It’s Big

This past Friday morning, I couldn’t figure out why people were bundled up in Steelers hats and Packers scarves on our 6:30 am flight. Then I remembered: this was Super Bowl weekend.  The plane was bound for Dallas where we would change planes for Phoenix.  And then  I remembered this: the Super Bowl was being held in Dallas. It was a festive flight with friendly rivalries and every one was in a great mood. Time flew and suddenly it was time to land; we looked out the window and were very surprised to see Dallas covered with snow. We cheerfully waved good-bye to the couple who had won an all expenses paid trip to the Super Bowl in the Virginia lottery.

It didn’t take us long to figure  out our morning flight to Phoenix was canceled. That was just one of over seven hundred flights that would be canceled before we left that night.  We were put on stand-by, so… we stood by.

We took our place in the long line of the hopeful, all wearing matching expressions of expectation—would we be picked for the flight? A toddler wandered over to us as his mother searched the diaper bag. He took our hands and we walked Justin back over to his mother.  Their names had been called.  It was a lottery of our own and one that we didn’t win.  We were told we would be put on the next flight to Phoenix.

At concourse A, I watched the Egypt story unfold on CNN. I watched as an Egyptian family gathered in front of the screen. I looked at their faces, expecting to see terror in the risk. I saw joy in the hope for change.

I sat down next to a woman named Katherine.  Her husband’s college buddies were descending on their house in Dallas for the Super Bowl and she was getting out of town with her first baby–four weeks old.  She had made sure the plane was there and ready to leave before she got out of the car to fly to Phoenix to visit her parents,  but she hadn’t thought to ask if there was a crew. Nor had we.  They were short a flight attendant.  We all waited. Together.

Eventually, a flight attendant was found and we were able to board the plane.  The captain came on and said that several marines aboard the flight were on their way home from Iraq.  He said he was proud of them and that he too had been a marine. He asked that we give them a round of applause.  I clapped for them and thought of the times that my own son had been coming home from Iraq as a marine.  At the end of the flight I saw the captain shaking the hand of the marine who’d been sitting in front of us. I overheard him say, “Go home and enjoy your family.”

The next morning in Phoenix we met our new little nephew for the first time.  Then we drove across the desert to the Grand Canyon. When we got there in the afternoon, my husband and I hiked out to a point to watch the sunset’s majestic work on rock faces.  My mind reached for words, but there was only one: big.  After dinner, before we went to bed, we stood on our porch and stared up at the sky.  The constellations and scattered specks of light flickered against the vast black night.  Big.

Yesterday morning we woke before dawn and watched the first  pink jagged streak of the sunlight break into day across the canyon.  Big.

Anonymous has left a trail of words behind her that appear like jet stream in the sky right when a moment is too big for your own words. My mind tried to make out the words… what were they?  Moments. Life. Breath.

This weekend has been about bigness: bigness in winning tickets, new babies, hope. I saw bigness in the landscape: Canyons. Desert. Sky. I saw bigness in a narrative sweep of story that enfolds all of us: the Super Bowl, snowstorms, change, homecomings, family, beauty. Throughout the weekend, I’ve seen bigness shaken out in tiny moments.

Ah there it is….

“Life is not measured in the breaths you take, life is measured in the moments that take your breath away.”   Anonymous

It is what I learn again and again.  Stay awake.  Pay attention.  Let life take your breath away.  And this morning I’ll go teach this to my third grade graders,  again: What we look for as writers is in the small moments that matter.  It’s big.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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11 Responses to It’s Big

  1. Sparks says:

    Thanks for a big story with a big lesson. I love it.

  2. Roger says:

    No photograph or written description adequately prepares you for your first sight of the canyon. Your writing brought back the memory vividly!

  3. Melissa Oliver says:

    Love this post and your spirit of adventure. Today I read this on one of my (other) favorite blogs:

    “in our foundational tongues of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew the words for breath and spirit are one and the same: spiritus, pneuma, and ruach. Our breath embodies our spirit.”


  4. Theresa says:


    I always love your stories and always learn something that I can take to my 4th graders. You have reminded me that writers live with their eyes (and heart) wide open as you do. Thank you! ~Theresa

  5. Christy says:

    You used short sentences in just the right places to create in the reader the feeling the writer was experiencing. In such a big trip, you seemed to choose a smattering of moments, vignettes, that really communicate the meaning of this experience. What a pleasure to share it vicariously!

  6. onesunflower says:

    Your story told of so many journeys – thanks for taking me along on the ride!

  7. elsie says:

    What a great weekend! Your writing makes me want to create such a memory.

  8. Diana says:

    Loved your slice. I loved the way you slowed down some moments then shrunk time with your transitions.

  9. Lloyd says:

    A wonderful piece. Most of the time that I am in an airport, I’m thinking more about “Am I going to get home?” “Will this baby ever shut up?” and so on. I never think about someone trying to get home to see their family after they’ve fought for our country. I never think about anyone else but myself. In a country that is very self-centered (I,I,I!!!), it’s difficult to think of others. Next time I fly, I will try not to be so self-centered. Sometimes it’s good to put others a head of your own needs.

    There is one thing that we all have in common when we are at an airport…we all want to get to our destination and have good times with the ones we love.

  10. Mallory says:

    As a teenager I was go go go. My father always said to me, “slow down, live life, enjoy it, don’t always be in such a hurry.” I always brushed it off and went on in my own way. I was popular, life was fun, the whole world was ahead of me. Then my world came to a crashing halt. It was Sunday May 21, 2006 The sky was as blue as the ocean, I remember it was hot and sticky out, my hair stuck to my neck. The phone rang and I thought, “No I’m not ready to wake up!” It wouldn’t stop ringing so I finally answered it. My mother on the other line says “You need to get to the hospital now. It’s your Dad.” Once I arrived the doctor said he wouldn’t make it. The man who told me to enjoy life left me that day. I’ve never forgotten his lesson. Now more than ever I appreciate life. I appreciate the cool breeze on my face, and the chirping of birds in the morning. I have less friends but more meaningful relationships. Thank you Dad for your wisdom.

  11. marvene2 says:

    “The small moments that matter”. I completely agree with that sentence. Those are the memorable moments we want to cherish forever. The moments that take your breath away are the moments we want to write about. There were so many events taking place in the story. I could just imagine the proud feeling you felt when he announced the marines going home. Especially when you could relate with your own son. In this story, you expressed a lot of BIG, breath taking moments. You used lots of imagery and great word choice to describe the canyon. I could imagine myself there at the peak of sunrise. How the light shined through and bounced off the rustic rocks. The attached visual was great so your readers can see the beautiful images of the Grand Canyon. I have never been to the Grand Canyon, but that on my list of places to visit. I enjoyed this writing piece, thanks.

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