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The magic of being there

Have you noticed? We're absolutely captivated by being in proximity to something we love. Even if we can barely see it, being in its presence is magical.

Consider wildlife lovers and live music fans. Reproductions, such as digital recordings and photographs, get us through to the next encounter but in no way replace it.

The people in the top photo (hubs John is in the blue shirt) are in the Lamar Valley at Yellowstone, looking at a smudge of gray about a quarter mile out, just under a tree. There, the people with the super-long lenses are convinced they see a gray wolf. Sightings are rare, so just the chance that this may be the real thing draws an excited crowd.

Yes, the park service website offers clear, definitive photos of the majestic wolf, but they simply can't compare to getting a blurry shot of a gray thing out in the valley with your own camera. Because YOU WERE THERE.

However far away “there” is in physical terms, the experience is intimate, it's within you. And when you get other people feeling that something, that's magic.

In the other photo, concert-goers at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver are about a football field away from the stage. Although the JumboTrons on either side of the stage help carry the vibe up those towering 70+ rows, the band members are specks on the stage. And still the crowds come.

But I get it. I'm pretty sure Paul McCartney was looking right at me as I screamed throughout the Beatles' performance at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on August 13, 1966. Never mind that I was in the rafters. I WAS THERE.

Hearing live music with other people can create powerful physical and emotional bonds, says Mariusz Kozak, of Columbia University. “When we're in physical proximity, our mutual turning-in toward one another actually generates bodily rhythms that make us feel good and gives us a greater sense of belonging.” He calls it synchronizing with the people around you.

Likewise, seeing wildlife provokes a deep sense of well-being that can lead to psychological health benefits, Sandi Schwartz writes on the Ecohappiness Project blog. “Our senses are heightened as we move into a state of flow where our thoughts and actions focus on spotting, watching, identifying, recording and appreciating the wildlife around us.” And sharing those encounters has been shown to make people happier.

We're lucky to have wildlife and music.

And each other.


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