Be in the Moment

The Putze family was in good company this year as we joined more than 150 million Americans in hitting the road for summer vacation.


In just seven days, we traversed 3,300 miles, zig-zagging our way through nine states (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Nebraska).


We marveled at the splendor of Petroglyph National Monument, El Malpais National Monument, Canyon de Chelley, Petrified Forest National Park and Navajo National Monument. We enjoyed a stop at Four Corners (the point where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah connect – the only spot in America where four states meet at one location) and traveling historic Route 66 through Texas and New Mexico.


And we dodged mudslides and falling rocks west of Denver on I-70 and a wildfire near Flagstaff.


With all the beauty and sights to behold, it was hard to be in the moment.


But one couple was. And they caught my eye during our visit to the Grand Canyon.


As I was photographing the stunning vistas and 5,000-foot-high cliffs, I noticed a young man proposing to the love of his life on one of the thousands of outcrops. I snapped a photo of the proceedings. Then another. And another. And yet another.



I felt like an intruder. And it didn’t feel especially good. After all, here they were, lost in the moment in one of the world’s most beautiful places, and I’m crashing the party.


After capturing about a dozen photos for no good reason (other than I thought the moment and the place were simply too special to pass up), I heeded my wife’s call and rejoined the family to continue our walk along the south rim trail.


While on the path, I shared with Crystal what I had done. I thought about seeking the young couple out and fessing up to the photos on my Nikon. But we agreed it was best to leave well enough alone.


We had done enough stalking for one afternoon.


But just minutes later, and without warning, the same young couple who had just professed their undying love for each other, met us on the path walking hand-in-hand. As they passed, I had to stop. I introduced myself and the family and then congratulated them, quickly adding that I had proof of their proposal on film.


Rather than a casual dismissal of this fact, the couple stared in disbelief. Their amazement quickly turned to elation. The smiles on their faces grew even wider.


He blurted that they were from Florida; that they had been planning this moment ever since the Grand Canyon made their travel itinerary; that the agreement to get hitched went without a hitch, until it came to the portable camera he’d brought with him to capture the moment.


Two words: dead batteries.


So, the only images they had of the biggest moment of their combined lives were the ones filed away in their memories.


No video. No photos.


Or at least they thought.


I was only too happy to make my confession – to come clean – to spill the beans and let them know about the photos I had captured of their proposal.


They jumped for joy. In no time flat, we were exchanging e-mails. And laughs and smiles. And best wishes. And a promise that we would correspond so the photos could be shared with their numerous family members and friends.


In such an amazing place, an emotional connection was made between two people and complete strangers.


Special moments have a way of appearing out of nowhere. Be ready to capture them. It makes life fun. And the most grandest of places truly unforgettable.  


Aaron Putze