Screencap from Heirs of Durin http://thorinoakenshield.net
This is probably going to be my favorite moment from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
In the book, Thorin’s company has been traveling for endless dark days through the stifling, evil forest of Mirkwood. Their food has run out, their supply of water is dangerously low. Bombur has fallen unconscious and the others, starving and thirsty, have had to carry his weight.
Thorin sends Bilbo to climb to the top of the tallest tree, to see if they are reaching the end of this nightmarish place. So, wearily and reluctantly, he climbs. Here’s the passage from the book:
“The sun was shining brilliantly, and it was a long while before he could bear it. When he could, he saw all around him a sea of dark green, ruffled here and there by the breeze; and there were everywhere hundreds of butterflies. I expect they were a kind of ‘purple emperor,’ a butterfly that loves the tops of oak-woods, but there were not purple at all, they were a dark dark velvety black without any markings to be seen.
He looked at the ‘black emperors’ for a long time, and enjoyed the feel of the breeze in his hair and on his face…
That’s what the screencap shows, a moment of awe and joy set smack in the midst of despair. What makes it so great is that Bilbo is in the moment. He experiences that beauty. He lets himself love and cherish the good feeling even though it will quickly vanish.
So often, I find that I have ignored and dismissed the good moments, just because they were surrounded by bad times. I refuse to stop and enjoy some small pleasure, because what about all those other bad things that are happening in my life?
Lately, I’ve decided not to do that anymore. I’m going to appreciate the things that are going right—even if they are few. Even if there are lots more things going wrong.
I’ve looked back on some years I’ve had, and told myself they were not so bad. I’ve been like the Vogon guard in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, who mused that in his job, the hours are good, “but now you come to mention it, most of the actual minutes are pretty lousy.”
I’ve had plenty of jobs like that, where outwardly the situation looked good. Socially appropriate, upwardly mobile, rubbing elbows with the right folks—but on a minute-to-minute basis, pretty lousy.
Luckily, it’s not so much like that anymore. Overall life might seem dark sometimes, but the actual minutes—well, the actual minutes are simply perfect.