There are times when I have a
vision—a rare moment of grace—in which I see and feel the essential
me spinning outward in all directions, all dimensions, connecting to
and merging with all that is. I am in the mountains and in the sky
brushed by the granite peaks, in the granite, in the chickaree that
scampers across the rocks and up the dark green Douglas fir, in the
fir and in the wind that stirs its needles. I hold this for only an
instant, yet there is no end to that weaving of self into all of
life. I experience the eloquent words spoken by Chief Seattle:
“ This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites
one family . . ”
But these moments are fleeting, occasional, infinitely precious.
Mostly I am confined in the physical world where mundane details of
each day surround me like a wall, creating the deadening human
illusion of separateness. I become lost; I forget what I know beyond
doubt, beyond question—I am connected to everything.
Recently I realized that I possess something that can unlock the
wall of separateness. It is a kind of map—lines connecting, moving
outward in all directions—a map created by and from my senses,
emotions, and experiences; it is a multi-dimensional construct of
color, compassion, movement, love, softness, sorrow and song. Unlike
grace from the Creator, this map is always available; I need only
bring my awareness to its web of connecting lines.
The familiar route to town, an 8-mile trip, is out Keoughs Hot
Springs Road, left onto the highway and north toward Bishop. On my
map, the line that is the highway is well defined, its appearance
altered only slightly by light, weather, time. The mountain ranges
rising on west and east are constant, their faces ever-changing,
painted with shade and color by sun and moon, snow, rain and heat,
outlines blurred by the smoke of forest fires or sharpened by a
I pass the ranch spread along the road, cows with their small
calves, sleek horses grazing. Connection: I interviewed the
rancher’s wife for the census. I remember the shady porch and cool
water glass. Faint threads spin out from the moment as she tells of
a grove of trees to the north where tule elk can sometimes be found,
of the intersection of two canals where she has seen beaver. I pass
the turnoff toward the beavers, a line stretched toward the banks I
have since walked, looking in vain for beaver—there was a splash!
—but connecting with a great blue heron who would rise from the
shallow water on vast gray wings and retreat downstream, a dance
repeated over and over as I explored the waterway.
I pass the grove where I have found only elk sign—scat and tracks
and small tufts of hair. Before me the highway rises gently and I
touch the line drawn by a jackrabbit in the dusty red sunset, a
black form streaking across and through the paired lanes of opposing
traffic, impossibly appearing at the far shoulder, disappearing into
the desert shadow.
On that stretch of shoulder once lay a coyote, life flown from
its graceful form; I moved her body into the grass and weeds to
protect the scavenging vultures and ravens. Months later I stopped,
found only scattered bones and bits of sun-scorched fur.
Here is the spot where a golden eagle lifted from the sage, its
flight pacing my car at window height until wing tips flared and it
rose from sight. Feathered grace.
Collins Road comes into view. Connection: A handsome gopher
snake, disguising himself as a stick, half of whose length extended
into the road. Spotting him—was that grace again? —I stopped,
stomped on the road until the vibrations roused him; he wound
reluctantly up the crumbling shoulder and hid in the roots of
I move north with the highway past other turnoffs, roads ranging
east or west, forking into multiplying lines on my map, connecting
with a loon, elegant and stunning in black and white, dying slowly
of starvation, fishing line wrapped tightly around his bill; a great
horned owl, recovered from barbed wire injuries, reclaiming her
freedom with powerful authority; a meadowlark defining summer with
his song; river willows etching blood-red lines against winter-faded
desert as sap rises to meet the spring.
The highway elbows itself sharply toward the right, as if marking
the grove of elms where Swainson’s hawks nest each season, flying in
from Mexico or Argentina to claim their territory. Summer before
last, high winds nearly wrenched their nest from the tree, spilling
one of two nestlings to the ground. Rescued from the asphalt of the
side road, he was brought to me. A bright aluminum leg band led to a
Fish and Game biologist and the location of the nest. A gentle man
from Water and Power, lifted high by a mechanical bucket, removed
the second chick, still clinging precariously to the falling nest,
and lowered him to us. As he secured the nest and returned both
soon-to-fledge hawks to their birthplace, the parent hawks sliced
the blue sky high above with their wings, whistling calls of concern
piercing the numbing heat.
As I move closer to town, the map lines thicken, and there are so
many woven strands that I must consciously select first one, then
another. Great-horned owl lines lead to the campground where two
rambunctious branch-hopping chicks kept falling down—fluffy gray
balls with sleepy yellow eyes—to be returned to their nest tree by
me and a compassionate employee with a tall ladder.
There is a line to the wooden porch of the used car lot where,
responding to a late-night call, I found the limp, unconscious form
of a turkey vulture. The huge bird lay in a coma for 18 hours,
roused, powered through screens and doors, vanished into the
vastness of desert and sky.
Up that gray asphalt line is the Greyhound parking lot where a
yellow-bellied marmot hid under parked cars, having unwittingly
taken a roller-coaster ride down the mountains, clinging furiously
to the underside of a camper until it came to a standstill in the
parking lot. Netting him quickly, dropping him into a carrier, I
handed him to Susie, another volunteer rehabber, who drove him back
up the mountain to marmot territory.
I’m in town now, and I fold and store my metaphysical map, check
off errands from my list. On the way home, I’m filled with wonder
and gratitude for the gift of my map. I see that its richness and
complexity are limitless; space and time do not bind it, only the
awareness I bring to it.
I zoom in, as it were, to a point 300 miles and 17 years away,
where I stand on a deserted beach, toss bread to a gang of
gulls—masters of flight—who line up on the wind like jet liners
awaiting takeoff. The birds connect me to my mother—and dearest
friend—who is recovering from a stroke; her home, where I have been
caring for her, perches on the edge of the bluff high above us.
Picking another point and time, I round a dusty red road near the
Maasai Mara campground. Before me, rounded flanks gilded by the
setting sun, seventy elephants—matriarchs and infants, cousins and
aunts—browse contentedly, and my heart swells with joy. Another turn
in another red road reveals a Maasai warrior, painted with red and
white, beads at ears, neck and arms, spear and club in hand, a black
baby goat nestled to his naked chest. I jump to a moonlit beach on
Moorea, where tiny fish dance with their shadows in the shallows;
the waters off Isabella in the Galapagos, where light from the
boat’s hatchway reveals newly-hatched sea turtles, the size of
silver dollars, courageously casting their fates to the dark water.
In a sunlit clearing in the high rainforest of the Virungas, a
big-bellied silverback gorilla rests on massive forearm and hip,
cradling a tiny curly-coated infant in huge, gentle hands. He kisses
the baby with a tenderness that melts my heart.
I follow a long, faint line that leads to a small patch of Maine
woods after a warm summer rain, where droplets gleam on leaf edge
and grass stem. We—my friend Sandy and I—name it the “Silver Wood”
and, on meeting 40 years later, recall the beauty of that place and
time with wonder. Following an even dimmer line, I see once again
lilies of the valley springing forth from winter-rich earth,
outlined by a glow that my four-year-old mind could not name but
never lost. I feel the cold dark mystery of midnight Mass on
Christmas Eve, snowflakes coming down like slowly falling stars.
The sand, the setting sun, the eagle, my friend—they are in me
and I in them—part of the never-ending dance of creation,
inseparable and indivisible. I feel myself cradled by the lines of
my map, rocked by life’s rhythms, anchored yet always flowing. I
open the eyes of my heart to the threads that spin outward,
unceasing, and I remember. We are all connected.
Copyright © 2002 Lucinda Kamler