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Dave Brisbin

A Submarine Moment

An image sticks with me.

Sitting in a group discussing the importance of presence in our lives, we talked about how rarely our thoughts are actually filled with only what we’re doing at the moment—who we’re with. I ask each person if there’s a remembered moment when they were fully present, a moment so intensely overflowing there was no space for even a single stray thought.

A young woman tells us that when she was little, her father was in the Navy and would be at sea up to six months at a time. In a submarine, no less. After what was a lifetime to a little one, when the big day came, she and her brother would sit side by side on the docks waiting for the low ship to come in. She didn’t describe, so I imagine the scene from a viewpoint three feet off the ground: towering adults, bright flags and uniforms, huge white numbers on impossibly tall and complicated gray ships, children running, brash music from a shiny horn band… I have no idea if it looked like that. But I want it to.

Then the submarine docking, she and her brother staring laser-like at the hatch, nothing existing but the hatch as it swings up and men emerge–the moment she recognizes her father’s face, watching him make his way ashore, the running, the squealing, the jumping into a long embrace that she can still close her eyes and feel after all these years, after all the disappointments and betrayals and failings her life has delivered since…that moment untouched, undimmed, purely what it always was.

And what was she thinking about at that moment?

There are no thoughts, no words that can survive a moment like that. She was just there. Or just not.

It’s a moment from someone else’s childhood. But I can see it too. Imagine as if being there. And I love the imagined memory. I connect it to moments of my own and add it to the collection. Older I get, the more I realize that this life is all about presence. Really being where we are, all thoughts banished except those directly related to our present duties. How much life is missed without presence, and how much life could be rescued, restored, relieved with it?

Our mistake is to think that some moments are more important than others, that we have to wait for intense events to bring our presence out of hiding the way dusk brings out those big-eyed night creatures. Our mistake is to think that some moments don’t really count, are not submarine moments and can be thought through zombie-like, focused on some other moment that does.

Our mistake is to think.

Every moment is a submarine moment, if I just watch the hatch. If everything in me and about me is involved in the hatch, the face that emerges, I will never miss the boat.

I will never live an insignificant moment.


  • Laury

    Our mistake is to think.:-)
    This is beautiful. Thank you, Brother Dave

    July 3, 2019
  • Sherry

    Since I really had no humans of any significance as a child, I related the feeling you described to that of the sight of the Matterhorn in the distance knowing my Disneyland dream was finally within reach. Probably way off the mark but it’s the closest I can come to that reality. Keep em coming Dave, I never tire of your wonderful stories!

    July 3, 2019

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