I set out to climb the hill. I should be able to reach my goal easily.
At first it’s comfortable following the path. The grass is waving in the breeze and the trees spread branches overhead casting enough shade that I don’t notice the heat of the day. I began this walk through choice: my reasons were numbered and organized. The walk is uneventful; I begin to focus on my feet. I’m no longer aware of anything around me. Once in a while I hear a shrill bird call, but I see only the tiny puffs of dust my feet stir up as I walk.
Time passes and I realize it seems darker. I look up in surprise. Where did the time go? When did it get so late? I look around – a sharp intake of breath – where am I? Nothing looks familiar. How is this possible? I’ve walked this path so many times. I don’t recognize any of this.
My rational mind insists I can find my way again: I’ve simply taken a turn unto a path that I haven’t been on in a while. I turn around and walk back down the path a bit. I still don’t recognize anything. A branching trail appears and I follow it only to find myself back at the clearing. Back the same clearing. How did this happen? That clearing was farther up the hill. I’ve gotten turned around. Where am I?
A sense of frustration floods through me. I collapse onto a large rock, one of several in this clearing, and I am angry with myself. I should have been watching where I was going. Here I am: exactly in the middle of nowhere. How could I do this to myself? Reason argues that it is not possible to be lost. Denial of facts as thoughts vie with emotions. Rationalism looses. Panic. I walk endlessly back and forth searching for a familiar scene. Hopelessness. Exasperation. Tiredness.
After a time I’m too tired to cast blame, too tired to be frightened. I stop fuming. Think about the path. I could go further up the hill; I could go on back down the path. It seems too much effort to move. So I stop thinking. I stop moving. I just sit.
I become aware of the rock sturdy underneath me. Cool and smooth, it has been here through time. I wonder how long it has been here. I look at it, at the glitter of the sun on the planes and dips of the rock. My shadow, warped by the rock’s shape, flows to the ground. I notice the plants growing at the base of the rock. A sound of bird. A buzz. Something chitters in the trees. Leaves shadowing each other dance with the sun and breeze, circling the branches, changing color as I watch. Mutable colors turn back to the green with which they began.
The world stops and, for a moment, there is silence.
Then I hear something underneath my awareness, underneath my analysis. Something twitches. I dart a look out of the corner of my eye. Ah. . . I turn unthinking, drawn to look at what is there, realizing too late that the movement might send it running. I hold my breathe as, instead of leaping away, it walks forward.
The luminous eyes gaze at me seeing past the civilized veneer. My vision is swallowed up by the dark eyes, attention wholly focused on the deer. We see each other eye to eye. No thoughts, no impulses, no body awareness. The world is inside those eyes. The fur surrounding the eyes is simply a velvet field encompassing the void. Therein rests the wisdom of the ages.
One of us blinks. Which one? And it is gone. Sound returns to the world. I look around me blinking in the light of the world with fresh sight. My foot is asleep. I stand, stretch and take the path between the trees following the whisper of the deer.