One of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, and I have so many, is one often referred to as “Forever” or Poem #690. I’ve always been particularly fond with her poems that deal with two of her favorite themes, time and mortality. But when it comes to the line “Forever – is composed of Nows,” that’s a phrase that gives me particular pause.
Since moving to Vermont, I’ve made a conscious choice to live my life by cherishing each moment more. When I awake and gaze out over our farm, I am each time struck by the beauty of the moment, just as it was my first. But my favorite moments thus far are when the winter slowly dissolves into the throes of spring. This is when the sun hangs low in the sky, casting a warm glow over everything it touches. It’s when the birds sing sweetly in the trees, their melodies weaving a tapestry of sound dancing on the breeze. In these moments of the beauty of nature overcoming me, I’m keenly aware of that truth which Dickinson so declared in her poem, that forever is composed of nows.
It’s a simple idea, really. When we think of the future, we often imagine it as some distant point on the horizon, a place at which we’ll one day arrive. We dream of the things we’ll do, people we’ll meet, and places we’ll go. But the future is not some far-off land we’ll one day reach; it’s not some fixed destination we can point to on a map. The future is simply the sum of all the moments that make up our lives.
In each moment, we have a choice. We can live fully in the present, savoring every breath, every sensation, and every experience. But too many of us rush through life, always looking ahead to the next thing, and always searching for something more. This sin I am most guilty of, and it took me over thirty years to recognize my error.
After all, if we’re always chasing after the future, we risk missing the beauty of the present. We risk losing sight of the moments that make life worth living. Most regrettably, we can lose ourselves in the pursuit of things that may never come and may not have been worth waiting for in the first place.
These reasons are why I must remember that forever is composed of nows. Each moment, each breath, and each heartbeat is a gift. It’s only when we learn to cherish those gifts, when we learn to live fully in the present, we create a life that’s truly worth living.
Of course, this is rarely easy. Life is messy and complicated, and there are moments when all seems to be falling apart. But even in those moments, you must still find the beauty in them, even if it’s hidden at first. Even in the darkest times, there’s still love, hope, and joy to be discovered. There are still the simple pleasures of a warm cup of tea or coffee, or the sound of rain on the roof during a spring or summer shower.
So, as I sit here, even as I type these words, I am grateful for this moment. Each morning, I’m grateful for the warmth of the sun, the sweetness of the birdsong, and the gentle rustle of the leaves. But I’m most grateful for the experiences that have shaped me and the memories that have made me who I am.
Only when you learn to live in the moment can you know if you’re truly alive. It’s only when you come to see how forever is composed of nows can you begin to live.