“In your entire life, what was your most blissful moment?”
It was a simple question, but it caused my memory to zoom off in a thousand different directions in quick vignettes: moments of innocent childhood joy, my first kiss, first romantic love, the incandescent moment when I first held my babies, some spiritual times when I knew my borders went way beyond my body.
I wasn’t surprised at the high points. What surprised me was the amount of happy trivia that carried the same “bliss quotient” as the important times. I was a little bit embarrassed to discover that the memory-taste of my mother’s peach ice cream held as much bliss as the memory of a miracle. The fact that it did made me push harder to find the memory of a moment that I could honestly say was the most blissful of my life, no matter where it took me.
In the next instant I am sitting at an umbrella table in a sun-filled outdoor café on a dusty road above Cannes. I am writing, and I wear red cowboy boots and a navy blue cap with the words “American Diner” embroidered on it. A large screened cage stands a few feet away, and every few minutes a Macaw in the cage whistles the Marseilles. A handsome young man wearing shorts and a smile brings me a perfect cheese omelet, a crisp green salad lightly dressed with good olive oil, a fresh baguette, and a squatty glass of local red wine. When I look up, I see an ancient viaduct vaulting between two hills. Improbable houses cling to the hillsides, every house spilling bright flowers from window boxes and tiny verandas. When I look down, I see the Mediterranean, a spill of royal blue ink that made me weep with happiness the first time I saw it, happiness at returning to a place I’d never been before.
If it’s true that our entire lives flash before our eyes when we die, I suppose I’ll die writing with my boots on, hearing a Macaw whistle the Marseilles.