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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Column: Capturing the present and the future in a sunny day

Writing, like photography, can contain the past, present and future.

Nate Atkins

April 23, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

Last Saturday, I went for a run on a perfect day, and I ended up seeing all I’ve ever needed to see on this campus.

I didn’t run around campus, just the center of it. Stankowski Field is the epicenter of the ebbs and flows of life — the soccer games trying to grip tight to the past, the conversations trapped solely in the present and, in my case, the runs away from a fear for the future.

After the run, I stretched down in the center end zone beneath a bright sun. As I stood up to leave, I saw something that rooted me to my place. It was a family. It was my future, the future of any of us who dare to dream.

A man in his late 20s wore a yellow “Mizzou” T-shirt. A woman of a similar age wore big sunglasses. Between them, sitting on the green turf next to a stroller, was their baby daughter. She won’t remember any of this in her mind, but it’ll be forever lodged in her heart.

The father squinted and threw a football into the endless sunlight. The mother took a few strides and reeled it in. The daughter smiled and stood up. The mother tossed the football underhand and the baby drew her arms together just enough to keep it from hitting the turf.

The family walked a little farther until it stood on the tiger logo in the very center of Stankowski Field. The father took out a camera and began to snap away at the daughter, who ran through the wind with the football in her arms and a smile as wide as any. Soon, the three cuddled together in a pack, the mother holding the daughter. The father snapped a photo of all three of them with Jesse Hall and a cloudless sky in the distant background.

Right there, in the center of Stankowski Field on the sunniest and most beautiful day of spring, stood a transfusion of past, present and future of life and all that could ever matter in it. The couple might have graduated from MU. They might have met each other here. They might send their daughter here some day. But on this morning, it was simply a place to enjoy the moment.

The beauty lay in the photo they took and the smiles they flashed. Everything seemed perfect in a world where it so often feels everything but. That day, it was, and in this photo, it always will be. It’ll be there when the daughter scrapes her knee and starts kindergarten and goes on her first date. They’ll look for answers why, and somewhere in a dusty photo album, they’ll have all the proof they ever needed.

I’ve written all semester about the past and the future, but the real reason I love to write lies in the present. I love to capture life in real time and watch as it blurs into the past. A piece of writing, like a photo, has the power to return us to the moments when everything felt right.

It’s the pursuit of moments like these that really have all of us here at MU. We’re all searching for the right path to find something as self-defined as happiness and peace. We’re all here hoping to at some point have our day in the sun.

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