I live in a sparsely populated area, except by rabbits, coyotes, snakes and the occasional hawk or raven. I found it by setting intent and following my sense of direction across preserved land clearly marked with a “no trespassing” sign.
What I discovered was the pristine place that I’ve come to consider my sanctuary. There are a few houses up on hills at a distance behind me. Other than that, there are just lots of good-sized junipers, rocks and some piñons surrounding me. I have a clear view of the San Francisco Peaks and Bill Williams Mountain around ninety miles to the north. The sunrise and sunset on these mountains are the first and last things that bless my day. But the stars have their say, too. Without the interference of electric lights, galaxies seem to display themselves across the night sky and regularly take my breath away.
I’ve invested words in these few sentences for you to get a sense of the setting. It’s a place conducive to contemplation, and I’ve sought to include only those things in my living space that will support it. Simple, peaceful living against a beautifully stark backdrop where I face myself every day—and move to go beyond that.
You may think by living in a remote area you can hide out. The truth is that—at least for me—it’s next to impossible to hide. Paradox continually comes to my notice, unbidden.
It was late afternoon. I had been doing “finish” work still left over from building my home. Mindless things. Thoughts drifted in periodically. But I was fairly successful staying present with my paintbrush. Several hours working with my hands brought me a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day and a desire to kick back.
I have a penchant for dramatic films but instead chose a comedy from Netflix. I sat in a particular chair specifically because I could watch the movie but also have a full view of the Peaks heading toward dusk.
I relaxed, feet on the table, sipping a glass of wine. The slapstick humor wasn’t holding my attention. My eyes kept drifting over to the scene outside. The hills were turning the honeyed golden-pink hue they often turned. The ravens were beginning to speak about the coming night.
But the movie seemed to pick up a bit and brought my notice back just as the actors entered a bar scene. The music was raucous. The posturing game was taken to extreme, creating a sense of the plastic that was supposed to be funny. Instead, the filmmakers threw me an unintended question.
My vision suddenly played a trick on me and juxtaposed two separate images, as though I was holding the bar scene in one eye and the landscape in the other…at the same time. That event itself was rather strange and fleeting, but my response to it was more interesting to me and has lasted. It was as though I was hit soundly over the head with intense contrast and told to pay heed.
The rowdy, brittle bar scene next to nature’s beauty was so bizarre that it created a “does not compute” reaction in me. Once that cleared, a question surfaced: What is real?
The bar scene wasn’t real. People weren’t presenting their real faces. There was much standing in the way.
What about the other scene? It’s about as real as it can get, at least for me. I don’t have to see through anything to see the hill over there. I don’t think the tree is concerned about what I think about it. There may be properties of nature I’m not always able to understand and certainly can’t predict, but I find it to be unstintingly honest.
It seems to me that if we want that level of honesty in our own lives we can dare to ask for it. So, what is real?
This moment: That’s real.
The sensation on my palm as I pet my cat’s fur: That’s real.
My breath moving in and out of my body: That’s real.
That thought I had this morning? That comes from some old event in the past and doesn’t exist now. No. That’s not real.
That worry? It hasn’t happened. No. That’s not real.
What about the words I write here? They’re real—in my reality—for what I seek to communicate.
What’s real for you?
Excerpted from Navigating Your Lifepath.
See more musings on the forest for the trees on the Daily Prompt.