The Weight of The Moment


Ever since I began slow blogging two years ago, I’ve noticed a strange trend in my own life; an unexpected shift that seems counter-intuitive to how I’m wired to operate – how our culture is wired to operate. It’s this:

The better the moment, the less pull I feel to document it.

It’s as if the moments have been made sacred the only way they can be: pressed between the pages of time and presence and memory. And when I need them, they’ll be conjured how they were intended – bleary and faded – and I’ll remember these days in the most imperfect margins I can recall: rusty crockpot dinners, towers of memoirs on my nightstand, piled laundry on dining room tables and kitchen counters and living room sofas, lined up like soldiers battling the stacked blocks and granola crumbs.


I’ll always be someone that vacillates deeply between too much and too little. I’m an all or nothing, a yes or no, a now or never. And I know enough to know that this achingly beautiful life does not call for a black and white lens, so I’m hesitant to douse myself in ink here. There is gray to be found. I know this to be true.

Yet. Here’s a story:

I have this memory of my wedding day that I can only recall when I think really deeply, squinting my eyes and willing it to come forward. It was a rare and monumental moment – a simple conversation with a dear friend that single-handedly prepared my heart for the struggles I’d face as a newlywed in Los Angeles, wading through a modern day quarter life crisis with a ring on my finger. It was a moment that should hold great purpose and weight in my heart and head today, but it’s often forgotten. I don’t have a picture of it. It wasn’t photo-worthy. There were no sparklers or champagne flutes or tiled dance floors. No, the conversation took place in the nursery of my parent’s church – a passing moment in a dimly lit room – hardly worthy of acknowledgement. And as a result, it’s one that, if you look in the cardboard boxes of photos and remnants and letterpressed invitations, doesn’t even exist.


I don’t know what that means. Is it all the more important to document our everyday, for fear that something big happens and we’ll lose it amidst the landslide of time? Or, what happens if we stop the documentation altogether, keeping our everyday sacred and untainted by our highlights and filters? Without the error of our judgment – the picked-through, picked-over curation of our daily lives – will we remember precisely what we’re intended to remember?

And what happens if we document the wrong thing? What if the dinner parties and new shoes and toddler cameos take precedence over the hard, ugly truths that aren’t learned at golden hour? And how are we to know which ugly truths to document? What will we forget that we need to remember?


We all know that sometimes, documentation gets in the way. The filters and edits and grids overshadow the quiet moments where we’re still and small and silent. Where we look around at the breakfast table – at the berry-stained fingers and cold mugs of coffee and half-buttered toast – and know without a doubt that this is a moment that was gifted to us, one that we might remember forever and ever or one that might float away completely.

So which are we placing a greater weight on? Which memories are sacred, the kind worthy of tethering close to our hearts? And which are the other kind of sacred, the kind meant to release into the sun?

  • The need to document does take away from the moment at hand at times but I am getting better at going with the flow and pulling out the phone only if it feels appropriate. A most photogenic, joyous brunch with some girlfriends may go completely undocumented because there is so much healing happening in our conversation and togetherness that there’s no need to add anything else to it. So maybe that’s sacred.

    On our recent trek in Iceland I took quick snapshots without obsessing over the composition because we had so much distance to cover. I ended up loving these photos because the fatigue of the trek had blurred so much of the landscape for me and my quick snapshots ended up making my visual memories so much more robust.

    That said, I have an inherent need to create and visualize beauty and photos happen to be one form of it.

    • I LOOOOOOVE your perspective, Nidhi! You always explain my thoughts in different words. :) Thank you for your wisdom!

  • I am so visual too. And yes there are many folks taking pictures for the “wrong” reasons of being busy. My thought is that the pictures we do take and brain screenshots we have are the ones we are meant to have. You will always end up with what you are supposed to have.
    Love these thoughts of the letting go Erin.

  • Taking photos detracts from the living for me. Writing about it afterward takes me deeper into the experience and writes it in my memory with indelible ink. I am so thankful for the poems I wrote when my children were young. The process of finding the right words, knowing the true thoughts–that is what keeps some of the most mundane moments alive in my head. Photos turn me into an observer. I still take them, but almost never of the people I love. Just still life shots, mostly.

  • Erin, you always ask such thought provoking questions. And sometimes my heart aches for the struggles of youth you are experiencing. This from someone who is much older and been through it all. I have memories in my head that I placed there purposefully when we did not have a camera at the ready at all times. I would intentionally remember a sight and can actually conjure those visions up when I want or need to. Much easier than digging through boxes of photos (in the good old days) or scroll through thousands of photos on the phone or computer. You have discovered the beauty of moments etched indelibly on your mind that a child provides and no camera lens can capture. Enjoy your moments, memorialize sometimes (especially for others to enjoy in the future) but don’t obsess over it. And keep writing about it! Life gets easier with each passing year, I promise!

    • Ahhhhh you’re so wise, Diane! And I know you’re right. :) I love how you described a forcible etch – sans camera. I do this, too! I will-will-will myself to remember it. I think it works, maybe. Either way, what will be is to be. :)

  • Every once in a while a little jewel of a memory will surface and I’ll get that glow of treasure found – no physical manifestation accompanies it, I never put it down in writing, but it’s always there even if I only remember it again at the end of my long and happy life. Pictures are great, writing is great, but if we aren’t referencing back to those things regularly they are just memories too. My only worry is getting some pictures of me, my hubby, and our son *together* because I’m so bad at that!!

    • Ohhhhh definitely – a must! I can’t remember the last time we were all in front of the camera either. :)

  • Beautifully said, Erin. As a new parent, I am so guilty of trying to capture every little moment with my camera. And it’s not even a good camera…it’s my cell phone camera. The baby is on to me. She freezes whenever I pull that cell phone out and the moments I capture don’t even come close to the ones right before the camera came out. So, I’m learning to just take time to breathe her in. Especially those quiet, dark moments in the middle of the night, when a camera isn’t quite convenient to pull out….I trace her face with my eyes and try to remember everything. Filing it all away into the deepest recesses of my memory and praying they’ll never fade.

  • Your words reminded me of one particular unphotographed memory that I cherish too. When our oldest daughter was just 4 years old and still the only child, my husband and I took her out to dinner with us to celebrate Valentines Day all together. I looked at her for a moment during dinner and took a mental snapshot of her and thought to myself “I will always love my daughter but when she is older, I will miss this beautiful little girl and this moment.” I later tried to convey this bittersweet feeling to some friends of mine at the time, but they just looked at me strangely…haha. My little girl is now about to turn 21.

  • I am guilty of stealing away precious moments in my attempt to capture that perfect photograph. What I am slowly beginning to realize is 1) it’s impossible to capture “perfection” with a 1 year old on the move! And 2) Life doesn’t – and shouldn’t – consist of a series of blurry photographs. Pulling out the camera and snapping away (and getting frustrated that the picture does not relay the moment as well as I think it should) only minimizes the moment into a thumbnail, when in fact, that moment has so much more life and depth. It’s so hard to separate the act of documenting life with actually living life – thank you for this gentle reminder to LIVE!

  • As a mother if five ranging in ages from 5 to 27 all I can say is it doesn’t make a difference whether you document it or not, the memories just fade and become almost like phantoms. You try to remember their first word or what their favorite food was when they ask, but you forget. It’s kind of a tragedy but it just happens. Then you may have a shelf of photo albums like I do,but when do we find the time to actually look at them? Maybe once a year or so but without those I probably would remember even less.

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