“Vision isn’t in the eyes; it’s in the mind.”

As the sky grew dark, Honey started barking, running in circles, and practically pulling me out the door. I grabbed my knapsack, cell phone, and pen and notebook, and poured some Honeyrun elderberry wine into an empty bottle of Lori’s Lemonade. Honey was so wound up that she and Nubio rolled around in the dust, growling and nipping, pretend fighting, before charging out the gate.

We made our way down the trail into the dry river bed. Out in the open, the landscape was still gold—light enough for a good walk. But a few minutes later there was a single gunshot, or a firecracker explosion, and suddenly all the wild exuberance in Honey evaporated. She ran back to me and pressed her body against my leg like a frightened child.

It took a while for my brain to relax. After Honey calmed down, too, we continued walking the river bed. Before turning back, we sat on the warm stones. The ceremonial sips of wine heightened my senses. The dogs settled down, and together we sank into the pervasive silence that is always here at day’s end—a blessed break from the injustice and insanity in the world.

On the way back I caught sight of the bright, clear sliver of the moon and the white rim of the sky above the pitch-black mountains. Day slipped calmly into night, in a cosmic rhythm untouched by the day’s events.

***

This morning, after yoga, I went to see my parents. My mom was sitting alone in the front yard, wearing a pretty sun dress, a sun hat, a necklace. She was in high spirits. I know I inherited my love of nature from her. The atmosphere around the house felt extraordinarily tranquil. We sat together and watched the birds drinking from the bird bath. There were white clouds above the mountains. The temperature was just right. I heard myself say, “This feels like heaven on Earth.”

I let myself relax and sense into my mom’s world. She told me again how when she left Holland she had no idea she’d end up in a place this beautiful. I was only seven, but I recall the car ride from L.A. to Ojai. On the freeway I remember my mom shaking her head, complaining about all the cars, all the asphalt. This was 1957. It was a great relief when we arrived in rural Ojai.

After a while my mom wonders, “Where is that man that lives with me?” So I go check on my dad. He’s on the back porch, asleep on an old sofa, wrapped in a blanket. I watch to be sure he’s still breathing. The breeze ruffles his hair. I debate whether to wake him, so he knows I’m here in case he wants to go do an errand, and decide it’s better to let him sleep.

On the way back to the front yard I pick up the July issue of National Geographic to read to my mom. At first it goes well. There’s an amazing story about Daniel Kish, a man known as “Bat Man.” Blind from the age of 13 months, he explores the world—and even rides his bike—by clicking his tongue. Now, at 47, he navigates the world primarily by using echolocation, like a bat. He says, “Vision isn’t in the eyes; it’s in the mind.”

But then I turn the pages. After showing my mom a wonderful photo essay about farmers in Transylvania, I go back to look more closely at “Last Song,” a story about the slaughter of songbirds. It documents how some people eat these beautiful creatures in the same way that others eat chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Three billion birds of some three hundred species—songbirds, waterbirds, raptors—migrate thousands of miles. They navigate by cues that the human mind can barely fathom: the sun, the stars, scents, landforms, the Earth’s magnetic field . . . And instead of standing in awe before these winged wonders guided by the cosmos, humans take advantage of their exhausted state after flying thousands of miles without food and use their merciless cunning to devise cruel traps to catch them.

Suddenly the world seems a very dark place. I want to cry. All at once I have to leave my parents’ tranquil cocoon. My work on the Earth plane is not yet done. And neither is yours.

Finding my balance in nature

Finding my balance in nature

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