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?