I have set up my tent at the wonderful backpacker campground right by the water. The air is still and aside from birds chirping and the faint noise of a plane engine, there is silence all around me.
Instead of walking farther along the trail and engaging in more physical activity, I sit at the picnic table at my campsite and watch the stillness. I am completely still, inside and outside of myself, no inner activity, no outer to match it. I just am and enjoy the fruits of being alive this very moment. No need to go further, no need to carry a heavy backpack anymore. Just wanting to be.
As I sink into this wonderful feeling of fulfillment and quietness, I take note of my surroundings. Brush all around me, a treeless horizon and the fragrance of a million spring wildflowers wafting through the air. I can see the ocean’s waves crashing in the distance and discern a little of their thunderous roar. No need to strain my ears. When I am aligned with all there is, my senses are honed to that universal tune of life and everything is effortless.
“Thank you!” I silently communicate with my surroundings. “You are so beautiful! Thank you for letting me stay with you and experience spring with you.” A little bird lands on a branch near where I am sitting and starts serenading me. I sink more deeply into the oneness of it all and listen even more attentively.
A deer emerges from the brush where she had been hidden from sight and bounds off. The branches around her move in her wake. Or is it her offspring who is following her departure causing the ripples? Now another one is visible, a second doe, and she glides off into the thicker bushes as well.
As I watch, a coyote appears within a few feet of me. He has not noticed me at all and when I focus my gaze in his direction, he is made aware of my energy. He startles, looks at me and disappears from where he came.
“I am not a threat to you, dear one.” I communicate silently and he turns around and reappears, looks sideways at me with a sheepish grin on his face, adds a more determined stance to his gait and rounds the corner. Now I know who the deer were fleeing from. He is handsome and shows no sign of a long or harsh winter. His coat is shiny and his gait is spritely. He is looking for a weak or sick fawn, or perhaps some other meal, but does not seem to be in any hurry.
No one else is at the campground yet; they will all arrive later in the afternoon.
I wait and watch for what seems to be an eternity. A vulture flies by and rides the thermals in the air high above me. The wind has picked up and I can hear its song telling me of distant lands, the ocean’s vastness and life’s many wonderful blessings. I need not go there myself, listening to wind’s account is enough for today. Wind tells me everything there is to know.
I have put my food in a little locker by the picnic table. They told me to do so when I got my backpacking permit to prevent rodents from eating my food. I have complied with the rules and do not find worrying about my dinner worthwhile or give it any more thought.
Yet something catches my attention. It is coming from the food locker. A hushed, rapid movement comes into my field of vision. A little rodent has found her way into the locker, chewed through some insulation tape and is feasting on my assorted collection of nuts and seeds. So much for the safety of a food locker, I think, and put my food into a thick, sealable bag. A few nuts are scattered on the bottom of the locker and I leave them there for the little one. I am sharing my bounty with the resourceful and clever creature.
My silent reverie is interrupted by the next campers’ arrival. A young couple are my neighbors and they immediately start arguing about what seems to me everything. Where to put the tent, what to wear, how to put up the tent. The birds fly off immediately, the deer freeze in their hiding places in the wake of the energy of disharmony and discord, even the insects stop chirping. I wish I could have protected them from the humans. Never in a million years will I tell them about the coyote, I resolve, never!
“No, honey, not here. No honey, not like that! Don’t wear that. It’s going to be cold later. Wear bug spray. This is how you do it!” Their voices carry across the short distance to my little hidden bench and trail off into the distance. The next batch of hikers are more quiet. Their tent is up in no time, powered by silent, efficient teamwork, and off they go to hike some more. After the couples leave, all is quiet again. I get up and meander down the trail to the sea to catch some waves. A young man stands stock still in the middle of the path. He has a camera in his hand and points excitedly ahead of him, all the while putting a finger on his mouth to let me know that my silence is needed here.
I catch a glimpse of a mother deer on one side of the trail and a baby deer on the other. Obviously their crossing and reunion have been delayed by our presence. My first response is to get out of there and let them do their thing. To let them do what they need to do and have always done through the ages. To protect them from human intrusion now that their grounds are occupied by campers, nevertheless armed with cameras, which means that there will be some shooting going on. That is what I do, I am a protector of the wild. “Do no harm to the wild ones and wild lands” is my premise. Yet I love humans just as much as I love the proverbial WILD and I cannot blame the young man for wanting to take pictures of this idyllic scene in front of us. He is so enamored with the whole experience that his face glows. Aren’t we all like that in the presence of the sacred? “She has twins!” he tells me, his eyes twinkling, and points to the other little one that has stayed close to her mother and is not separated from her.
I do not have the heart to tell him to go back to his campsite and allow them to reunite. He has come all the way from Europe and is enjoying himself immensely. “I have never been that close to a deer before.” His words ring in my ears.
Silently they touch my heart. This is where our separation from all other lifeforms and each other has brought us. In the absence of the sacred, we become voyeurs and we encroach. Yet there is love here on this path as well, and lots of it to boot. Love and a yearning for reconnection.
I give love a try.
“You know, they probably want to get back together and reunite. Do you think we could go a few steps up the trail and watch them from there?” My request does not cause any opposition and we do just that. The mother and her children sniff the air a little to see if it is clear.
“We are not a threat to you. You are safe here.” I implore them silently. The mother takes one tentative step and then another. Her care for her little one takes over and she calls him to her. Or was it our wordless communication that did it? I will never know.
The little fawn, barely a week old, runs over and greets his mother and sibling. They turn to watch us stand on the path, voyeurs, yes, but not only that. Lovers of deer and the WILD we are.
In that precious, fleeting and holy moment, we are all connected on the path called life and we humans rejoice in the deer family’s reunion while they soak in our love.
I decide to take a chance myself and leave the shell I have created around wanting to protect the animals from my fellow human beings. Then and there I know that protection is another form of separation.
“There is a coyote near campsite #6. If you stand very still you will see him. Just send him an image of your harmlessness.” I tell the young man. His eyes light up. He has never seen a coyote.
“How do you know?” “Oh, I was just sitting quietly on my bench this afternoon. That is all one needs to do. To shut off that mind chatter for a while and all else follows.”
He looks at me sideways. “We are all connected and we do not have to intrude on any other species. Let them come to you and do not pursue them or interfere with their lives. And don’t feed them, please. A fed animal is a dead animal. No need to do so. Just be still and exude harmlessness.” The teacher in me has been replaced by the lover of all life. My words do no harm, instead they illuminate the obvious.
Another glance at me takes me by surprise. He is smiling that accomplice smile. His face is full of love. I know in my heart that all is well. We can do this. We got this covered. Love will overcome our separation and ignorance about how to be with each other. I see it right in front of me and feel it right inside of my heart. This is huge and it goes across borders and it transcends ages. Tears well up in my eyes.
With a nod, I wander off.
When I return to my tent later, I see him standing in his campsite. He has the biggest smile on his face ever. When I follow his gaze, I see the mother and twins in the brush. The mother is grazing while her babies are nursing.
They seemingly pay him no heed and go about their business undisturbed. After a little while, he too goes about his business and starts to pull the food out of his locker. The mother, in turn, lifts her head and watches him curiously. Being a voyeur of the WILD’s life has turned into being her lover. No more need for me to protect, to love with wild abandon is enough. The circle has been closed. Contact has been made. There is reciprocity. I quietly slip away and realize that I, also, have shifted. Precisely from being a voyeur of human dysfunction to a lover of humans and a witness of humanity’s capacity for love of all life. All is well.