I suspect most of us have multiple versions of what noteworthy events we view as special enough to boldly announce that we’re experiencing an ideal day. 

The instances of perfection in my universe started appearing when I began paying attention to the minutes of life as they ticked by. Which means I’ve most likely been blessed with these unique, fleeting occasions worthy of special attention throughout my journey but simply wasn’t seeing them. How sad to have missed opportunities to exclaim, “Oh!” and realize the depth of that instant in which something sublime was occurring.

The composition of faultless moments has a broad range from something simple that I sense is nonpareil that fades from memory to an event I reflect on time and again, mellowing the snapshot of that thing while it ages in my mind, growing better as it is mulled upon over the passing of days.

In the deepest months of a Pennsylvania winter, when there is a thick, heavy whiteness covering the sloped yard, and a surprisingly bright, Montana-like sun is streaming in the living room skylights, curling up on the oversized sofa under a worn-to-soft cotton patchwork quilt, reading a good book becomes a flawless experience. Add a cup of hot tea and a fresh baked cookie and could the day be any better? Sometimes in the relaxing quiet, it’s possible to drift off into an elusive nap for twenty minutes and dream of summer walks on the beguiling Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Speaking of that glorious Wales trail, it’s hard to count the priceless times that occur when hiking any part of the nearly two hundred miles of it. From meeting kind people, being serenaded by a Welsh man trailside, to the setting of the sun broad across an expansive beach, my heart sinks to the earth and relishes being in the right there, right now, in the land of my long ago heritage.

On a beautiful spring day, an ideal time is comprised of yard work with my husband, more like play as we share the multitude of chores. We compare mental notes—what was it we did with this plant last spring? Do we prune this bush now? Mowing, weeding, filling five special pots with annuals in multiple colors to brighten the front steps, I revel in getting dirty and ending up covered scalp to ankles with soil and knees stained green with grass. There’s nothing dainty about my ability to dig into flower beds—new or established—and weed to my heart’s joy.

Setting plays a large part in what a moment of contentedness can look like. The back deck on a quiet afternoon, sparkly lights hanging from the gazebo roof, another book at hand… . Or the dining room table with both leaves in place to accommodate ten, strewn with colorful plates of food, chairs occupied by smiling friends, telling stories and everyone laughing so heartily we’re almost crying.

Does everyone view a late afternoon on a Hawaiian beach as an ultimate definition of perfection? Each evening I’ve been blessed to sit in the sand watching the sun drop down into the Pacific has been distinctive. There’s a collective, unspoken agreement by spectators to be still and watch, savor the colors of orange spreading across the open sky, and resist spoiling the joy by uttering a word.

The orange and gold of Oahu sunsets

The perfect Oahu sunset

When visiting at sister Jackie’s Montana home, our favorite spot any time of year is their outdoor Nest. It’s a stone structure with a massive fireplace on one end, pizza oven on the other, large openings on the sides, and a cozy arrangement of chairs and love seats. Many a deep and often a frivolous conversation has been shared there, glass of red wine nearby, fire spitting out warmth, snow falling outside the doorway. Quality time with friends, discussing real emotions and life events, realizing that you need/they need to tell you this very thing at this very time … and you each understand what was spoken beyond the words said.

Fireplace

cozy fire

Once in enchanting Cham, Switzerland, I had an entire day comprised of flawless minutes moving quietly into hours. Sitting at the end of Lake Zug, I realized I didn’t mind the multitude of ducks and geese and swans flitting about here and there in their odd, waddling way of walking. My general—and yes, I know, unwarranted—distrust of birds went to the wayside as I observed toddlers feeding them without incident. Hearing the merriment of the children made us listeners break into easy smiles. The cool water was clear enough to watch the ducks, so elegant off land, do 10-point dives straight down and swim for an impossibly long time before surfacing.

I was writing, caught up in slipping the words onto paper, and realized that a church bell was donging, a backhoe was running, a radio was blaring—and knew that the sounds had been occurring for sometime but I hadn’t heard them—wrapped as I was in the magic of composing my thoughts.

Lake at Cham

Cham, Switzerland

Perfect was that lakeside spot with an abundance of runners, cyclists, and strollers. It was looking up in time to see an elderly couple pass before me, holding hands and sharing a murmured conversation. It was exchanging the local greeting with an old man using a cane to walk the long path, trying out my newly-learned pronunciation that I can only write phonetically as “Gertz-ing,” with a very long “e.” He laughed, but with knightly finesse tipped fingers to the brim of his hat at my attempted cordiality.

It was being at 1,378 feet on May 21st and seeing two sunbathers wear itty bitty tiny weeny bikinis, stretched out on the green grass of this beautiful park, soaking in the rays while in the distance three peaks of the Alps reflected bright snow. 

The wanderer in me counts as sacred the number of uncountable glorious episodes of delight that happen when I’m traveling. True wonderment began during that first excursion with my sister in 2007 when we landed at Milan’s Malpensa airport, en route to the Cinque Terre for hiking. We made our way to the front of the airport, Jackie turned to me—the trip planner—and rightly asked, “Now what?” To which I responded, “I have no idea.” In previous settings, Jackie would have been angry with her flying-by-the-seat-of-her-pants younger sister. But in this moment, with where we were in our lives, with things happening that were more important than a detailed travel outline, she looked at me and burst out laughing. The tone for our entire adventure was set and ten days rolled by comprised of unrepeatable but ever-so remembered and easily recalled moments.

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These many years later, one of us will send the other a photo and add a brief caption, Remember: 

The man who serenaded you over lunch on your birthday?

Walking into the room at La Torretta Lodge and seeing a stool with Route 66 on it?

The glorious colors of buildings throughout the Cinque Terre?

Hearing the monks singing at the Capuchin Monastery in Monterosso?

During European travels, I am endlessly pleased by churches and cathedrals hundreds of years old. Wandering into a church, I contemplate, what possessed that painter to set the birth of Jesus atop a throne, Mary and Joseph looking as Anglo Saxon as I, and who ever thought to paint Jesus as a redhead? Inside walls that have been absorbing the prayers of gratitude and supplication from people of spanning ages and occupations, in trouble and in celebration, there is peace and thoughts of gratitude and need pour out from me.

I acknowledge a perfect moment when I am able to recognize the enjoyment right here, right now, with zero desire to rush off to the next thing the way I so often experience daily life.

Each of us have different definitions of perfect moments—times that strike us as precious stemming out of a combination of our backgrounds, our insights, from learning what in life we truly derive pleasure from.

Life is full of opportunities for perfect moments and ideal days. We simply have to open our eyes and our hearts to experience them as they roll by with casual understatement or monumental significance.