In his 1977 Best Picture Oscar winner Annie Hall, Woody Allen includes a scene where he and Diane Keaton break down laughing while trying to cook a live lobster. The lobster escapes, running across the floor. It's a key moment in the characters' romance. Later, after they have broken up, Allen's character tries to re-create the incident with another girlfriend, and it falls flat—because it's a different time, and you can't make a spontenous thing happen again.
Life is full of such unrepeatable moments. Last week, for instance, my family and I went on a holiday to Cannon Beach, in Oregon—the reason for my e-mail and web hiatus. One evening, just as the sun was setting, the oldest of my two daughters and I went to the beach as the sun set, around 9 at night. During the day, people had built sandcastles, and one had been reduced by the rising tide to a wet lump of sand, slightly higher than the surrounding beach. My daughter leaped on it and danced, as she likes to do, while the surf crashed behind her, the waves just missing swamping her perch as they slid up the beach.
In a few minutes, the coloured sky reflected off the wet sand and waves against which she was silhouetted, and people set off fireworks on the beach behind us. The fine weather in early July, the remains of a sandcastle in just the spot to be almost (but not quite) overrun by waves at the very moment of sunset, our presence in that spot and luck in finding it, and most particularly my daughter's being six years old and wanting me to come to the beach with her—none of those things will ever happen together again.
The photo doesn't quite capture it, but you get the idea. I won't forget that evening, and I hope my daughter doesn't either. We'll have other moments together, but those ones are pleasantly, wonderfully gone.