Flash tale of a snowshoe hare

Telluride Daily Planet, Friday, February 1, 2019


It’s late at night and we are driving down Dallas Divide, down a ribbon of highway into the valley, as we’ve all done a hundred times before, staring through the windows, alert for creatures. This is the place that feels most like a pure meditative state to those of us who are working on our pure meditative states. It’s dark all around, and we are present — waiting without waiting, the feeling deep and sparkly and good. Somewhere in the black velvet out there, the creatures reside, creatures that don’t use words and notions of time to make their way in the world.

On a night such as this, you might see a coyote out of the corner of your eye, which, it seems, is just the way you’re meant to see them. Turning your head to catch more than a glimpse of its gangly lope, it could very well be looking over a shoulder at you before picking up its pace just a hair, as if to say, “We never had this conversation, in fact, you never saw me.” You hyper-imagine its puffy tail in the chill of the night, the fine feathery aspects of it, electric and alive. You might feel what we would call its loneliness, feel the greater aspects of solitude, and then, as it threads itself back into the fabric of the trees, you might appreciate its unqualified connectedness to habitat, space and time.

Or it might be a massive elk with only one antler you see (like we actually did, just recently) standing there — surreal almost, and proud, and full of some grand history of battle — on the shoulder of the road, eyes glowing, breath huffing out in hot clouds. In the split second we have, we hone in on the velvet on the antler, living and soft, a material that becomes a 3x zoom of itself, there to open the velvet doors of perception, if only we could know the way in. Suddenly, the shoulder of the road has magnificence, a crag on the edge of the world. Then, just as quickly, it’s a five-foot swath of gravel again and we are ordinary travelers, leaving that ordinary spot behind.

Or it could even be an owl you see, flapping so close to the windshield, so unexpectedly massive and powerful, that the word “wings” rolls around inside your mouth, letters all over the place, because you don’t know how else to “think” about the kind of strength it must take to move the bullet-like body of this nocturnal denizen through the air, the radius, ulna and digit bones of the wing frameworking the 7,000 or so feathers on a body engineered to fly silently, to slice through air without moving it, without moving it all, something baffling to scientists even though they know the reasons why.

Tonight, however, what we see — and what we’ve seen many times before — is a bunny, a snowshoe hare, actually, hopping across the road, hopping in a way that says without saying: “It did not take effort for me to turn white for winter; and, though it might appear cute to you, my hopping can exceed three meters at a time and can take me up to speeds of 45 kilometers per hour.” You might get a real sense of the creature then, the beauty of a long-eared, white-furred, pink-nosed being micro-bounding through the moonscape, crossing a road, getting to who knows where so it can do who knows what besides avoiding owls and a bevy of other predators. It lives in a big, cracked-open mystery, deep in the forest, its very doings powering this mystery somehow — powering the mysteries that keep the Earth spinning on its axis.

A hare spotting fills up our chests — our hearts and breaths — with hope, inspiration and tenderness, for a fraction of a moment that requires no language, or thought or worry, or anticipation or regret, or want or need or greed or infatuation or longing. A bunny coated in moonlight, the silver gleam landing just so on its back. What is it perceiving as it hops through an all-is-as-it-should-be world?

And what will it sense a couple of nights later when the moon, on a crystal clear night in this part of the world, slowly becomes completely obscured in shadow and, against all odds (it seems to us), starts to glow orange, a kind of mysterious, dark tangerine light emanating as if from within, and then appears to hang like a giant ping-pong ball in the sky, so round we feel we’ve never actually seen the Moon before?

Will this small perfect creature look up and see it?


Telluride Daily Planet, Friday, January 4, 2019


About 1 million years ago, in the early 1960s, in French elementary school, we actually learned to write with dip pens. Plastic pens with nibs you inserted. Purple ink in glass wells. The ubiquitous blotters close at hand. Stained cuticles. And hours upon hours spent copying forms to achieve the kind of handwriting that is virtually nonexistent in the world today, unless you’re contemplating a career in calligraphy. I have written about the terrors of that single-sex 1st grade experience before, which is not my purpose today.

Today, on the verge of yet another new year, which asks us to ponder yet again how we have behaved and how we might behave better in the 365 days ahead, I am thinking about that handwriting. About the varying degrees of pressure needed on the up and downstrokes, the gauging of ink in the nib, the method of dipping correctly for the next set of letters, the time taken to complete a page, let alone a paragraph, let alone a single capital “H,” for example. Inconceivable! (And all this before being allowed to ponder original content at all.)

I am thinking about it in relationship to something posted the other day on a social media platform, the kind of platform that generally asks us to see and assimilate thousands of images, statements, familiar lives, celebrity lives, mostly bad news, fantastically enviable living, geo-targeting of products aimed specifically at us and every other conceivable assault on the emotions — a vortex that draws us further and further away from one thing, which is the reality of the here and now.

This is what I read: “For 15 seconds, let go of any expectations you have of yourself.”

Brilliant! The part of me trained as a pen-dipping, nib-filling, pressure-applying writer of script that is more about appearance than content, however, did not even comprehend the sentence at first except to note that 15 seconds was in the realm of the possible, given today’s particularly busy schedule. You had me at 15 seconds, Instagram post. Well, sort of.

Hmm, 15 seconds? I have 15 seconds. After I do the hard boiled eggs, which is after I at least put the bookkeeping on my list of things to do. Which is after getting photos for the Christmas email, which supersedes the cards that couldn’t get mailed to Europe in time, which has now become a New Year’s email even though it’s short a few images. Why didn’t I take more pictures? There’s a big and painful mystery when it’s literally on my list of things to do every year, just like figuring out how to get exercise into my life every day instead of every other day. What do I do? An app? A consequence? Geez, shaming. Really? Maybe lower that expectation? What about the 3-minute plank workout, proven to work even though it only takes 3 minutes a day. There’s metaphor in core strength, for sure. And, it’s actually easier than 1-minute mountain climbers. Would I do it consistently enough to count, though, that’s the question. Maybe that’s my whole problem — consistency. Discipline! One thing you never hear is that discipline is the hobgoblin of little minds. Just actually sticking to the plan, a realistic but heartfelt plan. A plan driven by the heart and not the head, the head, the head that just gets in the way of all the Zen-koan time. Which is why meditation, now on my list for 35 years, would help. Ugh. That again. Take a conscious breath and engage the vagus nerve. Maybe you have been meditating somehow, some way. In the microseconds, for instance, that you stand and look at birds at the feeder every day, the tiny perfect wings glinting in the sun. You are staring, mesmerized and blank. Maybe you could do that, that sort of thing for 15 seconds every day, pondering without pondering the hermetically sealed beauty of bird world.

From some deep welling place in my heart and with birds in my consciousness, I take what is mine, just as you can take what is yours and we can take what is all of ours to make the world a better place, one present moment at a time. I take 15 seconds to let go of any expectations I have of myself and others. To free myself … into the present moment.

I see the words writing themselves in super slo-mo, the ink fluid, indelible, and in the inscrutable purple script of a 7-year-old striving so hard — without knowing it — to make those words come alive.