Some things in life just can’t be explained. Why do very simple events in our life, that usually occur during childhood, print an indelible mark in our memory cells and register with us so completely that, even as older adults, we remember the finite details as if they happened moments ago. I have theories about this but for the moment I want to relay the details of an event that happened to me during my teenage years. For many people, the early teen years were a time of awkwardness and difficulty but, for me, they were absolutely the happiest years of my life. Many stories could be told but I picked this one because it is particularly memorable for me. Hopefully, for the reader, this will be a catalyst to remind you of pleasant times in your youth.
Every year during the summer, my father packed up the family car and drove my mother, sisters and I to his favourite fishing lake. The lake was stunning. Nestled in a mountain valley a five hour drive from our home, the hot dry air would often reach temperatures in the mid 90sF. I was 14 on this particular trip and I always looked forward to these 2 week holidays because it seemed there were no rules for us kids. My memories were of total freedom to do as I pleased – and I did.
One particular afternoon, I was feeling quite bored and decided to go hiking in the woods surrounding the lake. The woods were on the side of the mountains and in places were quite steep with trails winding up and around the tall pine trees. This was hot country, almost desert. During the summer, as you take each step, the dry tinder grass crunches from the weight of your shoes as you walk. This particular day, the scorching sun was high overhead, the sky was a deep azure blue and the air was still, silent, hot and dry. It was as if I was in heaven.
I’ve always liked the desert country. As I wound through the sparsly spaced pine trees climbing higher and higher above the lake on the narrow twisty pathway, I could feel the energy of my breath coursing through my nostrils and lungs. The air felt so healing within my body. Higher and higher I climbed. Just up ahead was a small clearing in the trees and I decided to take a rest from my weary climb. There was a huge outcropped rock in the middle of the clearing – an excellent place to rest.
The granite rock was very comfortable. I could see much of the glistening lake through the trees. The contrast between the blazing sun, the sky and the lake was quite evident. The lake was very still and dark, dark blue, almost black. The heavily treed mountains above the lake were reflected as a mirror image below. In the extreme distance, far away on the opposite side of the lake, I could see someone rowing a red boat with a fishing line erected on the side. I always remember the pine trees – the mottled tan and brown bark – the spiky cones. I saw a purple coated garter snake slither through the wheat colored tinderbox grass.
At that moment – utter silence. My awareness began to quicken and I was struck by the majesty of the place I was resting. It was totally silent. Absolutely no noise could be heard and it seemed for a moment that the whole world had been encircled by a new peaceful energy. I closed my eyes, became focused on the light of the sun dancing through my eyelids and within the silence of the moment a realization came over me that it, in fact, was not silent. The energy of the natural scene that enveloped me became very powerful. I could hear the sounds of nature within myself, I think. I didn’t know if it was within or without. Then I realized it was both – it was everywhere. I didn’t want this moment to stop, but it was stopped for me. As I sat within this meditative state I heard a rustling in the grass. I opened my eyes and there about 10 feet from my rock was the most incredible animal. I had never seen one, but I knew from those huge long legs and elongated ears that, yes, that was him, a Jack Rabbit coming to visit me. He hopped eagerly towards me, sat in front of me – looked staringly into my eyes – turned his head to the left and was gone in a flash.
As I began the long trek down the mountain, back to our mountain cabin in the valley, I realized something very important had just happened. That day created feelings within me that would be recognized time and time again and created a benchmark to help me distinguish between what was important and what was not important in my life.
For those of you who kept reading to this point, this event probably requires no further explanation and I will provide none. Explanations of feelings are futile. How do you describe love. How do you describe compassion. How do you describe inner peace. You can’t. They can only be experienced.
May you live your life in the conscious knowledge that you have been given the greatest gift in the universe – the gift of human life. Appreciation is the second greatest gift. The ability to truly appreciate what has been given.
. . ./John
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