

    • 😀 ❤

  6. MaryAnn Clontz

    What a excellent shot of the butterfly AND the flowers! I totally agree about capturing the moments. Recently, I was reading some precious memories. I believe they would have been lost had I not been praising the Lord with my pen. Thank you for this quote you “captured” for us from Vita Sackville-West! I am doing a ton of purging, filing & sorting while decluttering. This quote reminds me in the midst of this chore, there are treasures!

    • Good point, Mary Ann! I have so many “treasures” that I have to be very determined not to get sidetracked while cleaning and de-cluttering. Marie Kondo’s now-famous advice to eliminate anything that doesn’t spark joy, as well as Peter Walsh’s description of, and warning against, “toxic clutter” have been very helpful. But I’m still stuck with the fact that SO MANY things really do spark joy for me! I guess I need to try to save representative things and not everything. Almost like curating a museum with limited display spaces. 🙂

  7. Sheila

    Julia, your post brought such happiness to me as I had the visual and that you captured the moment. I think Jeff knew, because he was smart like that! Bill and I are enjoying a busy retirement presently, and adjusting rather well. If we ever get this cottage remodeling completed, we may slip away to the Verandah once again. I turned our “Out On The Porch” calendar and lingered to think of you and the other club members that were doing the same thing. I pray that your days are becoming more bearable and somehow hope prevails. I have much more that I’d like to say but I’ll save a bit for tomorrow when I check in! With much love for you and Matt, Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila. Amy was here the other day and was turning through the calendar and asked me where I got it. I said “Amy…THAT’S CLUB VERANDAH!” 😀 hee-hee. So now we have a new recruit. I’ll look forward to hearing the “much more” from you soon. No pressure, though… 😉 ❤

  8. Amy

    “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s handwriting–a way-sidescrament; welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank Him for it, who is the Fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in simply and earnestly with all your eyes; it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing.” Charles Kingsley.

    I found this quote the other day when I was trying to confirm another of Kingsley’s that I had written on a napkin and found in a purse I was cleaning out. It seemed appropriate to use it here. I love that Jeff often “called you out” to see something wonderful and that you grabbed your camera. It is a lovely memory.

    I wish you much beauty my friend. There is so much of it out there.

    • Amy, great comment- you have just helped to improve this site, in more ways than one! I recognized the quote from when I used it in a 2013 post, but when I went back to check it, I found I had attributed it– in error, as you just showed me– to Emerson. Apparently it has been erroneously attributed to him as far back as 1908 but with your help, I tracked down the site linked to explain that it was indeed Charles Kingsley who said it. Well done! Feel free to comb through my other posts and alert me to similar mistakes. 😀 I try to check each quote carefully since attributions are so often incorrect, but maybe that was one I wrote late at night or something…that was back when I was posting EVERY DAY! I went back into that post and corrected the attribution. Thanks again.

      • re attributions being incorrect: A favorite Facebook meme has a photo of President Abraham Lincoln, on which words say: “Just because a quote appears with the photo of someone, doesn’t necessarily mean he is the one who said it.”

        • The funniest part of that is that the obviously anachronistic quote (some versions add “the trouble with the internet is”) is attributed to Lincoln! I thought of that when I wrote my reply to Amy.

      • Amy

        I am happy to help. 😉 Rereading that post from 2013 made me think I was right about something else. YOU LOVE TO WALK!! It is a huge release and respite for you. I know your time is at a premium (and right now you don’t feel well) but as soon as you are able you should start walking again my friend. You can take your camera. 😉 Take care of you. I love you.

        • Amy, I hope to be walking again soon. 🙂 Love you.

  9. Precious moments, Julia. You and Jeff shared a wonderful life together. So many years of love and trust, and a wonderful companionship. It seems cruel that his life ended so soon. xo

    • It does seem cruel, Alys, quite aside from all that Jeff suffered in his fight to stay with us as long as he could. Indeed the world is so full of cruelty of various kinds that it is no wonder many of us end up fighting depression. But the transcendent mystery and undying grace is that there also is so much beauty in life, so much joy and richness and significance, that almost everyone in any sort of circumstances, all over the world and throughout all time, has chosen to cling to life as tenaciously as possible. Most of us do understand what a gift it is, and it is my deep hope and belief that one day we will understand it better…if understanding it still seems important! 🙂 I must confess to have borrowed that last idea from my friend Ashleigh Brilliant, who said “When I find true wisdom, I’ll let you know (if letting you know still seems important).”

  10. Harry Sims

    There just happens to be a lot of Godsends on these pages.

    Thank you God.

    Your friend

    • Thank you, Harry! This comment brought a smile to my face. Thank you, God.

  11. Amen, Julia. Beautiful and meaningful post. Those moments we capture in word or image not only preserve that reality, but also secures in heart those we may have shared those moments with.

    • Thanks, Alan. That’s so true. Even when looking at photos I took in the past that don’t have people in them, I remember whoever I was with at the time I took it.

  12. LB

    Julia, you have such a way of finding the light and the beauty. I’m glad you have such beautiful memories to sustain you. ❤

    • Thank you, LB. You capture a lot of beauty too. ❤

  13. I’ve just gotten a little sad to imagine you writing about the photo and replaying the moment you shared with Jeff over again. I think the human brain is so complex. One memory can be both soothing and sad at the same time. I wish I had more photo’s of my dad. You’re so clever to always have your camera at ready. I worry that over time, days will be lost in my memories. Thanks for being here and sharing your journey with us Julia. I’m holding these lessons in my back pocket. With so much love for you xo K

    • It is a little bit sad, isn’t it? But as with many sad things, better to have the sad memory than none at all. Especially when it’s not 100% sad. I hope that the passage of time evens the percentages and makes the happy outweigh the sad. In any case, thanks for being here with me. ❤

  14. This is a beautiful post, Julia. I don’t know how I missed it, but thank you for the reminder of how many “ordinary” things in life there are that are so beautiful. When I am in the throes of depression like I have been lately, it is hard to remember those beautiful moments I have in my past as well. Thank you! 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Remember to break out that mental “treasure box” whenever you feel really sad. I have read that looking at photographs of happy memories actually has measurable anti-depression effects, and I believe it.

      • Yes, and thanks. Sometimes I do get out photo albums and laugh at all the great memories, but then I feel sad again sometimes wishing I was still there! HA! I can really be a mess sometimes. 🙂

        • Just remember that line from the movie “Shadowlands” (with a slight twist) — “The pain [now] is part of the happiness [then]. That’s the deal.” So much of our sadness springs from wanting to hold onto things. In a way, it’s not too different from thinking we have to buy something when really we could just appreciate it in a store or a museum, and then let go of the need to OWN it. As much as looking at photos helps me, I have learned that doing so (as with most activities) needs to be kept within limits.

          • I love Shadowlands. We watched a poignant movie with Sally Field last night called Two Weeks where she is dying of cancer and all her kids come home for her last two weeks thinking it will only be a couple of days. It is a good one as far as looking how people deal with death differently. I really like the way it was done.
            You’re right. I can’t count how many times in the past when I was browsing and just bought stuff I didn’t really need!!

            • Thanks for telling me about that movie. I will try to watch it sometime. Isn’t it neat how we now have huge numbers of movies available to watch when we have the time? One of the best habits I ever developed was learning to enjoy shopping without buying. It started in my youth when I would “shop” for clothes and then come home and tell my mother about what I’d seen, then we’d find a pattern and fabric to make something similar. One trick I have used to good effect is that, when I’m tempted to buy something, I tell myself to wait a day or two and then come back and get it if I still want it by then. Most of the time, I don’t.

              • You’re welcome! It is wonderful but sometimes feels overwhelming! I remember shopping for clothes with my mom also that were too expensive and she would find a pattern and make them for me, too! I just wish she had had the patience to teach me to sew!

                • My mother didn’t have the patience either, so she sent me to a class at the Singer store when I was in my early teens. I learned to sew well enough to make most of my clothes in the first few years of marriage, but I was never anything close to as good as my Mama was. She couldn’t sew anymore after her brain surgery in 1980. She made the gown she wore to our wedding a few months after that surgery, and it was so hard for her that she gave up sewing for good. By that time her health food business was thriving and she didn’t have time for it anyway.

                  • It sounds like we had some similar aspects in our relationships with our mothers! 🙂

                    • Maybe that explains why we connect! 🙂 Our mothers are such influential people, and for most of us, it takes a lifetime to fully comprehend the ways she has changed us– for better and worse, but hopefully most of us can say, mostly for the better.

                    • It most likely is, Julia! How has your last couple of weeks been?

                    • Hmm, maybe I should just say “not worth talking about if I want to defeat despair.” 🙂 On the plus side, we have enjoyed some lovely COOLER weather– still sunny– and I have been blessed to enjoy being outdoors some. Still not as much as I would like, but enough to remind me that we are always surrounded by blessings.

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