I saw a film recently that has a lovely scene in it. A photographer for a popular magazine desperately wants a picture of a snow leopard. Snow leopards are beautiful animals that live in the mountains of Central and South Asia. They have green eyes and thick, smoky grey fur with dark grey spots, and they are an endangered species.
The photographer's ambition was to capture a picture of this animal. He makes a journey into the mountains, settles down in his tent and waits and waits. A friend has been looking for him and comes and joins him. Days and days go by and there is no sign of this animal. Then, one evening, in a breath-taking moment, the snow leopard appears. Its magnificent form fills the lens of the camera. The friends hold their breath and watch. The snow leopard looks full on at the camera, lingers for 30 seconds, and then disappears back to where he came from. The spell is broken as the friend turns to him astounded and says, 'You didn't take the picture!' The photographer replies in words to this effect, 'It was such an incredible moment, I couldn't do it. I just needed to enjoy the moment.'
We enjoyed that film while on a family holiday in a seaside cottage in Wales. While we were there, we had the use of a couple of sea kayaks and most afternoons we would paddle out through the waves to try to catch some fish. We experimented with different weights, different lines and different bait, but all in vain. By the end of the week, all we had caught was a solitary miniature mackerel. On the final evening, the sun was setting, the sea was calm, and the weather glorious (who needs the Med?), and we decided to give the kayaks one last outing. We had been paddling for about ten minutes when suddenly a fish jumped up just ahead of us, its silver scales catching the light of the setting sun. It was followed by another and then another and another, and before we knew it, we were surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of jumping bass. The sea was teeming. We reached for the lines, but as we did so we felt a check in our spirits. Richard turned to me and said, 'This is a "snow leopard moment". Let's not catch them: let's just enjoy it.'
In our children's lives there are so many snow leopard moments. I can understand that we may want to video their first steps, their starring role in the Nativity play, or their efforts in the final of the egg and spoon race on Sports Day, but sometimes the real place for those things is in our hearts and not on the camera. Have your own 'internal camera' and take time to capture those special times that are often found in the everyday moments of family life. Perhaps it's our little girl tucking her doll in at night; the chocolate-smeared grin of our six-year-old as he polishes off the leftover cupcake icing; or the sight of our children peacefully asleep without a care in the world.
These snow leopard moments are so precious. Watch out for them, and feel and enjoy them to the full. Try not to miss a single one.